The recent undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood physicians discussing the sale of fetal body parts have sent the mainstream media spin machine into overdrive. As Congress debated legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, there has been a concerted effort by many media outlets to change the subject.
Some commentators have emphasized the health care services provided by various Planned Parenthood affiliates. Another defense offered by pundits, most notably Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, is that cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive programs would result in more unintended pregnancies and more abortions.
But state level data demonstrate that this particular set of arguments is without merit. Consider Texas. Starting in 2012 Texas excluded Planned Parenthood clinics from the state family planning program. Instead, state health funding went to other facilities that did not perform abortions. Much has been made of a Texas Health and Human Services Commission report that found a 54 percent decline in claims submitted for contraceptives between 2011 and 2013.
However, the most important metric is not contraceptive claims, but rather unintended pregnancies. And in Texas, both the birth rate and the abortion rate have declined since 2011. In short, even after the state of Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the unintended pregnancy rate increased.
There are a variety of reasons why the abortion rate and the birth rate might have both fallen after Texas cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood. One possibility is that women who obtained contraceptives through the state family planning program simply purchased them on their own. Another possibility is that Planned Parenthood was fraudulently billing the state for contraceptives that it did not actually provide. In fact, in 2013 Planned Parenthood agreed to pay $4.3 million to settle a federal civil suit over claims it fraudulently billed Medicaid for women’s health services provided by some of its Texas clinics from 2003 to 2009. Specifically, there were claims that Planned Parenthood billed Medicaid for services that were not provided, including birth-control counseling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
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Finally, people’s conduct might have changed. There is an impressive body of academic research showing that sexual activity is affected by the availability of contraception. A 2003 Guttmacher Institute study showed that contraception use and abortion rates rose simultaneously in several countries. A 1996 Quarterly Journal of Economics Study, which was co-authored by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, found that the advent of the birth control pill led to more sexual activity and more unintended pregnancies. Finally, a University of Michigan study analyzed what happened when the 2005 Federal Deficit Reduction Act led to a sharp increase in the price of birth control pills at college health centers. It found that there were statistically significant decreases in both the frequency of sexual intercourse and the number of sex partners. The unintended pregnancy rate remained about the same.
As many states move to defund Planned Parenthood, countless pundits have made shrill predictions of impending public health crises and skyrocketing rates of unintended pregnancies. But these claims lack merit. If Planned Parenthood loses funding, there are many Federally Qualified Health Centers that can provide health care for low income women.
In fact, a recent analysis by Genevieve Plaster of the Charlotte Lozier Institute finds that there are over 13 times as many Federally Qualified Health Centers as there are Planned Parenthood facilities. Additionally, these FQHCs serve 8 times more individuals than Planned Parenthood. More importantly, the Texas experience provides very solid evidence that cutting off state funding for Planned Parenthood failed to result in either more abortions or more unintended pregnancies.
LifeNews.com Note: Dr. Michael New is a professor at Ave Maria University. He is a former political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.