Debate Forum: 3/29/11

Should federal funding for Planned Parenthood be cut?

By Jan Sorensen

Planned Parenthood originated in 1916 when Margaret Sanger, already a nationally known crusader for birth control, opened the first U.S. birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1938, the clinic was organized into the American Birth Control League. By 1941, the organization was operating 222 centers and had served 49,000 clients. In 1942, the League had become part of what became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). It has since become the world’s largest organization of its kind. Today PPFA is a federation of 85 independent Planned Parenthood affiliates around the U.S. These affiliates together operate more than 820 health centers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They serve over five million clients a year, 26 percent of which are teenagers under the age of 19.
Planned Parenthood and its predecessor organizations have provided and advocated for access to birth control. The modern organization of Planned Parenthood America is also an advocate for reproductive rights. This advocacy includes contributing to sponsorship of abortion rights and assisting in the testing of new contraceptives. The Federation opposes restrictions on women’s reproductive health services, including parental consent laws. The advocacy for abortion rights has made Planned Parenthood the anathema of the pro-life movement which opposes abortion on demand.
Planned Parenthood has received federal funding since 1970, when President Nixon signed into law the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act.  Title X of that law provides funding for family planning services, including contraception and family planning information.
Planned Parenthood receives about a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($349.6 million in the 2008 fiscal year). A coalition of national and local pro-life groups has lobbied the federal government to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Federal legislators have also proposed laws that would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal money for any purpose. By law, Planned Parenthood cannot allocate any federal funding for abortions.
As the current Congress looks for areas to cut the federal budget, conservatives have suggessted cutting all funding to PPFA. Their argument is that although PPFA is forbidden from using federal funds for abortion services, by allocating money to Planned Parenthood for the provision of other medical services, these federal grants “free up” funds for abortion. In addition they argue that PPFA is flush with cash and can survive on its own at a time when cuts are being considered to more essential parts of the budget.

Question of the week:

Should the federal government continue to fund Planned Parenthood, or should it be subject to federal spending cuts even to the point of a complete loss of federal funding?

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