The Myth of Profit-Driven “Abortion Mills”

When someone commenting on a blog I’ve recently been following made a passing  comment about how much Planned Parenthood makes from abortions, I decided to do a little research and find out for myself if that was really true.

Planned Parenthood is frequently characterized as an “abortion mill” that does everything it can to make women have abortions so that they can make money. Common statements among the “pro-life” community regarding Planned Parenthood include:

  • Do you think it right that Planned Parenthood is killing girls, maiming them, scaring them for life at the same time making a profit off of their pain? (link)
  • They profit every time they convince a minor child to utilize their services. (link)
  • When Planned Parenthood argues that they’re working hard to reduce the frequency of abortion, the fact remains that their financial livelihood is built on abortion. (link)

These statements, and those like them, are patently, provably false. Only a tiny percentage — about 3% — of Planned Parenthood services are classified as “abortion services”. They spend nearly twice as much operating their health centers than they bring in through the health centers — effectively subsidizing about 50% of the costs of all types of care received at Planned Parenthood. Here’s how it adds up:

In 2007, the most recent numbers currently available, Planned Parenthood performed 10,921,825 services/procedures/exams. Of those, only 305,310 were classified as “abortion services” — which make up only 2.7% of the services that they provided that year. In 2006, the numbers were almost identical, with 289,750 “abortion services” out of 10,588,360 services/procedures/exams, which also comes out to 2.7% of all services provided.

The other 97.3% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides include cancer screening, vaccination, prenatal care, HIV and STD testing, family planning, vasectomies, and tubal ligations. They also provide basic medical care for many men and women who have limited access to health care services. 36% of Planned Parenthood’s services were related to contraception — over ten times that amount of abortion services — showing that they’ve spent far more time and resources preventing unwanted pregnancies than terminating them.

As far as income, only about a third of Planned Parenthood’s income is derived from their health centers. According to the most recently available annual report, they actually spend nearly twice as much providing medical services as they bring in through the health centers — bringing in $374 million in health center income, yet providing those services costs them more than $635 million. Only through donations and grants are they able to operate the health centers at all.

If Planned Parenthood truly had the goals they are accused of — doing as many abortions as they can; deceiving women and talking them out of options like adoption; using methods like RU486 with which a small percentage of women will require a subsequent surgical abortion, in order to increase profits — a person would expect to see some very different numbers. Abortion would presumably make up a much larger percentage of the services they provide, and they would also presumably be making more than they spend in operating the health centers.

The annual report that these numbers are taken from, along with IRS filings, show excess revenue of about $21 million, which is a fairly small amount considering the total revenue before subtracting expenses and losses is about $1.05 billion. The forms also show net assets of about $96 million — but also shows they started the year with about $87 million in net assets, suggesting a relatively small gain for 2008 of about $9 million. Compared to what they spend, the asset gains and excess revenue make up a pretty small number. The combined total of about $30 million is only 4.7% of the annual health center operating costs.

As you can see, much of the standard pro-life wisdom regarding Planned Parenthood is blatantly false. Especially the idea that they make any money at all off abortions, which turns out to be shockingly easy to disprove.

You can see the report as well as their 2008 IRS filings here:
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/AR08_vFinal.pdf
http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/PPFA_FY09_Form_990_Copy_for_Public_Inspection.PDF

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