Archive for planned parenthood

Generation Gap

I had an opportunity today to listen to an interview on Issues for you Tissues with Mary Ann Sorrentino, pro-choice activist and former executive director of Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island. Called a “women’s health hero” and tireless advocate for reproductive choice and abortion rights, I was introduced to her via her article on Angie Jackson and #livetweetingabortion. While many pro-choice advocates and supporters were behind Angie all the way, I was surprised to read how judgmental and derisive Sorrentino was of Angie’s actions. At the time, though, I was too busy fighting off antiabortionites to do more than comment on her article. Then, today, I listened to that podcast, where Sorrentino expanded on her thoughts about Angie and abortion in general.

A few things that I had started to pick up in her article became very clear — particularly that there is a significant generation gap between Sorrentino and perhaps the other activists of her generation, and those of us who were born and raised after Roe vs. Wade. To be fair, I do think that some of her statements come out of an incorrect understanding of Twitter and the internet. But that doesn’t account for all of it. Many of the criticisms she has of Angie’s choices and actions are so similar to the statements I’ve heard from antiabortionites that she could probably pretend to be one and no one would be the wiser.

For example, in the interview she says that she has no problem with women talking about their abortions with friends, and you can almost see the image in her head of a handful of women talking together over tea and cookies. But discussing abortion on Twitter, in her view, isn’t discussion but “performing” for the world — and here she shows her lack of understanding of the technology — because “she wasn’t getting any feedback, or any responses, except in comments later”. Sorrentino describes #livetweetingabortion as performing in front of a screen, rather that a quiet discussion of personal matters among friends. The underlying message? You can talk about your abortion experiences amongst yourselves, but don’t you dare tell the whole world about them.

This leads right into another point that seemed to really bother her:  that Angie didn’t just talk about the emotional experiences, or the factors that led her to choose abortion. She told us exactly how she felt physically, how much pain she was in, how much she was bleeding — all the gory details. Sorrentino, at least by my perception, feels that putting so much detail out there will work against the pro-choice movement, and would make some women change their minds about abortion.

And here’s where I started to get really irritated, because the implication is that — and this carries particular weight coming from a former executive director of Planned Parenthood Rhode Island — the real details of how exactly an abortion is going to feel physically are being withheld from women so that it’s an easier choice to make. Seriously, if the details of Angie’s experience were enough to change any woman’s mind about having an RU486 abortion, those women probably shouldn’t be having one.

Something that’s become really clear to me over the past several weeks as I’ve become more and more involved in the issue of reproductive choice is that there’s a real problem on both sides when it comes to giving women accurate, complete information about their options. The pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) will give you great information and referrals if you want to keep your baby or give it up for adoption, but if you want to talk about abortion you’ll get graphic videos and materials designed to make abortion look as horrific and bloody and deadly as possible. They often talk about very uncommon adverse reactions and post-abortion risks that are barely substantiated by one or two studies as if they happen to all women who have them — breast cancer, clinical depression, infertility, hemorrhage, death. On the other hand, when you go into an abortion clinic to get an abortion, the focus is on giving you one, not on counseling you about your other options. There are plenty of stories from women who had bad experiences from both types of facilities.

I will never support pressuring women and pushing them to any choice that is not fully their own. But Sorrentino’s interview made me wonder exactly what’s being left out when women are told what to expect with their RU486 abortions.

I’m left with the impression that perhaps there is not much left for Sorrentino’s generation of pro-choice warriors to teach us. The battle we face now is different and the world has changed considerably. Online environments like Twitter and Facebook are where many of us communicate with our closest friends, and the speed of 21st century life means there is not as much time as there used to be for sharing stories over coffee or tea. Women like Angie are becoming the norm, not the exception. Angie may have been the first — at least the first to capture the attention of the mainstream — to live-tweet her abortion, but she won’t be the last. It saddens me to see the incredible generation gap between Sorrentino and women like Angie, and me. At the same time I feel like there’s so much more that we can do as women today to protect each woman’s right to choose — the reach of one person is so much greater because of the internet, and every one of us can make a bigger difference than was even imaginable in 1973.

Doing what Angie did, talking about her real life experience in real life terms, not whitewashing it to make it sound better to the opposition or making it easier for women to choose RU486 for themselves, but describing in 140 character bursts what she was going through in a way that all women could understand and identify with in some way — that is the first thing that women who have abortions can do, whether during or after or long after, to help crack the terrible wall that society has built around women who choose abortion. We’re told that talking about it is wrong, that telling our stories is unacceptable. We need to change that.

If you have a story, please tell it. Tell it in as much detail as you can, so that women who hear your story know what it was really like. Don’t worry about how it might look or sound to someone who doesn’t agree with your choice. Don’t worry about who might object. Tell your story to one person, or ten, or a hundred, or more. The more stories that are heard, the more we can overcome the stigma that is attached to abortion, and the more we can help women who need help to heal and move on after their abortions. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are alone in the world and that no one understands. When it comes to abortion, as many as 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and the only reason we still feel alone is because our stories aren’t being told. Tell your story. Women are listening.


Response to comments on Jill Stanek’s blog

Posting here because I had too much to say to post in the blog comments — responding to post at

It sounds like most of you who have replied to me have no idea what’s actually in the bill, and are just repeating the scare tactic lines and rhetoric that has no relationship to what’s in the bill.

(I apologize for the length, I am trying to respond to all of the questions and comments in one go.)

This bill does not create a public option or single payer option that would be under government control. The control over health care services will still be in the hands of the insurance companies — the government is only involved because they are forcing insurance companies to accept people like me who were previously denied, places restrictions on how they can raise premiums (for example, prohibiting them from raising premiums due to health history), and creates a health care exchange that people like me can buy into that will result in lower rates because it spreads the risk across a large pool of people, and provides subsidies to insurance companies covering more sick people than the median rate, which will also encourage them to keep premiums lower.

The bill also expands Medicaid to cover more people and provides states with assistance to pay for those additional people. It strengthens Medicare. It promotes preventative care, which reduces health care costs. It will help put primary care doctors into communities without them. It improves access to experimental and new treatments.

But all of these reforms end up with the control for day-to-day health care still in the hands of the insurance companies. The government involvement is limited to reforming the insurance companies and changing the way they do business in ways that will insure that more Americans get coverage and that people won’t lose coverage because they get sick.

Have you heard the story of Natoma Canfield, who was forced to drop her individual health insurance that she had struggled to pay as they hiked her premiums year after year, and when they raised her rates again by 40% she was unable to pay it? She was diagnosed with leukemia just a week or so ago and is now in a hospital not only stressed and worried about staying alive and fighting the disease, but trying desperately to figure out how she is going to pay for the 28 days of chemotherapy and all of the tests and treatments that she needs to survive. Without insurance, her only real hope is that the center where she is being treated will write off the cost of her care. Otherwise, she is likely to lose her house — the house her parents built — in order to pay for care that she quite literally can’t live without.

This is the status quo that you are supporting by fighting against this bill.

Mary — I have looked at all of the options available. Only one of my prescriptions is on those $4/$10 prescription program lists; the rest cost up to $80 a month. They would be much more, except that a locally owned pharmacy has agreed out of the kindness of their hearts to discount my prescriptions. Still, I spend up to $300 a month for the drugs I need to be able to function and work. I am currently on the waiting list for California’s high risk pool, which costs up to $800 a month for one person. Last I heard it will be at least 3-4 more months before I get coverage.

Lori — I’m not sure I follow your logic. Because Pelosi and Planned Parenthood support health reform, abortion must be in the bill? Do you realize that 97.3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are NOT abortion-related, and they provide basic health care for many people who are uninsured? They see people every day in desperate need of health care and health insurance. The bill expands grants to community health centers so that those people, even if they aren’t insured after this bill passes, will have much better access to health care than they do now. That is why they support it. THERE IS NO ABORTION FUNDING IN THE BILL.

And as far as Pelosi — she supports many bills. Because she supports a budget bill or a military funding bill, do you assume that abortion is in those bills too? Is it so unimaginable that someone who is pro-choice has other concerns, like the tens of millions of people who are uninsured, like the thousands of people like Natoma Canfield who are taking on extreme debt so they can live, or dying because they can’t afford the care they need? Your reasoning makes no sense. I suggest that you actually read the bill and see for yourself what is in it. ( has the full text; has several summaries and documents describing the bill highlights.)

You also say that you would rather go your whole life without health insurance than “let innocent babies die in the womb for your health.” There is NO ABORTION FUNDING IN THE BILL. Do you realize that you are sacrificing the lives of probably tens of thousands of Americans each year in order to prevent imaginary abortions that ARE NOT GOING TO BE FUNDED BY THIS BILL? Do you know that universal healthcare REDUCES the abortion rate? In fact, by not supporting this bill, you are actually supporting more abortions, because more women are going to terminate pregnancies because they can’t afford the health care costs of pregnancy, labor, and raising a child?

I just don’t understand where you are coming from.

Vannah — As far as I know, I am cancer free, though I had to have a precancerous lesion removed in November (at great expense). However, my last scans and tests were done about a year and a half ago, and I have no way of knowing whether there are metastatic lesions somewhere in my body. I still have a 20% chance (1 in 5) that the cancer will recur. Not being able to afford the tests that would be able to determine that is a potentially deadly bet I am forced to make with my life. By the time I have symptoms from metastases, it would be too late to have any real chance to survive it. Early detection is critical, and right now it is also impossible for me. I also suffer from severe chronic pain caused by Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which started when I was hit by a car while crossing a street (at a crosswalk) and a woman ran the red light and hit me. It has spread from my right wrist/arm/hand into my left wrist/arm/hand as well as my right hip, left lower abdomen, and now my neck and part of my head and face. This is where the majority of my health expenses come from, as I have to see a doctor every month and take 6 different medications to get the pain to a level I can live with — but I live with pain 24/7. If I had insurance, I would be able to have procedures like trigger point injections, and would be able to go forward with the treatment my doctors have long believed would end my pain: an implantable device similar to a pacemaker that stimulates nerves in the spinal cord to short-circuit the pain signals from the CRPS. This involves two surgeries and a very expensive set of equipment and is completely out of the question until I have insurance coverage. Until then I live with a regular level of pain that most people would find intolerable.

And finally, Jill — I haven’t forgotten it, and I try to reach @nextthurs every day. But that doesn’t mean I am going to stop fighting for the causes that are important to me, and right now health care reform is at the very top of that list. I am tired of seeing people like you who say they are pro-life spreading lies and misinformation about the abortion funding you believe is in the bill but IS NOT. You obviously have a large readership and a large following, and instead of using that to save the lives of uninsured Americans, you are fighting to keep a status quo that kills people every day — because of reasons that you made up. You should be ashamed of yourself, but I don’t expect you to ever come down from your high horse long enough to see the damage you’ve done.

Operation Rescue: Pro-death

I’ve seen a lot of things on antiabortion websites and blogs that make me mad. But when I clicked a link today that sent me to a blog post on Operation Rescue’s site, I could hardly believe what I read:

Dear Friends of Life,

A critical vote on health care in the Budget Committee is expected Monday, one that would clear the way for a final vote later this week on legislation that would insure the largest expansion of abortion funding in the history of this nation.

Make no mistake. This entire health care bill is all about abortion funding, or it would have passed months ago.

Abortion is THE issue on which President Obama and his fellow radical pro-aborts in Congress will not compromise.

But people like you and me have clearly spoken. Over 71% of us are OPPOSED to tax-funded abortion, so much so that we would rather defeat any health care reform than allow even one cent of our tax money to be used to fund the injustice of abortion.

But that has not mattered to the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Henry Waxman, and others who are bent on ramming through abortion funding no matter the will of the people or the political consequences.

They are trying every trick in the book – and then some – to circumvent the vast opposition to the government take-over of health care.

Last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter proposed changing the rules so that the abortion faction in Congress could pass this oppressive law without having to vote on it! That’s because they don’t have the votes, and they know it.

To “deem” a law voted on when there was no vote, as Slaughter proposed, is a step toward utter totalitarianism and should be a wake-up call to the American people that this administration will stop at nothing to make sure that as many babies as possible die from abortion – at taxpayer expense!

Don’t forget who Obama hand-picked to run the Department of Health and Human Services. It is none other than former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who was heavily supported by Planned Parenthood and the largest late-term abortionist in the country at that time, George Tiller.

Operation Rescue worked hard to “out” Sebelius and her radical abortion agenda. We know all too well how she repeatedly vetoed every piece of legislation that would have held an out-of-control abortion industry accountable. This is the same woman who danced the conga line at a celebration of her birthday thrown by Planned Parenthood in her honor. (That PP organization was later charged with 107 criminal counts related to illegal late-term abortions. Those charges are still pending.) Sebelius also entertained Tiller and this entire abortion clinic staff at the Kansas governor’s mansion at tax-payer expense*. And this is the same woman whomisrepresented to the Senate during her confirmation hearings the amount of money Tiller dumped into her political campaigns.

There can be no doubt that Sebelius is bought and paid for by the abortion cartel, yet she will be the one in charge of doling out the cash to the abortion clinics under Obama’s plan.

We can defeat this health care disaster, but only if everyone acts!

This is the last few yards of the race to protect the lives of thousands of pre-born children that Obama’s so-called health care plan endangers. Please call your Congressman and Senators today!

Contact CongressmenContact Senators.

For the innocent,
Troy Newman
President, Operation Rescue

P.S. Our efforts to expose and oppose tax-payer funding of abortion have taken a toll on our budget. Please consider making a sacrificial donation to Operation Rescue today. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.

“Dear Friends of Life, Here are some more outright lies to convince you that even though you may well be among the more than 30 million Americans who are uninsured and don’t have access to basic healthcare that you need, you should do everything you can to keep this bill that would give everyone health care. Oh, and by the way, we have spent so much money lobbying to keep tens of millions of Americans from getting basic and life-saving health care, we need you to make a ‘sacrificial’ donation to us so we can keep fighting for the early and unnecessary deaths of countless uninsured Americans.”

I’ve seen plenty of distortion from people on the antiabortion side about this reform. And I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not the best reform bill in the world — far from it — but it’s a start, and it gives us some basics that can be added to and improved. Most importantly, it would force insurance companies to accept people regardless of their health or preexisting conditions, and provide financial help for people who can’t pay the premiums.

This piece from Operation Rescue, though, takes the cake over anything I’ve seen before. Despite a federal law — since 1976 — prohibiting federal funds from being used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and when necessary to save the life of the mother, they are asserting to their supporters that not only does this bill use federal tax money to pay for abortions, it is the “Largest Expansion of Abortion Funding in US History”.

A key indicator that they know exactly what they are doing is that they don’t even try to back up their claims. Rather than explain how the bill expands abortion funding, they use some of the same tired stories to badmouth Pelosi, Reed, and others who are working to push the bill through. It’s a smart strategy, since there’s no way to prove it because NONE OF THEIR CLAIMS ARE ACTUALLY TRUE.

I don’t know much more than the average person about what’s in the bill, but I have read the section of the bill that talks about abortion funding, which says that abortions that can be federally funded can be funded, and abortions that can’t be federally funded can’t be. There’s also the part of the bill that requires people to write separate checks for plans that include abortion funding, to ensure that any federal funds received by the insurance company don’t go to the part of the plan that pays for abortions.

I suspect that what Operation Rescue calls funding for abortion is actually the part of the bill that provides for the funding of community health centers. That, in and of itself, isn’t really much of a change. Planned Parenthood, for example, receives both state and federal grants to operate its health centers, but that money can’t be used to provide abortion services. (That’s fairly simple because only 2.7% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion-related — see a couple posts back where I review their financial records and service numbers in detail.) A March 4 post to a US News and World Report blog puts community health center funding at 11 billion, and yes, some of those health centers provide abortions. Depending who you ask, that money might — or might not — be subject to either the Hyde Amendment or language in the health care bill preventing use of those funds for abortion. (I’m no expert, but looking over the many other statements on the issue, which you can find on Google, it appears that the funding can’t be used for abortion. And I’m pretty sure that Operation Rescue knows it.)

The greatest irony here, to me, is that Operation Rescue describes themselves as “one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation” — yet they are actively campaigning against a bill that would bring urgently needed healthcare to over 30 million Americans who are currently dying every day because they don’t have health insurance. Without insurance, there is no early detection of cancer; no preventative care; no primary care physician; no physicals. You hold out as long as you possibly can before going to the doctor because you know there’s gonna be a bill for every person who sees you, talks to you, or writes in your chart, and for every bandaid and aspirin. By the time people without insurance see a doctor or end up in the ER, they are sicker and cost more to treat. They often pay more than twice as much as an insurance company pays for the same care, and when it comes to prescription drugs, the costs can be even higher. When a doctor prescribes medication that you need to take every day — maybe it’s a blood pressure drug, or something to prevent seizures — you have to calculate every money whether you can afford it, or if you can stand to go a few days, or a week, or the whole month without it so you can buy groceries instead.

This is the status quo that “pro-life” Operation Rescue wants to maintain. This is the kind of life that Operation Rescue stands for. Don’t forget:  the single moms that Operation Rescue wants to see created instead of allowing those women to have abortions make up a significant percentage of the uninsured, as do their children. It’s just one more piece of incontrovertible proof of what I’ve known for a long time:

“Pro-life” ends at birth. After that, you’re on your own.

(“And by the way, please send us money so we can keep lobbying against health care for all Americans.”)

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: