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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Planned Parenthood: A Few Choice Words

    Anna North of BuzzFeed created a stir recently with her report that Planned Parenthood would be "moving away" from "pro-choice" terminology that has been the euphemism of choice for abortion rights advocates for decades:
"It's a complicated topic and one in which labels don't reflect the complexity," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards at a press briefing Wednesday. But, she said, the group's polling showed most Americans could get behind a more nuanced statement of principles: "It is important that women make their own decisions about pregnancy, and that politicians do not."
Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said the word "choice" itself might be causing problems. "When 'choice' got assigned," she explained, "women didn't have as many choices" in any area of their lives. Now that women have more rights and freedoms, she said, maybe "'choice' as word sounds frivolous."
    As if on cue, the statement issued on January 11th accompanying its 2011-2012 annual report does not mention "choice" at all. Remarkably, for a report that includes a record number of abortions last year, one would hardly know Planned Parenthood even offered the procedure:
“The Planned Parenthood annual report for 2010-2011 shows that Planned Parenthood affiliates remain one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people. Planned Parenthood health centers provide nearly three million patients a year with a wide range of preventive health care, including lifesaving cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, Pap tests, STD testing, and birth control. More than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive care, such as cancer screenings and birth control, and like any other health care provider Planned Parenthood health centers are reimbursed by the government for providing specific preventive services to low-income patients. As has been the case for decades, federal funds are not and cannot be used to provide abortion.” 
The Planned Parenthood 2010-2011 annual report shows that more than 750 Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide provided nearly 11 million services to nearly three million people during the year, including:
  • birth control information and services to two million patients;
  • 585,000 Pap tests, which identified about 82,000 women at risk of developing cervical cancer;
  • 640,000 breast exams; and 
  • nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV tests.
    The only abortion mention in the statement is in the negative: "federal funds are not and cannot be used to provide abortion." In the body of the annual report, "abortion" appears in only three places, once on a graphic and twice in a list of total services offered in 2011-12. Although the graphic portrays abortion as representing only 3% of its services, I have seen estimates that abortion provides anywhere from 15% to 50% of Planned Parenthood's annual revenue.

    But old habits die hard. On January 14th, this press release appeared from Planned Parenthood:
Planned Parenthood Welcomes Ilyse Hogue as NARAL President; Thanks Nancy Keenan for Years of Service to the Fight for Women’s Health 
WASHINGTON, DC — Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards released the following statement welcoming NARAL Pro-Choice America’s announcement that Ilyse Hogue will replace Nancy Keenan as President.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ilyse Hogue as the new president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. She brings fresh perspective and energy to the fight for access to safe and legal abortion as we mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and face continued battles in many states across the country. We look forward to our continued close partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice America under her leadership, especially as we work to cultivate the next generation of leaders...
    When your soul-mate organization calls itself "NARAL Pro-Choice America," shedding the "choice" language may be harder than it first seemed.

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