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Bailing Out Abortionists?
By Edward Scott Lloyd
debate over the economic stimulus bill earlier this year, congressional
Republicans and the American people rebuffed congressional Democrats for adding
a $350 million provision for contraceptives. The provision was eventually
struck from the bill, but it resurfaced in both the House and the Senate as the
Prevention First Act, where the Democrats doubled up, proposing $700 million
for Title X, a family-planning program that relies heavily on contraceptives.
That bill went nowhere, but, at the
end of July, this same increase in Title X funding reappeared in the Preventing
Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents
Act co-sponsored by Democrats Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut,
among others. Many news outlets have hailed this bill as “common ground” in the
abortion debate, but there are a few reasons to doubt that this increase in
Title X funding represents anything other than a bailout for abortionists.
One might not make the immediate
connection with funding ostensibly intended to prevent
abortion with bailing out abortionists, but I can explain.
To begin, consider that, with $700
million one could buy roughly 7.8 billion condoms at
the rate that Planned Parenthood gets them (9
cents apiece, according to balance sheets used in recent California
litigation). Supposing one could fill 100 trucks with this many condoms,
statistics tell us that two truckloads of condoms (more than 150
million) won’t work, even if people use them perfectly.
But that is not even half the story.
The other 98 truckloads of condoms will go on to be used by exactly zero
perfect people. Instead, typical people will use them and experience typical failure rates. We know these failure rates very well —
you can find them at Planned Parenthood’s website.
We know from these
numbers that, of 100 typical girls, 15 will get pregnant in their first
year using condoms. “That’s okay,” you say, “that’s just 15 more babies for all
of us to love.”
Sadly, that is not the case, and
this is where I start wondering whether that money belongs back in the stimulus
package. We know that 47% of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, so
seven of these girls will have an abortion, which will cost them an average of
Now, $700 million will lead to a lot
more than seven abortions. Based on average failure rates, you can analyze the
Title X program to find out, dollar for dollar, how much revenue the new,
larger program will generate for abortionists.
It turns out that, under the 2007
Title X model, every dollar we spend on Title X to prevent abortions will
ironically result in roughly 20 cents for an abortionist. So, under the
Prevention First Act, abortionists as a class of people can expect to make $140
million, which is equal to $82,353 per abortionist per year (up from the
current rate of $57.3 million, or $33,685 per abortionist per year). This is a
situation just begging to be abused, since many of these establishments provide
Title X contraceptives and abortions, can
profit off of the abortions, and have no legal or moral incentive not to drive
up abortion rates among their clients.
Contraceptive proponents would argue
that, so long as women use contraception, contraception is going to fail — and,
yes, some women will get abortions as a result of that failure, but we can’t
just stop giving out contraceptives. They will also make the argument that
stopping this funding would lead to an even larger increase in abortions.
This claim is highly dubious — and
not supported by any reliable evidence. But that is another essay. I don’t
think we have to end Title X (although I would like to) to make real change.
Nearly all Americans would agree that we deserve the peace of mind of knowing
that our hard-earned tax dollars are not being manipulated to fatten the
pockets of abortionists. If taxpayers must be made to buy contraceptives for
women, those contraceptives should be the least likely to result in abortion
when they fail. To achieve this, I suggest three things.
When it is a government grantee administering a program that relies on
contraceptives as family planning, these entities must clearly emphasize the
failure rates of those contraceptives. Women, if they are going to use them,
must do so with the understanding that, one, they often fail; two, sometimes
their chosen method will fail, even if they use them perfectly; and three,
there is nothing they can do to completely prevent becoming one of those women
who experience contraceptive failure if they choose to become sexually active
using contraceptives. Counselors should encourage women to imagine the day they
become pregnant and to consider how they will handle it. Counselors should be
made to strongly encourage women to stay away from abortion and to educate
about adoption, since that is what a majority of taxpayers would prefer. This
simply is not the focus of contemporary family-planning
efforts, which treat contraceptive use as the end of the discussion.
I suggest that the American people make a deal
with women: So long as you are using the condom, pill or patch I am providing
with my money, you are going to promise not to have an abortion if the
contraception fails, which it often does. You will put the baby up for adoption
if you don’t want him or her. We can do this by having the woman sign a pledge.
If they go on to have an abortion, they become ineligible for more
taxpayer-bought contraception. They would have to buy it themselves or turn to
private sources of funding for the contraception. Or, they could stop having
sex until they are ready to have a child. Otherwise, the American taxpayer is
made to seem neutral on the question of abortion, and the vast majority of them
are not in the case of contraceptive failure. Certainly, this effort would not
change the minds of some women, but it is worth the effort if it changes only
The excesses of those on Wall Street who received
bonuses while they were on the public dole, and despite failing at what they
were paid to do, have scandalized many Americans. We believe in earning our
This principle has a broader
application. Businesses like Planned Parenthood receive taxpayer money to
reduce unplanned pregnancies, and often they provide abortions at the same
time. When their efforts to prevent unplanned pregnancies result in abortion,
they have failed to do what we are paying them to do. They should not receive a
bonus in the form of abortion customers when they fail at their taxpayer-funded
mission. If it makes political sense to limit the executive pay and bonuses of
Wall Street types that take our tax dollars, it makes much more political sense
to limit the amount of money firms make from the abortions we are paying them
to prevent. Otherwise, we are paying them to fail.
We should demand that none of our
tax dollars go to entities that provide any form of abortion. This would ensure
that these stewards of Americans’ money are on the side of the American people,
who overwhelmingly want fewer abortions, rather than on the side of their own
I have been encouraged by President
Obama’s repeated commitment to reduce the number of abortions. At a time when
we as a nation are rethinking how we do a number of things, this situation
demands something more than the same approach to Title X, which for 39 years
has failed to acceptably reduce the number of abortions, all the while lining
the pockets of abortionists with guaranteed profits.
This model, as Mr. Obama likes to
say, is broken. Time for a new one.
Edward Scott Lloyd is a
lawyer in the
Washington area and a former attorney
for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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