What's Behind Those Stories About Ivanka Trump and Planned Parenthood?

Planned Parenthood faces a cut-off of federal funds and is looking to gin up public sympathy.

(photo: Credit: Michael Vadon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Did Ivanka Trump seek to protect Planned Parenthood from a GOP-led campaign to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider? That question was raised by an unusual story published in the New York Times on Monday.

“In private discussions with people close to Planned Parenthood, White House officials have suggested that there could even be an increase in federal earmarks if the work related to abortion ends,” the Times reported.

The Times said that Ivanka had asked her father to reconsider legislation that cuts off the annual flow of $500 million in federal monies to the organization’s coffers.

Though the Times acknowledged that the plan was never formally approved by the president, it traced the proposal back to Ivanka, “who urged her father to tread carefully on the Planned Parenthood issue during the Republican primary contest.”

Planned Parenthood rejected the non-proposal, even as it repeated past claims that it did not use federal tax dollars to fund abortions. Meanwhile, pro-life groups have explained how federal subsidies boost the organization's bottom line and help make it possible for its affiliates to provide one third of all the abortions performed in the U.S.

The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of how federal funds help to cover costs related to abortion services: is here. The report explains how grants from Title X, the federal family-planning program, support the infrastructure costs associated with abortion services is here.

"Under Title X grants, abortion providers are able to prorate expenses such as staff and waiting rooms, covering a portion of the fixed costs of the abortion-related staff and facilities," the Heritage Foundation's report explains. 

"According to the Guttmacher Institute, 'Because Title X grants offer up-front funding to providers (rather than payment after-the-fact, as with Medicaid or private insurance), the program provides essential infrastructure support that allows health centers providing family planning services to keep their doors open for clients. Up-front funding helps supply a cash-flow cushion for providers who are often operating on tight and uncertain budgets.."

The Charlotte Lozier Institute’s review of all the federal programs that fund Planned Parenthood is here

But the data, easily accessible in a Google search, have not stopped media sites like the Times and CNN from repeating, without explicit documentation, the organization’s claim that “taxpayer dollars do not fund abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood.”

Stepping back to consider the point of a news story about a proposal that was floated but never approved, you have to ask: Why bother?

Yesterday, GOP lawmakers unveiled the first phase of their plan to repeal Obamacare, and defunding Planned Parenthood is part of the plan. Now that the abortion provider faces a cut-off of federal funds, it must gin up public sympathy, and this story serves as a handy vehicle for spreading its unsubstantiated claim that federal tax dollars aren’t used to pay for abortions at its clinics.

Seems like that is the point of a story that provides window dressing for what amounts to fake news.