Does funding planned parenthood also fund abortions?
April 8, 2011 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Does the government funding Planned Parenthood pay for abortions at all?

I've been reading about the government possibly shutting down due to the budget issue and the whole deal with funding Planned Parenthood being a major sticking point:
Planned Parenthood offers abortions, right? PP currently receives federal funding, right? So does that mean the federal funds indirectly pay for abortions? Or does the funding take place in such a way that federal funds do not support abortion?

I understand that government funds can not directly fund abortions and that PP is more than just an abortion clinic and offers many reproduction services. I am just trying to figure out if subsidizing PP at all in effect monetarily supporting abortions.

Let us refrain from the morality of abortions and whether or not the government should support PP in the process.
posted by jmd82 to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Women who seek an abortion from Planned Parenthood (and who do not have insurance or have government-backed insurance) must pay the full cost of that abortion. They are not subsidized in any way with federal dollars the way that other exams and procedures are.

Think of it this way: A pap smear costs $200 to perform. A poor patient getting a pap smear from PP might only pay $15, and government and private funding would make up the difference.

For abortions, a patient either pays the full cost of of pocket or uses a private insurer that pays for abortions (like mine).

Planned Parenthoods are non-profits. This means that their operating expenses and their revenue have to match. I can't see any way of doing this math which shows federal dollars going to "pay for" abortions.
posted by muddgirl at 3:38 PM on April 8, 2011 [10 favorites]

I am not sure of this but does the federal government subsidize abortions in the case of rape? I thought that's what the furore over redefining eligible rape in terms of violence was all about?
posted by gaspode at 3:43 PM on April 8, 2011

The Hyde Amendment prevents federal spending on abortion services, and has for decades.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 3:44 PM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

Thanks, muddgirl, I'm trying to get my facts straight before I say anything.

I guess the way I imagined it is PP received x $$$ and reduces all payments based off the money. But the way you put it, the abortion would cost the same regardless of the government's involvement? It's just the government subsidized non-abortion procedures?
posted by jmd82 at 3:44 PM on April 8, 2011

I understand that government funds can not directly fund abortions

Federal government funds cannot. State funds can do so through Medicaid. It varies by state, however. More here, if you're interested.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2011

Isn't it just a recognition that money is fungible?

The inherent fungibility of money at a very base level does not make the existence of legal structures to restrict its fungibility an exercise in futility. That is why accountants exist.
posted by holgate at 4:15 PM on April 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

To extend the point: if you're prepared to follow the fungibility argument through to its logical conclusion, a recipient of food stamps who pays for an abortion out of pocket receives a federally-funded abortion.
posted by holgate at 4:18 PM on April 8, 2011 [14 favorites]

[folks - please keep this thread to the very very narrow topic of funding for abortions and planned parenthood. Please do not turn it into an argument/rant/discussion about anything else. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:42 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

When money comes in earmarked for "everything else," they just shift money between accounts.

The distinction between Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., its separately incorporated affiliates', and those affiliates surgical facilities, is a wee bit more complicated than "checking" and "savings".
posted by holgate at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

So, ultimately, the answer is "money is fungible; legal structures exist to restrict its fungibility; the faith one has in the effectiveness of those structures to restrict fungibility is a matter of political debate in this specific instance."
posted by holgate at 5:08 PM on April 8, 2011

It's more than just legal "structures." There are government auditors, Inspectors General, and the Government Accountability Office and real prison time for misrepresenting the expenditure of Federal dollars. Line items on ledgers have to add up and every line item has to be a legally authorized expenditure, so unless they're cooking the books, which would be crazy suicidal in an existential way for an organization under as much scrutiny as Planned Parenthood, Federal dollars are not funding abortions. Under the context of the budget crisis, this is likely smoke and mirrors. As explained in the Hyde Amendment Wiki page, conservatives love to slip in anti-abortion amendments wherever and whenever they feel like it, regardless of whether or not it's a totally redundant and symbolic act. Strategically, it's also a great way to put forward an act you don't really want to pass but want to lay the blame on Dems for blocking.
posted by Skwirl at 6:02 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

[seriously, take it to email or go to the MeFi thread on this subject. AskMe can not become a fight about not-this-question, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:01 PM on April 8, 2011

Thanks for the answers so far about the funding. It's definitely helped me understand Planned Parenthood and the government's financial relationship much better.
posted by jmd82 at 7:06 PM on April 8, 2011

If you're interested in some of the actual regulatory details about Title X funding and abortions, the National Abortion Federation has a fantastic Q&A section: Abortion and Title X

Some relevant quotes:

"Title X recipients must be able to demonstrate through financial records, protocols, procedures, and other means that Title X funding does not go toward the provision, promotion, or encouragement of abortion as a method of family planning... However, it is clear that separate bookkeeping entries alone do not meet the separation requirements of Title X."

"If requested, Title X facilities may provide abortion referrals. A referral consists of a name, address, telephone number, and other "relevant factual information," such as what insurance is accepted. Affirmative actions such as obtaining consent for the abortion, arranging for transportation, negotiating a reduction in the fee, or arranging/scheduling the procedure are prohibited."
posted by SugarAndSass at 10:13 PM on April 8, 2011

It's just the government subsidized non-abortion procedures?

The point made, pretty accurately, this week is that the network of PP facilities represent a very efficient pre-existing source of medical services that come under the auspices of public health. There's a largely accepted long-standing public interest in providing low-cost reproductive health services, just as there is in, say, childhood vaccination, which is why federal funds exist for that purpose, and the alternative would be to duplicate PP services sans abortion, which is neither sensible nor cost-effective.

For comparison's sake, in countries with universal healthcare, reproductive health services are generally either provided through state-run facilities or private clinics with heavy government subsidy.
posted by holgate at 10:28 PM on April 8, 2011

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