"Sebastian's Point" is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life.
All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column.
08 March 2018
Usurping Freedom of Conscience in the
Name of ‘Reproductive Rights’
In 2015 Americans learned of an additional horror perpetrated by Planned Parenthood; the harvesting of organs from aborted babies. The outrage over this grisly revelation has prompted renewed efforts to stop taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
As many know, Planned Parenthood is a private organization, which has over $1.8 billion in assets.[i] They are the largest abortion provider in the United States, accounting for almost 35% of the market, or one in three abortions.[ii] Planned Parenthood made an annual profit of $77.5 million during 2015-2016,[iii] spends millions on elections to promote their abortion agenda and lobby for more government funding,[iv] and they received $553.7 million from the U.S. taxpayer in 2015-2016.[v]
Planned Parenthood tries to deflect from the abortion issue by passing itself off as a provider of numerous “women’s reproductive health care services," but their own annual reports betray them for the abortion lobby they are. Even though abortion is on the decline nationally, abortions performed at Planned Parenthood increased by 4,500[vi] while the number of clientele Planned Parenthood served decreased. Across the board, there has been a significant decline in non-abortion services offered by Planned Parenthood, including a 46% decrease in prenatal care.[vii] They are so committed to abortion, which they claim is only a small part of their business, they turned down over $500 million from the Trump Administration because it was on condition that they stop performing abortions.[viii] Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Planned Parenthood knows they consider abortion sacrosanct.
This begs the question: how did the government start funding the abortion industry in the first place? The two main federal government programs that funnel money to Planned Parenthood are Medicaid[ix] and Title X.[x] Medicaid was created to provide health care, including reproductive health care, to low-income families. The Title X program was created with a more limited purpose of providing “family planning and preventive health services,” for those in lower income brackets. Planned Parenthood was one of the first beneficiaries under the new Title X program.
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly assured taxpayers that public funding under these two programs only funds non-abortion services; except under Medicaid states can provide more coverage than federally mandated, but not less. At a minimum, through Medicaid, states must pay for abortions for rape, incest, and life of the mother, but some states pay for all abortions for low-income women.[xi] According to Medicaid, over $500,000 combined state and federal funds were used to pay for abortions in 2015.[xii] Of course, numerous audits in numerous states over at least the past 20 years show that Planned Parenthood has been engaging in questionable financial practices, including illegal use of federal funds to pay for abortions. [xiii] Any government funding of Planned Parenthood, regardless of what it pays for, is still funding their larger, insidious agenda. Every taxpayer dollar that Planned Parenthood receives for non-abortion services frees-up a dollar they can use to promote their pro-abortion ideology.
Considering Planned Parenthood's abysmal record regarding fetal organ harvesting,[xiv] failure to report sexual abuse[xv], and questionable financial practices, one would think their funding would have been cut a long time ago, but it hasn’t. In addition to Planned Parenthood’s political influence, the layers of bureaucracy involved with these programs and sympathetic activist judges, provide plenty of cover. The Executive branch is free to interpret administrative regulations as they please. The Obama Administration issued a memo[xvi] interpreting Medicaid regulations to require states to fund Planned Parenthood. States that refused to comply with the Obama Administration’s interpretation were threatened with severe funding penalties. Subsequently, the Trump Administration rescinded that memo, allowing states some flexibility to define who is qualified to perform services as applied to Medicaid.[xvii]
Defunding Planned Parenthood is a tenuous proposition when the signature of a President is all it takes to determine whether or not Americans will have to fund the largest abortion provider in the United States. Add a judiciary that acts more like lobbyists for the abortion industry than impartial jurists, and we begin to see why, even though the people have expressed their desire to defund Planned Parenthood through their state legislatures, the will of the people has been disregarded and funding for Planned Parenthood continues. The idea that Planned Parenthood has a “right” to public funds, a right that supersedes the rights of everyone else in the United States, is absurd. The government is not obliged to fund family planning at all, but the fact that it does, does not rob it of discretion regarding who they want to do business with or how to spend those funds.
Taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood goes beyond the abortion debate. Whether it’s illegally harvesting and selling organs from aborted babies or enabling child molesters, Americans are beginning to realize that Planned Parenthood is not worthy of taxpayer support and the tacit approval that comes with it. Americans are also beginning to realize that what they want doesn’t matter. Somewhere along the way funding Planned Parenthood became paramount while the constitutional protections of freedom of conscience became suspect.
This isn’t just an issue of funding, it speaks to our very understanding (or lack thereof) of freedom.
Freedom of conscience is not some abstract concept, it’s been an elementary bedrock of our freedom for almost 250 years. The idea that government funding of abortion is superior to the right of the people not to pay for something they find morally reprehensible is frightening. Being forced by the government to give money, essentially a donation, to a private, billion dollar organization that turns around and uses that money to attack the very people who didn’t want to fund it in the first place, really is shocking to the conscience.
Planned Parenthood isn’t content ignoring the freedom of conscience when it comes to funding. They recently exposed their true, extreme nature and directly attacked the very idea that people should be able to exercise their conscience. President Trump recently reissued Health and Human Services regulations extending civil rights protections. HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan explains,
How did Planned Parenthood respond to the reinstatement of these very benign regulations, which do nothing more than state the obvious? In an email, the outgoing president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards registered her outrage.
This is what we’re funding. First, protecting freedom of conscience was abandoned in favor of Planned Parenthood’s “right” to taxpayer funding. Now, that same organization is arguing that having moral or religious principles is no justification to refuse to perform that which violates your conscience.
It is evident that the debate over public funding of Planned Parenthood is about much more than abortion. We should not be forced to pay for our own cultural demise.
[i] Annual Report 2016-2017, Planned Parenthood Federation of America,
[ii] Annual Report 2014-2015, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, https://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/2014-2015_annual_report_final_20mb (accessed March 4, 2018).
[iii] Annual Report 2016-2017, Planned Parenthood Federation of America,
[iv] Planned Parenthood: Outside Spending Summary 2018, Open Secrets – Center for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cmte=Planned%20Parenthood (accessed March 7, 2018).
Planned Parenthood: Lobbying Expenditures 2017, Open Secrets – Center for Responsive Politics,
https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000591 (accessed March 7, 2018).
Planned Parenthood: Outside Spending Summary 2016, Open Secrets – Center for Responsive Politics,
https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cycle=2016&cmte=Planned+Parenthood (accessed March 7, 2018).
[v] Annual Report 2015-2016, Planned Parenthood Federation of America,
[viii] Kelly Riddell, “Why Planned Parenthood Must Be Defunded,” Washington Times, March 9, 2017,
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/9/defunding-planned-parenthood-must-take-precedence/ (accessed on March 6, 2018).
[ix] United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Program History, Medicaid.gov, https://www.medicaid.gov/about-us/program-history/index.html (accessed March 6, 2018).
[x] President Richard Nixon, "Special Message to the Congress on Problems of Population Growth," originally presented to the U.S. Congress on July 18, 1969, Washington D.C., http://www.population-security.org/09-CH1.html (accessed March 6, 2017).
United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs, Title X Family Planning, HHS.gov, https://www.hhs.gov/opa/title-x-family-planning/index.html (accessed March 6, 2018). It’s interesting to note that the Title X Family Planning program is still administered by the “Office of Population Affairs."
[xi] State Funding of Abortion Under Medicaid, Guttmacher Institute, March 1, 2018,
https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/state-funding-abortion-under-medicaid (accessed March 6, 2018).
California Department of Health Care Services, Research and Analytical Division, Medi-Cal Funded Induced Abortions 2014, September 2016, http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/dataandstats/statistics/Documents/Medi-Cal_Funded_Abortions_2014.pdf (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xii] United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Expenditure Reports from MBES / CBES, Medicaid.gov,
https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/finance/state-expenditure-reporting/expenditure-reports/index.html (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xiii] Alliance Defending Freedom’s Annual Report on Publicly Available Audits of Planned Parenthood Affiliates and State Family Planning Programs, September 23, 2015, http://www.adfmedia.org/files/ProfitNoMatterWhatReport2015.pdf (accessed March 6, 2018).
Charles Ornstein, “Cost of the pill inflated?,” The Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2008,
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/08/local/me-billing8 (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xiv] Chair Representative Marsha Blackburn, Press Release, Select Investigative Panel Issues Interim Update to the House, July 14, 2016, https://energycommerce.house.gov/news/press-release/select-investigative-panel-issues-interim-update-house/ (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xv] Alabama Department of Public Health, Statement of Deficiencies C4911, NAME OF PROVIDER: PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF ALABAMA, November 21, 2014,
http://dph1.adph.state.al.us/DeficienciesReports/planned%20parenthood%20mobile%2011-21-2014.pdf (accessed March 6, 2018).
How Planned Parenthood “Cares” for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse: A Summary of Planned Parenthood Failing to Report Sexual Abuse, Alliance Defending Freedom, September 3, 2015,
http://www.adfmedia.org/files/PlannedParenthoodSexAbuseSummary.pdf (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xvi] United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Vikki Wachino, "Clarifying 'Free Choice of Provider' Requirement in Conjunction with State Authority to Take Action Against Medicaid Providers,” April 19, 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policyguidance/downloads/smd16005.pdf (accessed March 6, 2018).
[xvii] President Donald Trump, “Signs H.J. Res. 43 into Law,” April 13, 2017, Washington D.C., https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-signs-h-j-res-43-law/ (accessed March 4, 2018).
[xviii] Paul Bois, “Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards: Christians Should Be Forced to Perform Abortions,” January 31, 2018, dailywire.com, https://www.dailywire.com/news/26608/cecile-richards-christians-should-be-forced-paul-bois (accessed March 7, 2018).
“No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer
to man than that which protects the rights of conscience
against the enterprises of civil authority.”
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1809
“The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
"But his latest attack is truly shameful: a proposed rule released by HHS seeks to encourage health care workers to discriminate against patients by refusing to provide care because of religious, moral, or personal objections.
At Planned Parenthood Action Fund, we will always stand firm in our mission to expand access to care and to make it easier for people to get the services they need to live full, independent lives. These discriminatory policies fly right in the face of that mission — and we won’t stand for it." [xviii]