Or at least that's what Planned Parenthood of Western Washington (PPWW) spokesman Brian Cutler told Abortion In Washington when asked about the 11% jump in the number of abortions performed by the organization for the second year straight.
No-one does more to reduce the need for abortions than Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, that view is shared by many PPWW supporters in the region, from Christine Gregoire to Bill Gates.
But PPWW's latest annual report, for 2006, seems to suggest the opposite.
The fact is, as AIW readers know, times have rarely been better for PPWW. Whether it’s money in the bank ($36 million), annual revenues ($32 million), number of clinics (~23), or executive salaries ($250,000/year), PPWW has been living large since George W. Bush took office in 2000.
And yet PPWW's annual report shows that they did 7,780 abortions in 2006, compared with 7,023 in 2005, and 6,291 in 2004, an amazing 11% growth each year. This despite reaching near record numbers of clients with their "prevention" and "education" programs.
I asked Mr. Cutler if these were 'good times' for PPWW financially.
He said no. The 'money in the bank' isn't just cash they can use on any project they want, he added. Some of it is “endowments”, the rest requires an order from the board to be released. He said they can't just draw on that money for regular expenses, but rather, “it can only be used for things like building a new building.”
I asked why PPWW claimed earlier this year – to public officials no less – that it had shuttered its Longview clinic because it “couldn't afford to keep it open” if the $36 million in the bank can be used for building new buildings? "I'm not sure why that is", Mr. Cutler said. (In fact, the Cowlitz County board announced a plan to use taxpayers’ money to keep the clinic open, based on PPWW’s public representation of its finances.)
In addition to “having to” close the Longview clinic, along with the Port Orchard clinic, he said this last year had actually been tough because the number of patients seen has gone down since last year, and Medicaid reimbursements were down from 2005 also (because of some restrictions from Congress disallowing Medicaid for illegal aliens). They even had to lay off 29 full time employees.
Notwithstanding a slight dip in revenues from 2005-2006, PPWW has grown rapidly over the last 8 years, doubling revenues, assets, clinics, clients served, etc. So I asked why the number of abortions has gone up even though they now have so much more money, have so many clinic locations, and are seeing so many more clients than 5-7 years ago with their “prevention” programs and contraception sales.
For example, in 2004, PPWW reach 30,799 individuals with their sexuality education. That jumped an extraordinary 50% by 2006, to 45,230. Surely the more well funded PPWW is, the more people they reach, the fewer abortions there will be. Isn’t that the PPWW promise?
Mr. Cutler explained the apparently devastating correlation by claiming that their abortion business was booming not because of their programs and influence, but because they were offering easier access to medical abortions (RU-486) and abortions in general. [Ed. note: these are being provided by Advanced Registered Nurse Practicioners (ARNP), not licenced physicians.] You see, PPWW has been adding abortion services to many of their existing health centers. Surrounded by countless photos of seemingly giddy men and women, the 2006 annual report includes a section called “Increased Abortion Access”, which reads:
We continue to expand access by having medication abortions at 16 sites. Aspiration abortions are now offered in 8 health centers. In 2006, the Olympia Clinic became our seventh site to offer this service. In 2007, the Madison Clinic will become our eighth site offering aspiration abortions and will provide Saturday appointments as well.I continued to push the issue: if PP's goal and plan is to reduce the need for abortions, yet with all this money and reach and clients the number of abortions is going up, doesn't this show that the programs and approach are failing and need to be immediately reevaluated?
He said no, and repeated that the number of abortions is up because of “increased access”.
He went through the standard PP spiel that “no-one does more to reduce the need for abortion than PP”, “PP is not pro-abortion”, and argued that if PP was pro-abortion they wouldn't provide birth control. He claimed they only make 5% of their revenue from abortion, and pointed out that the statewide abortion rate has been going steadily down, and attributed this to “better contraception & education”. [Ed. Note: Due to unbundling of services, 5% is a gross under calculation.]
"Our education and prevention programs are working." He said the rate of women with unplanned pregnancies who choose abortion has remained steady at 50%.
I responded with the obvious question: if you know that increasing access by opening more abortion clinics is going to increase the number of abortions, then isn't it effectively pro-abortion to be opening up as many abortion clinics as possible?
Rather than answer this directly, Mr. Cutler responded by pointing to a WHO study which claimed that the number of women who get abortions is independent of its (official) availability.
“So you’re saying that the number of abortions you’re doing has gone up because of increased access, but you’re also citing a study which says that access doesn’t change the abortion rate,” I pointed out. "Can you help me square that circle," I asked. He didn't have an answer.
Then I moved on to Emergency Contraception (EC). PP led the charge to get EC legalized and approved by the FDA, based on the promise that the drug would drastically reduce the need for abortion. [Ed. Note: PPWW was also an investor in the original company that developed the only EC drug currently on the market -- Plan B. See our articles and links to PPWW's involvement in pushing this drug throughout the state and efforts to deny pharmacists their First Amendment rights.] The 2006 annual report even claims: “Unrestricted access to EC is preventing many hundreds of unintended pregnancies and abortions every month.” Yet PPWW is now selling 122,427 EC packs a year compared to zero just three years earlier, and yet the number of abortions is up 11% each year from 2004. "I’m not really sure [why that is]", said Mr. Cutler. I then asked: "Wasn't EC supposed to reduce the number of abortions?"
"That's the hope... One would expect that.... but does that really matter?"
I then asked how much money they are making off EC sales, since they have a deal, according to records from California court proceedings, where they get them for $5 a pack, and then turn around and sell them for about $25 each to low-income clients. Mr. Cutler said PP has always needed to make some money off the sales of birth control to keep the doors open. I pointed out that they are reporting $9 million in profit of EC a year, from $0 profit four years ago, yet they managed to keep the doors open back then.
"I don't know," was his response. He also admitted that he didn't know how much they sold EC for or how much money they're making from it.
Interestingly, he also claimed that PPWW was not taking any money from the federal or state government for abortions. I told him that according to documents received from the DSHS, PPWW receives about $1.5 million a year from Olympia in Medicaid reimbursements for abortion. He said they were not. I told him I was quite sure of this and he would want to go back and check. "Well, that's as far as I know," he finished.
Finally, I pointed out that their number of abortions even as a percentage of pregnancy-related visits had been increasing over the last two years from 18% in 2004 to 25% in 2006. I asked if he knew why that might be.
"I don't know", he replied. He surmised that perhaps "if a woman already knew she wanted to put her baby up for adoption, she probably wouldn't come to Planned Parenthood." He added, "if a woman knew she wanted to carry her baby to term, she probably wouldn't come to Planned Parenthood."