COMMENTARY: Trump Takes Taxpayers Out of the Abortion Business

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Photo:  AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

By Marjorie Dannenfelser, RealClear Politics, May 21, 2018

Last week the Trump administration took decisive action on the president’s pledge to disentangle taxpayers from the abortion industry, delivering a policy win that promotes better health care alternatives for women and may save countless lives.

The Protect Life Rule stops taxpayer funding of abortion through the Title X family planning program. Most Americans agree that abortion is not family planning and oppose taxpayer-funded abortion. The Protect Life Rule does not cut a single dollar from family planning. It instead directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions, such as the growing number of community and rural health centers. There are already more than 3,000 Title X service sites nationwide – including state and county health departments, community health centers, and nonprofit clinics – where women and families are already accessing comprehensive preventative and primary care, not abortion.

For too long, abortion businesses – chief among them Planned Parenthood – have exploited Title X as though it were their own private bank account. Since the Clinton era, all Title X grantees have been required to refer for abortion, and service sites have been allowed to carry out abortions on the same premises and keep their taxpayer funding. Planned Parenthood has been receiving $50 million-$60 million in Title X funds annually and more than half of its service sites provide abortion at the same address.

This is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Title X statute, which specifically states that funds should not go to programs that treat abortion as a method of family planning. The Protect Life Rule puts a stop to it, reinstating the policy of President Reagan and restoring the integrity of the Title X program.

Pro-life groups have been working for this change for months. More than 85 national and state pro-life groups sent a letter earlier this month to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking him to revise Title X rules. Forty-one senators and 153 representatives also sent letters making the same request.

Abortion advocates will of course be livid about the Protect Life Rule. They give an extremely misleading impression of how Title X works when they claim millions of Americans will lose access to basic health care. Rather than being earmarked for specific services, Title X is a slush fund for general operations. Title X dollars pay for rent, utilities, staff salaries and computers, even advertising to recruit clients. As anybody who has the slightest business experience knows, money is fungible; if it helps keep the lights on and the doors open, it contributes to the overall success of the company.

When that company is Planned Parenthood, that means taxpayers are helping prop up the nation’s largest abortion business. Planned Parenthood carries out more than 320,000 abortions every year and even faces federal investigation for its role in the harvest and sale of aborted children’s body parts for profit. Their total services and patients have been in decline for years, but the number of abortions has remained stable and their revenue has hit a record high.

While policies that prevent taxpayer funding of abortion have clearly been shown to reduce abortions, the consequences of bankrolling the abortion industry are dire. Peer-reviewed research indicates Planned Parenthood has inflated the U.S. abortion rate – so much that more than 3 million avoidable abortions can be attributed to Planned Parenthood’s intervention in the abortion market.

If they truly view women’s health care as paramount, and Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers want to continue providing Title X services, the logical thing would be to simply comply with the rules. If they refuse to do that, they can fund their activities without conscripting taxpayers. The Protect Life Rule offers that choice.

Sure, they might have to dip into the $98.5 million in excess revenue they reportedfor fiscal  2016-2017.  They might have to cut into the $75 million spent on “movement building.” They might even have to hit up their ultra-wealthy donors who are capable of giving them $9 million at a time. There’s no evidence they require taxpayer funding to survive or break even, and plenty of evidence that they don’t deserve it at all.

President Trump’s Protect Life Rule is a huge step in the right direction. It shows that he has heard the frustration of pro-life voters over continued funding of the abortion industry. A victory like this is just the shot in the arm the pro-life grassroots needed to head enthusiastically into the critical midterm elections. We thank President Trump for doing what it takes to fulfill this core promise and get taxpayers out of the abortion business.