The Conservative Case Against Defunding Planned Parenthood

Talk of Congress defunding Planned Parenthood is in the air again, and this time, it may actually have some teeth since we now live under a unified Republican government for the first time since 2006.

The case for defunding planned Parenthood is simple to make- it is a despicable organization, founded for the purpose of forwarding eugenics era ideas of racial purity, which murders 300,000 babies per year.

The organization has also become a flashpoint for the Left/Right divide in our popular conversation, each side attacking or defending the organization as much out of reflex as principle by this point.

This is a fight in which both sides can only harden the hearts of their bases, and in which convincing anyone who supports Planned Parenthood or decries it that the Federal funding should stay or go contrary to their starting position is a simple impossibility. That Federal funds “can’t be used for abortions” is a ludicrous claim- can they be used to pay general operating expenses, thus allowing the funds that would otherwise have needed to defray those costs to go for abortions?

The “women’s healthcare” dodge is a spurious claim at best (PP is an abortion mill and both sides know this deep down) but conservatives will never convince Liberals who believe abortion is a good thing that essentially only providing abortions makes PP a bad organization. The fact that their other services- like cancer screenings, are simultaneously very costly and not very helpful won’t budge their thinking either.

Meanwhile, in the face of 300,000 slaughtered infants per year there is absolutely no argument in favor of Planned Parenthood that would sway a single conservative heart.

Which leads me to my case against defunding Planned Parenthood. I think, picking a fight where we once again trot out the many arguments on each side and retreat further into our respective fox holes is counterproductive, and even if we win- as we are likely to do in the short term on this, we will simply strengthen the opposition in the same way that the Obergefall case stiffened conservative opposition to the Left’s culture warriors.

Rather, if we begin with an argument built on a a question of what government itself should and should not do, we arrive at a conversation which will further the public debate, absent the triggering emotional baggage of a specific organization like Planned Parenthood.

Both the Left and the Right have a vested interest in fighting public corruption. When the conversation rests in the abstract, rather than in the case of a particular case, both your average moderate Democrat and moderate Republican can be convinced that, for instance, groups which are engaged in donating to politicians or political parties should not receive Federal government dollars in direct subsidy.

This case seems absurdly easy to make. Illustrating the concept, in general, that a group receiving government money who then donates part of that money to a politician or political party, who then votes to give that organization more taxpayer money is a corrupt practice which should be ended. A piece of legislation built in general language which barred companies from simultaneously receiving Federal funds and donating to political causes, pitched from a government reform standpoint and applied dispassionately to all organizations equally could gain a broad bipartisan support of the public (if remaining unpopular among status quo politicians.)

That it might, incidentally, defund Planned Parenthood (or force them to cease their donations to the Democratic party and Democrat politicians) is secondary to the broader goal. That it might reform other institutions who engage in de facto kickback schemes, regardless of their political affiliation, thus providing a far larger societal benefit than a simple defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Another, more useful, and potentially more bipartisan method to pursue is to simply cut off government subsidies altogether. Every segment of the political spectrum has a particular government subsidy they rail against- whether the Left and far Left against big oil, or the right against PP and green energy, or Libertarians against everything. Government subsidies are bad. Everyone understands this when they are railing against a government subsidy for something they don’t like. Similarly, everyone understands why their particular thing they like is just oh so important that even though government subsidies are bad, it’s ok, even necessary to use a government subsidy for this.

It’s needless to say, neither side would like to unilaterally disarm and leave the subsidies they don’t like in place, while eliminating those for programs they prefer.

So, why not attack the problem in the abstract again? A coordinated campaign to build public desire for a law which, for instance, eliminated the government’s ability to directly subsidize companies, non-profits, and other organizations- that is a law requiring that Federal funds only be given “in exchange for actual services rendered or goods delivered.”

I’ll be perfectly honest- I don’t have a problem with an organization like Planned Parenthood receiving the Medicare cost for a cancer screening covered by Medicare that they provide to a Medicare patient in exchange for doing a screening. I have a problem with the half a billion dollars they receive per annum that are not attached directly to a specific service they provide.

In the same way I have no problem with the government paying the energy company (whether fossil fuels or green energy) that supplies the electricity to a government building. I’d just like to cut off the subsidies paid to them directly (yes to both fossil fuels and green energy companies).

This is why, although I am against Planned Parenthood as an institution, and against it receiving Federal funding, I am not in favor of measures designed specifically to defund Planned Parenthood. If we change the conversation towards a true conservative value of reforming and shrinking government we can accomplish this, while providing far greater benefits to society by also removing other corrupt and costly programs.