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Abortion Distortion

Opinion Editorial
August 24, 1999

By Linda Gorman

After 20 years of automatically funding Planned Parenthood, the Colorado health department finally put the contract for rural women’s health services out to bid. In an even more radical step, Jane Norton, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, announced that obeying the law would be a requirement for prospective bidders. Article 5, Section 50 of the Colorado Constitution forbids using public funds to “pay or otherwise reimburse” any entity “either directly or indirectly” for the performing an induced abortion. Money is fungible and Planned Parenthood does abortions. It cannot bid.

The goring of this sacred cow produced predictably immoderate reactions. Planned-Parenthood of the Rockies spokeswoman Katie Reinisch resurrected Hillary Clinton’s conspiracy theory, accusing the Owens administration of “catering to the religious right’s anti-abortion agenda.” State Senator Mike Feeley said Governor Owens was getting bad political advice and “confirming some of the fears that people had.” According to House Minority leader Ken Gordon, Owens would leave “a gap in health care services for poor women”. A few days of routine escalation later, Planned Parenthood supporters were claiming that “this is only the first step to deny all funding for contraceptives to the women of our state.”

Section 50 was added to the state constitution in 1984. A majority voted for it. Those people understood that abortion and contraception are two different issues, and a large fraction of Americans, 10 to 30 percent depending on the poll, would ban abortions in the first trimester. The 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives demonstrate the intensity of their belief.

Section 50 merely says that taxpayers can not be compelled to have anything to do with abortions. Those who disagree may still fund them using their own money. But abortion proponents want other people’s money. They want the government to force everyone, even those who think abortion is a crime against humanity, to underwrite their moral precepts.

Ms. Reinisch claims that “Not a single penny [of state money] goes to abortions” because no state funding is used at the four Colorado sites where Planned Parenthood does abortions. What about overhead? Absent an entirely separate organization for abortions, state money underwriting Planned Parenthood’s general overhead frees up its unrestricted money to subsidize abortions.

Planned Parenthood has a history of similarly misleading statements. In 1995, Dr. Mark Louviere of Waterloo, Iowa saw an Associated Press story reporting that Planned Parenthood’s Iowa tests of RU-486 had concluded with no complications among the 238 participants. But Dr. Louviere had treated a participant in the clinical trial. As he told the Des Moines Register, “If near death due to loss of half of one’s blood volume, surgery, and a transfusion of four units of blood do not qualify as a complication, I don’t know what does.”

In response, Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa said that “no complications” referred to the trial, not to the condition of the participants. Sandra Waldman, a spokesperson for the Population Council, which sponsored the trials, said that the trials resulted in “no deaths or serious complications.” What happened to Dr. Louviere’s patient was “within the context of what happened before.”

Planned Parenthood also stood silently by when Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, appeared in 1995 on ABC’s Nightline. He later said he “lied through my teeth” when claiming that partial-birth abortions were rare and used primarily when a woman’s life was in danger.

The claim that denying taxpayer support for abortionists compromises women’s health is another Planned Parenthood whopper. Unlike routine tests and checkups, abortion can have serious side effects. Their extent is unknown because statistics on the subject are a mess. In 1996, preliminary Federal estimates of abortion-related deaths reported one each in 1991 and 1992. Pro-life groups had death certificates and autopsy reports documenting at least 20 during the same period. Passions run so high that Pamela Maraldo, former head of Planned Parenthood, called successful malpractice suits against abortionists who let patients bleed to death the “irresponsible abuse of our court system by zealots who seek to intimidate doctors and control women’s lives.”

Colorado law says no to government subsidized abortions. Were Planned Parenthood really concerned that its inability to bid jeopardizes “women’s health” it would spin off its abortion business.

Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado.

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