Title X funds to “family planning” clinics that dispense abortion counseling were prohibited last summer as a result of the Rust v. Sullivan U.S. Supreme Court decision, which single-issue organizations indignantly denounced. It is ironic that the very people who claim that government should stay out of abortion decisions are the very same people who want government to pay for them. Their outcry prompted Congress to overturn the ruling and fund such clinics. As President Bush contemplates a veto, multi-issue taxpayers would like to inquire: do these clinics really deserve federal funds?

For starters, the full-page newspaper ads and expensive, five-color fundraising letter distributed by the chief recipient of these funds, the Planned Parenthood Federation, might tempt the average taxpayer to just say no. Without a doubt, tax dollars have freed millions of private dollars raised by this special interest group (using its tax-deductible status, another subsidy) for slick marketing campaigns to lobby Congress and the public. But further investigation reveals the real reason these groups call the Court’s decision the “gag rule”: they gagged when they realized how many millions of dollars they would lose if the ruling were not overturned.

Planned Parenthood, which led the charge against the decision, is the preeminent example. In 1987, Planned Parenthood’s annual report revealed that its affiliates’ income was $249.5 million, of which $111.2 million was furnished by federal, state, and local government reimbursements. Currently, $37 million annually goes to these affiliates from Title X, and due to the way federal block grants are administered. Planned Parenthood has been able to obtain hundreds of millions through 19 different appropriations measures, including Medicaid, Title V, Title XIX, and Title XX.

The organization and its affiliates operate the nation’s largest chain of abortion facilities. In the early 1980’s, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that Planned Parenthood clinics had a 50 percent higher abortion-referral rate than other, similar clinics. The Federation’s 1989 Service Report reveals that this chain performed over 111,000 abortions in 1988 and made referrals for 100,000 more. Those numbers had significantly escalated in the 1980’s: from 1977 through 1986, the number of affiliates doing abortions increased by 68 percent, and the number of abortions performed increased by 85 percent. Some affiliates also perform more expensive, later-term abortions. Based on its published abortion data and other statistics collected by survey. Planned Parenthood affiliates received approximately $21.1 million in income from performing abortions alone in 1986. Using current figures, that abortion income is now estimated at around $30 million annually.

One-third of Title X clients are adolescents. Planned Parenthood affiliates routinely dispense contraceptive devices, abortion referrals, and, in most states, perform abortions without parental consent or even knowledge. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood has angrily lobbied against efforts to require parental notice before abortions are performed on underage clients. When the U.S. Senate recently passed a popular amendment calling for parental notification for minors in the Chafee Title X funding measure. Planned Parenthood called it “heinous” and sought its repeal.

There is evidence that the “poor” the organization claims to assist include a large number of young, non-poor girls who are financially supported by their parents. Information obtained from clients and clinic records reveals that there are instances where counselors have declared these younger girls “indigent” based on the fact that they have no sizable income of their own. Thus, taxpayers also foot the bill for these “indigent” clients through Title XX. For example, Planned Parenthood claims that it helps four million “poor” women annually. However, using figures gathered from a report by its Alan Guttmacher Institute, in 1983 only 13 percent of all family planning clinics were welfare recipients.

There is other evidence that cash-paying clients pay one rate for pregnancy tests, contraceptive services, or family planning counseling, while government-subsidized clients pay higher rates—at taxpayer expense. Although each affiliate sets its own billing schedules, clinic records obtained from a Texas affiliate by demographer Robert H. Ruff reveal that cash-paying patients paid 32 dollars for an initial birth control visit, while government-subsidized clients paid 77 dollars; a cash-paid pregnancy test cost 16 dollars, while the government-paid pregnancy test cost 57 dollars; cash clients paid 40 dollars for an annual birth control check-up, but government-subsidized clients paid 85 dollars. When the government pays, the “services” are two to four times more expensive.

Are “family planning” clinics effective in preventing pregnancies and abortions, as Planned Parenthood has claimed? In a significant study of family planning clients reported in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Stan Weed summarized these findings: “As the number and proportion of teenage family planning clients increased, we observed a corresponding increase in the teenage pregnancy and abortion rates: 50 to 120 more pregnancies per thousand clients, rather than the 200 to 300 fewer pregnancies as estimated by researchers. . . . We did find that greater teenage participation in such clinics led to lower teen birthrates. However, the impact on the abortion and pregnancy rates was exactly opposite the stated intention of the program. The original problems appear to have grown worse.”

Whenever clients undergo abortions, they also routinely receive contraception and family planning counseling. However, Planned Parenthood’s own data (in Family Planning Perspectives) reveals that fully 43 percent of all abortions are repeat abortions. The Center for Disease Control reports that one out of seven women undergoing abortions acknowledge having two or more previous abortions—for another 5.7 percent of all abortions. A failure rate of nearly 50 percent is grounds for rethinking any public policy.

Finally, an important footnote about the disingenuous claim of “gagging” doctors. In these family planning clinics, unlike private practices, the clients are advised by “counselors,” who are sometimes volunteers, and not doctors. The distinctive feature of such clinics is that they are designed like assembly lines to handle high volume, and most clients never even see the doctor until they are on the surgical table. Yet these doctors make huge profits, and some of them admit that they left obstetrics because abortion was considerably more profitable and less trouble.

If defense contractors are to be accountable, then so should domestic “contractors.” If Congress is going to spend scarce revenues for domestic programs, then the public wants the money to go to the truly needy, and for programs that work. And concerning tax funds for clinics, the average multi-issue taxpayer would agree: Planned Parenthood’s lucrative operations are no more “entitled” to scarce federal dollars than were the defense contractors who sold Uncle Sam those exorbitantly priced toilet seats in the 1980’s.