Planned Parenthood's Taxpayer Funding Safe Under Spending Deal

Taxpayers sent $543.7 million to Planned Parenthood last year

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Planned Parenthood 100th Anniversary Gala / Getty Images
February 9, 2018

Planned Parenthood will continue to receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the new spending agreement, despite Republican pledges to defund the nation's largest abortion provider.

Congressional Republicans failed to make good on their campaign promises to end taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in their latest rounds of contentious negotiations with Democrats, which largely focused on military spending and immigration. Despite controlling both houses of Congress and House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R., Wis.) 2017 pledge to defund the organization, Republicans were unable to implement plans to redirect taxpayer dollars to local community health centers that do not provide abortions.

Taxpayers sent $543.7 million to Planned Parenthood last year, down from $554.6 million in 2016, and government funding accounted for about 40 percent of its $1.46 billion revenue stream, according to its annual report. Private contributions to the group have skyrocketed in recent years as it collected $532.7 million in donations in 2017, an $87 million increase from the year before.

The latest round of negotiations angered pro-life activists. March for Life Action's Tom McClusky said the deal points to a "broken process," in which government spending proceeds under continuing resolutions, rather than passing a federal budget.

"Because of this decades-long broken process millions of dollars will now continue to flow to abortion giant Planned Parenthood," McClusky said. "Congress is broken and abortionists profit from it."

Terry Schilling, executive director of American Principles Project, said the continued funding of Planned Parenthood represented a "moral crisis" for the country. Schilling said that GOP majorities should have made defunding the group an easy decision. He faulted Republicans for not exhibiting the same commitment to the pro-life cause that Democrats have to supporting abortion, pointing to the failed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood during the 2017 budget reconciliation process, as well as the failed 20-week abortion ban in January.

"Really, there's no excuse for this. Republicans control Congress," said Schilling. "We have a Republican president. The GOP can make all the procedural arguments they want, although they passed on an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood as a stand-alone reconciliation measure last year. The reality is that the Democrats would never let ridiculous Senate rules get in the way of passing their agenda."

The continued funding of Planned Parenthood could come back to hurt Republicans moving into the midterms, according to Schilling. The revenue stream gives the organization more leeway to supporting political spending through campaign contributions, while curbing enthusiasm among pro-life voters to turn out for Republican candidates. Planned Parenthood was the 20th-largest outside spender in 2016, shelling out more than $15 million in 2016 in addition to $4 million in contributions with nearly all of the money going to oppose Republicans. Planned Parenthood Votes, the group's super PAC, spent $12.7 million in 2016 and has already spent $130,000 on the 2018 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a 501(c)4 nonprofit, shelled out $1.46 million in outside spending in 2016 and has spent $908,567 in 2018.

"Think about the insanity of the Republican Party giving half a billion taxpayer dollars to an organization that then goes and spends around $30 million to defeat the same Republican Party in each election cycle," Schilling said. "Stupid doesn't even begin to describe what the GOP has done."

Neither Speaker Ryan, nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) returned requests for comment.