Does Planned Parenthood really have an interest in reducing the number of abortions? Should we take them seriously when they suggest ways to eliminate one of their primary income streams? Birth control cannot replace abortion, and the abortion industry knows that full well.
Planned Parenthood once had a page on its website titled "5 Ways to Prevent Abortion (And One Way That Won't Work)." According to that list, the best way to prevent abortion is to "Make contraception more easily available." That may seem a reasonable suggestion, but remember who's making it. Planned Parenthood performed 354,871 abortions in 2019.1 A first trimester surgical abortion costs up to $1,500.2 Second-trimester abortions cost even more. The average cost of a medical abortion is $504.3 If we assume an overall average cost of $1,000 per abortion, that means Planned Parenthood made roughly $350 million in abortion revenue in 2019. And that doesn't include the $510 million they received in private donations4—much of which is ideologically tied to abortion.
Planned Parenthood likes to claim that abortion only represents 3% of its operations, but this is a numeric sleight of hand. According to their own published figures, 15% of their clients have an abortion,5 and abortion accounts for at least a third of their health center income. More to the point, of the pregnant women who come to Planned Parenthood for counseling, more than 97% have abortions.6 No more than 0.7% are referred for adoption.7 In light of these numbers, isn't it remarkable that Planned Parenthood thought itself credible enough to publish such a list in the first place?
Abby Johnson spent eight years working for Planned Parenthood. She began as an idealistic college student who honestly believed they were helping reduce the overall frequency of abortion. She resigned as a jaded clinic director—weary of increasing corporate pressure to get her abortion revenue up. In her own words:
“Abby,” I was told pointedly, “nonprofit is a tax status, not a business status.” I was ordered to get my priorities straight—which meant I had to get my revenue up. As the meeting continued, I sat there stunned...
When I looked at the numbers, I did a double take. I noticed that the client goals related to family planning hadn’t changed much, but the client goals under abortion services had increased significantly...
I came away from that meeting with the clear and distinct understanding that I was to get my priorities straight, that abortion was where my priorities needed to be because that was where the revenue was.8
If Planned Parenthood really wanted to prevent abortions they could simply stop selling them, but that would negatively affect their bottom line. Instead, they declare that the best way to reduce our national reliance on abortion is to increase our national reliance on birth control—which happens to be another Planned Parenthood revenue stream. What is the one thing, according to Planned Parenthood, that won't prevent abortion? Making it illegal, based on the vacuous assertion that millions of illegal abortions were already happening each year prior to Roe vs Wade. This would all be laughable if the results were not so tragic.
Planned Parenthood's conflict of interest notwithstanding, we are still left to ponder the question of birth control. Is contraception really the best way to prevent abortion? Would there actually be more abortions if Planned Parenthood didn't exist? After all, Planned Parenthood declares on its website that it prevents 560,000 unintended pregnancies a year,9 and the Guttmacher Institute tells us that 40% of unintended pregnancies are aborted.10 Do we say then that Planned Parenthood is preventing a quarter-million abortions each year? We certainly do not! These are hypothetical saves; they pale in comparison to the millions of living human beings who've already been torn to pieces by Planned Parenthood.
In a 2010 report examining contraceptive use in the United States over the last 30 years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reaches this conclusion:
Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age… But that does not mean that contraceptive use in the United States is completely consistent or effective. One-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the average probability of an unintended pregnancy in 12 months of contraceptive use in the United States is 12%, unchanged from 1995.11
In the oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar declared that contraceptives do not and cannot mitigate the need for abortion. Her argument was as follows:
Contraceptives existed in 1973 and in 1992, and still the Court recognized that unplanned pregnancies would persist… Contraceptive failure rate in this country is at about 10% using the most common methods. That means that (among) women using contraceptives, approximately one in ten will experience an unplanned pregnancy in the first year of use alone. About half the women who have unplanned pregnancies were on contraceptives in the month that that occurred, and so I think the idea that contraceptives could make the need for abortion dissipate is just contrary to the factual reality.
Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the largest independent abortion provider in the UK, had this to say about birth control in a 2008 London debate:
We live in a society where we know contraception fails. In the real world, out of women who are using the pill well, about 8 in every 100 will get pregnant in the course of a year.12
The World Health Organization (WHO) adds the following:
Even if all contraceptive users were to use methods perfectly all the time, there would still be nearly six million accidental pregnancies annually. Thus, even with high rates of contraceptive use, (millions of) unwanted pregnancies will occur.13
This is the dirty little secret of birth control. It only works most of the time. What does that mean on the average university campus? Consider the University of Minnesota. In 2007, the UM Boynton Health Service surveyed 10,000 college students throughout the state. Seventy-two percent indicated they were sexually active during the last year.14 Since there are roughly 52,000 students at the University of Minnesota, and since females represent roughly 57% of American college students,15 that indicates that there are 21,131 sexually active women at the University of Minnesota. According to the CDC report, even if every single one of them is using birth control, 2,536 will get pregnant over the course of a year. And that's just one campus, in one state.
Birth control has created the illusion that you can enter into sexual relationships without consequences. Its use is "virtually universal" among sexually-active women, and yet there are still close to one million abortions per year in the United States. Feminist author and historian Linda Gordon wrote the definitive history of birth control in the United States. Therein, she concedes that birth control cannot replace abortion, but can increase the demand for abortion. She writes:
It is inaccurate to see [abortion and birth control] as alternatives. No method of contraception yet developed can eliminate the need for legal abortion. Indeed, from a historical perspective, contraception at first may have increased the clientele for abortion because it accustoms people to planning reproduction and makes them unlikely to accept loss of control.16
Authors Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles, and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy point out in their book, Complications, that following the legalization of abortion in the United States, the number of births decreased by 6% while the number of conceptions increased by 30%.17 Why? Because “one effect of legalized abortion was to increase the rate of careless conceptions, [making] it easier for people to have casual sex and to dispense with contraceptives.”18 Based on these numbers, up to one-third of the children aborted in the United States would never have been conceived if abortion had remained against the law.
If the availability of abortion is convincing more singles to be more sexually active, and if 12% of the women using birth control still wind up pregnant, it's no wonder that contraceptives have proved so ineffectual at curbing our national abortion epidemic. Planned Parenthood admits on its website that, "Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won't have an unintended pregnancy or get a sexually transmitted disease (STD)."19 On their chart comparing the effectiveness of different birth control methods, Planned Parenthood estimates that 2-9% of pill users will get pregnant in any given year and 15-24% of condom users will still wind up with an unplanned pregnancy.20
Abby Johnson makes a revealing observation concerning her own birth control history. "There’s an incredible irony," she writes, "in the fact that I had a career in educating women about contraception and yet, for the third time, conceived while using contraceptives."21 If you scoff at the CDC assertion that 12% of the women using birth control still wind up pregnant, consider that even a professional Planned Parenthood sex-educator wound up with three unplanned pregnancies—all while using contraceptives.
More than 85% of U.S. abortions are performed on unmarried women. The way to eliminate these abortions is not by handing out more condoms. It's by giving people a better understanding of what abortion actually is and does and a better understanding of how unreliable birth control can be. Rest assured, if abortion were not so readily available, a lot more singles would think twice about getting into bed together.
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- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Annual Report 2019-2020, 35.
- The Planned Parenthood website states that first-trimester abortions cost up to $1,500 and “more for a second-trimester abortion.” Planned Parenthood. In Clinic Abortion Procedures, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures/how-do-i-get-an-in-clinic-abortion (Jan 24, 2022)
- The Guttmacher Institute reports that the cost of an early medication abortion is $504. United States Abortion Insurance Coveragehttps://www.guttmacher.org/united-states/abortion/insurance-coverage (Jan 24, 2022)
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Annual Report 2019-2020, 38.
- Planned Parenthood reports 2.4 million clients in 2019 and 354,371 abortions: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Annual Report 2019-2020, 10, 35.
- 354,871 abortions / 8,626 prenatal services / 2,667 adoption referrals. It is not clear whether each “prenatal service” represents a unique client.
- Abby Johnson. Unplanned. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition, 2010) 114-115, 174, 204.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Planned Parenthood at a Glance. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-glance-5552.htm (July 17, 2017).
- Guttmacher Institute. In Brief: Fact Sheet: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html, January, 2017.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Use of Contraception in the United States: 1982-2008. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf, 15.
- Elizabeth Prelogar, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 19-1392. Oral arguments, December 1, 2021, 98-99 (https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2021/19-1392_4425.pdf)
- Ann Furedi, “Abortion: A Civilised Debate,” Battle of Ideas, (London, England, November 1, 2008).
- World Health Organization, Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems (Geneva, 2003: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42586/1/9241590343.pdf, 12).
- Patty Mattern. “University of Minnesota releases first ever comprehensive report of the health of college students.” (University of Minnesota, Nov 15, 2007: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-11/uom-uom111507.php)
- Alex Williams. “The New Math on Campus.” The New York Times, Feb 5, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/fashion/07campus.html
- Linda Gordon. The Moral Property of Women. (University of Illinois Press, 2002) 340.
- Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles, and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy. Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women. (The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. Kindle Edition, 2013) Loc 1363.
- Ramesh Ponnuru. The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life. (Regnery Publishing, 2013) 69.
- Planned Parenthood. Abstinence, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/abstinence-4215.htm (Dec 9, 2011)
- Planned Parenthood. Comparing effectiveness of birth control methods http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/birth-control-effectiveness-chart-22710.htm (Dec 12, 2011)
- Abby Johnson. Unplanned. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition, 2010) 66.
- Can Birth Control Use Cause an Abortion?: Barrier methods cannot cause abortion; hormonal methods are less certain.
For Further Study:
- Where is the Utopian Future Margaret Sanger Promised Us? (Abort73 Blog)
- What Birth Control Can & Cannot Do (Abort73 Blog)
- The Law Can’t Make Abortion Safe; Birth Control Can’t Make Abortion Rare (Abort73 Blog)
- Was Planned Parenthood’s Founder Anti-Abortion? (Abort73 Blog)
- Margaret Sanger and the Religion of Birth Control (Abort73 Blog)
- Gandhi on Birth Control and Abortion (Abort73 Blog)
- Marriage, Contraception, and Unplanned Pregnancy (Abort73 Blog)
- The Tangled Web of IVF and Birth Control (Abort73 Blog)