“Money should not go to Planned Parenthood because money is fungible and can be redirected to support abortion.” No, sorry, money is not fungible and government accounting rules see to that. “If Planned Parenthood is not funded, women will die because there is no other way to get health services.” No, sorry, there are many health service providers. The arguments echo the controversy over faith-based initiatives, in which Liberals argued that money given to churches for any purpose amounted to supporting religion.

There is a law that forbids Federal funding of abortion, so Planned Parenthood must keep books on where the government money goes. They say there is a firewall between abortion and government-funded health services. First we need to look at what Planned Parenthood does.

On The O’Reilly Factor, conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham opined that most of Planned Parenthood money is related to abortion. [1] That turns out not to be true. Planned Parenthood reports “For the three million patients our doctors and nurses saw, we provided contraception (36 percent of our total services), testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (31 percent), cancer screening and prevention (17 percent), and abortion services (three percent).” [2] Three percent of services does not equate to three percent of costs, however. A Planned Parenthood client might get four routine tests and one abortion, in which case one of the five services, 20%, of the service count was abortion. Money is a better indicator of the importance to the organization.

As reported for 2008-2009, the total income of Planned Parenthood was $1100 M, of which $405 M came from collected fees, $363 M from the government, and $308 M from contributions. [2] $683 M went to medical services of all types, but the report does not break out the amount spent on abortions. One estimate for abortion services uses $500 per abortion, a number put forth by critic Ingraham. If that number is correct then abortion amounts to about 15% of their costs, not “most of their revenue” as Ingraham had claimed. Data available on the web indicates that the $500 figure is about right. It seems to vary from $300 to $640 depending upon circumstances.

Planned Parenthood provides about 324,000 of the approximately 1.1 million abortions in the United States annually, about 30%.

Is it reasonable to suppose that funds related to abortion are correctly separated from other health services? Maybe, for example, the government money is used to keep all the lights on and pay for all the heating and air conditioning. No, government accounting rules sort out the expenses rigorously. This problem occurs frequently. If a manufacturer makes radios for the government and also radios for private consumption, separate overhead accounts must be maintained. If the same heater heats the whole building, there are rules for apportioning the expense.

Government contractors are audited regularly to make sure the accounting rules are obeyed. Any allegations of cheating by critics must be proved. Planned Parenthood passed an intensive audit under the Bush Administration, so critics have a heavy burden to prove malfeasance.

Having government funding is likely to help stabilize the finances of Planned Parenthood overall. They get most of the rest of their money from contributions and fees, but the government funds help kept them stable. At minimum, they benefit from the prestige of a larger organization, and more services likely means the organization is better known as a service provider.

We may compare Planned Parenthood funding with church funding under faith-based initiatives. For example, the Salvation Army, a religion, receives government contracts for providing services to the down-and-out. Liberals made the very same arguments that any money given to religious organizations supports religion and that no matter the accounting rules, some benefit is imputed.

In both cases, I think imputed values should not be considered in government funding decisions. Taxpayers benefit from contracts going to the lowest and most qualified bidders. If a grant is given for some purpose it should go to whoever can deliver the services most effectively. The Salvation Army is well-positioned to reach homeless drug addicts. Planned Parenthood is well-positioned to reach troubled teens. So long as the service providers other activities are legal, which both religious proselytizing and abortion are, then there should be no grounds for restricting the awarding of government contracts or special-purpose grants.

Planned Parenthood is as blatantly pro-Obama, pro-abortion, and pro-anything-thought-socially-liberal as the Salvation is pro-God and pro-religion. They both proselytize actively. Neither are a match for The Great Army of Government Accountants, however.

Critics say that Planned Parenthood does do illegal things, like failing to report statutory rape. Those charges ought to be investigated, but so far, evidence of illegal policies hasn’t been uncovered. Perhaps some of those Salvation Army types slip and put in a good word for Jesus too. Rules on the uses of government money should be enforced and carefully obeyed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed that if government funding were denied to Planned Parenthood, that women would be denied medical care. That makes no sense, because there are many other heathcare providers. Men are susceptible to cancer too, yet there is no government-funded program of separate health providers to render services to men to detect prostate cancer or testicular cancer. Does the lack of separate program mean Senator Reid is killing men through his failure to fund a special service? No, it’s a matter for the healthcare system to provide services, and that can be done by various means, including private charity for poor people.

In one of the few budget cuts President Obama initiated, he proposed eliminating a program to provide library books to school children. He claimed the program was redundant, and that other programs did the job adequately. That type of argument should be the basis for the Planned Parenthood controversy.

Republicans are correct in pushing to kill entire programs, whether Planned Parenthood ought to be one of them or not. Cutting back a little across the board allows programs to come back strong next year. Long term budget reduction depends upon complete elimination of programs. Advocates of big government understand this perfectly well, and they fight bitterly to preserve each and every program and to add new ones. With the debt load rapidly approaching crisis, the response to cutting Planned Parenthood should be to name different programs to cut that they believe to be lower priority. They might want to cut farm subsidies or perhaps military bases in Europe. That would lead to substantial budget compromises.

[1] Quoted by the Liberal blog Media Matters, http://mediamatters.org/research/201102180003

[2] Planned Parenthood Annual Report 2008-2009 http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/PP_AR_011011_vF.pdf