Planned Parenthood, Taxes, and Fungibility
First of all, my computer thinks the word "Fungibility" is spelled incorrectly. It is not a common word. Simply put, a thing is fungible if it is freely interchangeable. (Thanks Dictionary.com) Money is a fungible commodity. You don't care which $1.00 bill you have, because each $1.00 bill is of the same value as any other $1.00 bill. They are fungible.
The reason that fungibility is important to the abortion discussion is because the government funds Planned Parenthood. Many people ask why government funding is a problem, since there are mechanisms in place that prevent the funding from paying for abortions. In short, the answer is fungibility.
While looking for a quick video to explain the concept of fungibility, I came upon this video uploaded by Now This and created for the Test Tube, a Discovery Digital Network. It's a great example of the question I often get about why it's important to defund Planned Parenthood.
"Why Is Planned Parenthood Controversial?" The video asks. Well, because Planned Parenthood provides one-third of abortions in the United States of America every year. Also, Planned Parenthood exchanges fetal remains for money. (BTW, if they "received valuable consideration," they are committing a federal crime.)
So funding Planned Parenthood is very controversial. The United States Government does fund Planned Parenthood. It funds them to the tune of $553,700,000 in a single year. That is 43% of Planned Parenthood's total revenue.
Planned Parenthood also gets funding from:
i) Non-Government Health Services Revenue (People pay for abortions without government aid),
ii) Private Contributions and Bequests, iii) Support from Affiliates, and
iii) Other Operating Revenue (they might rent out a room to another group, for instance).
This is all documented in Planned Parenthood's Annual Report on pages 34-35.
Overall, government funding is the biggest source of income that Planned Parenthood has. Here's another video explaining the funding of Planned Parenthood further.
At a time in our nation's history when people are split almost evenly between those who are "Pro-Life" and those who are "Pro-Choice," it is incomprehensible that the government is giving Planned Parenthood half a billion dollars every year. According to a Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, 61% of Americans oppose tax funding of abortion.
To be certain, the tax dollars that you and I pay (and were reminded of just last week on Tax Day) are used to fund Planned Parenthood.
But there is something called the Hyde Amendment. Named after the congressman who first introduced it, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every congress since 1976. It mandates that no government funding can pay for abortions, except in the cases of rape and incest. (These exceptions, as always, make no logical sense if the argument against abortion is that it destroys an innocent human life.)
You might remember that Hilary Clinton campaigned against the Hyde Amendment during the election. The ACLU has an article about how obstructive the Hyde Amendment is. Pro-Choice people generally do not like the Hyde Amendment because it prevents federal money from being used for abortions. Pro-Life people love the Hyde Amendment, because it has saved millions of lives.
Certainly the Hyde Amendment has been a great thing. Those who are now alive because of it have testified to that fact. (Look up stories about some of those precious lives at HelloHyde.org.)
Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, the government doesn't directly fund abortion*. So why is the funding of Planned Parenthood still a problem for me? Back to fungibility.
It should be widely known that Planned Parenthood doesn't do abortions for free. They charge anywhere from $415 to $1,110 for an abortion up to 18 weeks from the last menstrual period. They charge even more for later abortions. (Planned Parenthood will perform abortions on fetuses (tiny humans) up to 24 weeks old in some locations.) These payments for abortions accounts for some of the "Health Services Revenue" that Planned Parenthood reports.
What the Hyde Amendment is essentially preventing is this: women cannot pay for abortions using government funding (typically Medicaid). Planned Parenthood hates that because it cuts into their market.
However, every one of the 553,700,000 tax dollars given to Planned Parenthood last year make abortions possible. Planned Parenthood doesn't use the money to pay for abortions directly, but it freely interchanges these government dollars with their other revenue to operate their abortion facilities. The money is fungible.
Illustration of Fungibility: The Election of Jimmy Johnson - Student Body President
Jimmy is running for the position of Student Body President. He has met with his election team and determined that the best use of campaign funds is to obtain these three things:
Cookies to bribe students into voting for him. - $50
Posters to hang only at the approved bulletin boards. - $25
The Cool Kid to DJ his all-important campaign rally at lunch. - $100
Together with his campaign staff, Jimmy has self-funded $75. He sets out with his fundraising director to solicit a donation from his favorite teacher, Mr. Maguire, to acquire the $100 still needed for a successful campaign.
Mr. Maguire, enthusiastic about civic engagement and campaign finance law, had more discretionary income than most teachers. He decided to fund Jimmy's campaign, and gave him a donation of $100.
If this was the end of the story, then Jimmy would be set and would secure the final election victory. But the teacher wanted to do something more specific than make a general donation. Mr. Maguire wanted to include a restriction on the donated funds.
[Restrictions placed on donated money controls the use of that money to a certain extent. When you give to an organization, you often have the option of directing where that money is applied. A restriction may be a positive restriction, or a negative restriction. Positive restrictions direct exactly where the money must be used, negative restrictions dictate how the money may not be used.
For the person receiving the funds, negative restrictions are better than positive restrictions. (No restrictions would be best. Try to secure unrestricted donations whenever possible. Unrestricted donations can be used for any purpose.) Still, a negative restriction is better than a positive one, because negative restrictions give more flexibility.]
If the teacher placed a positive restriction on the funds it might look like this:
Mr. Maguire loved elections, but especially loved the important element of campaign posters. So he directed that his $100 donation be used exclusively for the production and distribution of campaign posters.
Jimmy was thankful for the donation, but realized now that he had a problem. He only needed $25 for the campaign posters, and had $100 directed solely for that purpose. The excess $75 was going to be lost. Sure, he might get the best posters ever seen in this school, but students don't read the bulletin boards anyways.
Facing this positive restriction, Jimmy and the election campaign were unable to secure the DJ and lost the election despite their beautifully designed and high-quality posters.
Alternatively, if the teacher placed a negative restriction on the funds, it might look like this:
Mr. Maguire loves the whole civic process, but has strong views against bribing students with cookies. So he required Jimmy to promise that his $100 contribution would not be used for cookies.
Jimmy accepted this condition, thanked Mr. Maguire for the money, and went back to discuss the ramifications of the prohibition on cookie purchases with his team.
The team showed Jimmy that this restriction wasn't a problem. The money could just be moved around in such a way that their $75 in self-financing would cover the cost of the cookies. Mr. Maguire's donation would only be used for the DJ and the posters, but the campaign would have cookies anyways.
Thanks to Mr. Maguire's donation, and fungibility, Jimmy had the best campaign rally ever and won the election.
Congratulations Jimmy Johnson, Student Body President! THE END
I hope that illustration is helpful.
This is what Planned Parenthood does with the tax dollars that we give them every year. They don't use them for abortions. They use them for everything else. They use them for the facilities, the staff salaries, the electricity, the latex gloves, the pregnancy tests, etc. etc. Other than the vacuum aspiration machine and RU-486, there's virtually nothing that Planned Parenthood's tax revenue cannot buy. The negative restriction placed on their money by the Hyde Amendment does very little to hinder their use of $554,700,000.
Does the presence of the Hyde Amendment make funding Planned Parenthood ok? Not at all.
Planned Parenthood's biggest operating costs, like all businesses, are the cost of facilities (the buildings) and salaries. The Hyde Amendment doesn't stop them from using tax dollars to cover those operating costs.
Having covered the operating costs with their government grants and payments, Planned Parenthood can use the money from private donations to pay for the abortion equipment. It's just like Jimmy using the teacher's donation to pay for the DJ and the posters so that he could use his other funds to pay for the cookies.
Now imagine that instead of cookies, Jimmy wanted to buy poison to murder his closest rival, Nancy Sue. He told the teacher about this intended purpose, and the teacher was rightly horrified. Still, Mr. Maguire strongly approves of civic engagement, so he made the $100 donation anyways. He included a negative restriction, though, to make sure that Jimmy didn't buy any poison with the donated money.
When Nancy Sue is murdered with poison, do you think a prosecutor could charge Mr. Maguire with the crime as an accessory? There's certainly a case to be made that criminal punishment is appropriate for a man who gave $100 to a candidate with the knowledge that the campaign intended to use the money to buy poison and murder rivals.
Isn't the U.S. Government guilty of the same crime by giving Planned Parenthood $554,7000,000? Criminally? maybe not. Morally? absolutely.
*Except for the cases of rape and incest. Can anyone point me to any resources making sense of this oft-repeated exception? It doesn't make any logical sense to me, and I'd appreciate any articles, blogs, books, or other information about why the rape and incest exception are ever the right thing.