Planned Parenthood does not represent the entirety of the pro-abortion movement, but it is the face of it. When you include all of its affiliates’ budgets, Planned Parenthood is a $1+ billion operation and an enormous influence on our culture. Its latest annual report (2013–2014) mentions that Planned Parenthood clinics performed over 327,000 abortions during the year. Yet it promotes itself as a caring, compassionate, and necessary organization for women’s health. In reality, it is a massive abortion machine that specifically targets minority communities. Carefully and strategically orchestrating its founder’s vision of eradicating certain minorities, it has been very successful at hiding its racist and genocidal foundations.
Why is there no large pro-life counterpart to Planned Parenthood?
Part of the reason Planned Parenthood appears to dwarf the pro-life movement is because it had, roughly, a 60-year head start. Failed-nurse-turned-ultra-liberal-sexually-deviant-racist-activist Margaret Sanger originally founded Planned Parenthood as the nation’s first birth control clinic in 1916. And it will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year as one of the largest nonprofits in American history.
In contrast, while the pro-life movement certainly had small elements in existence before 1973, most of the movement has grown in response to the ill-conceived Roe v. Wade and its bastard cousin, Doe v. Bolton. And that growth has been organic, with grassroots organizations springing up all over the country.
Sixty years is a long time to infiltrate a nation’s culture, build government friendships, invade the educational system, and help redefine human sexuality in America. That doesn’t necessarily explain why there is no large pro-life organization, but it does explain why, virtually uncontested, Planned Parenthood has grown to the size it is today. And half of its efforts are funded with our tax dollars.
Ironically, I’ve heard estimates that suggest the pro-life movement, as a whole, receives somewhere between $500M and $750M in private donations every year. So it isn’t that the American pro-life public isn’t willing to give of its financial resources in order to help end abortion in America and compete with Planned Parenthood. It’s just that the dollars required to do so are being dispersed to literally thousands of small organizations.
Why? There are numerous reasons for this, but here are just a few of the key ones:
1. Different groups have different theological foundations. The Catholic Church has consistently and aggressively defended human life at all stages. However, the Protestant Church was divided on abortion back in 1973, and therefore slow to respond to the very rapid legalization of abortion in America. As I wrote in my book Deliver Us from Abortion, the majority of Protestants still attend churches that aren’t doctrinally pro-life.
I was born in 1972, so I can’t speak personally to the Catholic-Protestant divide on abortion in the ’70s and ’80s. But I can say that Catholics, on the whole, remain far more passionate, more vigilant, and more aggressive about ending abortion in America. This isn’t to say Protestants aren’t involved; but the majority of today’s pro-life organizations were founded by Catholics and remain largely Catholic. And, as history has proven time and time again, Catholics and Protestants don’t always get along and often struggle to coordinate their efforts.
Sometimes the pro-life movement is so closely associated with the Catholic Church that the public thinks they are one and the same. I was recently interviewed by a large Catholic news show, and the host invited me to mass afterwards. As many people do, he assumed I am Catholic because I head a pro-life organization. (I’m Protestant.)
Happily, whatever religious divide existed in the past has largely melted away with a new generation of pro-life leadership. Human Coalition works hand in hand with Catholics and Protestants every day, and we have worked together with groups from both camps several times. The March for Life, for example, is a Catholic-based organization, but it has very intentionally and successfully reached out and asked Protestants to join them under the leadership of Jeanne Monahan. Priests for Life and Father Frank Pavone are very aggressive about inviting all parties to the table for the common goal of ending abortion in America. Whatever our theological differences, followers of Christ embrace the unified ideal of an abortion-free United States.
2. Pro-life leaders tend to be independent. Unlike Planned Parenthood, which has grown methodically under one brand for much of the last 100 years, the pro-life movement grew up in pockets as a grassroots effort all over the country. If a person had an idea to help end abortion (start a pregnancy center, begin lobbying, start a media campaign, etc.), he or she just started a new organization, began raising money, and got down to work.
Pro-life leaders are, by nature, passionate people. They get into this work because they care very deeply about the American family and children. And they have strong views, strong opinions, and a deep desire to see action.
If we could wave a magic wand and go back in time to 1973, while still maintaining today’s perspective, I doubt we’d say, “The best way to defeat Planned Parenthood is to start a few thousand, small, independent nonprofits with different approaches and ideologies — and then try to work together.” Knowing what we know now, we’d design an accountable strategy and start the necessary number of organizations to carry out that strategy.
But that’s not the way grassroots movements start, and no one is going back in time.
3. Collaboration doesn’t guarantee success. People often ask me, “Why don’t various pro-life groups work together more often?” First, pro-life groups do work together quite a bit. That doesn’t mean the collaboration is well publicized or promoted. Human Coalition works closely with over 30 other pro-life nonprofits on a regular basis, and we coordinate on projects with a handful more.
Second, pro-life groups don’t always agree. Whether these are disagreements over pain-capable versus personhood bills, the use of abortion victims’ photos, political strategy, or management styles, passionate people have distinct views that don’t always align.
Third, cooperation doesn’t always mean success. There is a prominent myth, especially among donors, that groups collaborating on initiatives are a universal positive. That is not always the case. I understand why donors want to see collaboration. We like to see groups getting along and using resources more efficiently. It makes us feel better, as donors, to see our dollars being applied across multiple groups. But if two groups don’t see eye to eye, have different expectations, vary in competency, or don’t have the proper motivation for working together, then the collaboration can be neutral at best — and disastrous at worst.
The key benchmark of success is not collaboration — it’s results. If one group can be more effective, more efficient, and end abortion more quickly than two or three groups working together, then by all means we should accelerate the one group.
The pro-life public must acknowledge that Planned Parenthood and the pro-life movement utilize vastly different approaches, and Planned Parenthood has historically had the upper hand. That doesn’t mean, however, that the pro-life movement isn’t gaining ground and won’t ultimately be successful. It is and it will.
And it will be successful as the American pro-life community and donors focus on results, accelerating those organizations that are demonstrating consistent and relentless success in their various areas. In my view, there are numerous such organizations to choose from, which is good for the unborn and the pro-life movement overall.
Thanks again for the great comments and questions!