THE Oklahoma State Department of Health is ending a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide food vouchers to low-income pregnant women and young children as part of the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Planned Parenthood blames politics for the change; the department says it was a simple business decision.
We find the department's explanation plausible. Put simply, other providers may be a better fit to serve women with children than Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood is more than an abortion provider, there's no denying that it's mostly associated with terminating or preventing pregnancies rather than helping women with the nutritional needs of their unborn and born children. The group is known for reproductive services, not for feeding the poor.
Planned Parenthood's public image is such that if you saw a pregnant woman entering its doors, you'd assume she wouldn't be pregnant for much longer — and not because she delivered her baby.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma don't do abortions, but they do provide referrals for abortions. Figures vary, but outside groups reviewing annual reports have estimated that up to a third of patients at Planned Parenthood clinics get an abortion; anywhere from a third to half of clinic income may be generated by abortions. An analysis by Stop Planned Parenthood (as the name demonstrates, a harsh critic) estimated Planned Parenthood provided 10.5 abortions for every prenatal service in 2010.
Planned Parenthood claims only a small fraction of its services are abortion-related. Even if critics overstate their case, most people suspect Planned Parenthood's own figures are designed to downplay its status as abortion provider.
Either way, the group's image as an abortion-above-all entity is ingrained in public perception. Such “political” views have a practical effect that limits the organization's usefulness in distributing WIC funds and justifies the Health Department's nonpolitical business decision. In a nutshell, Planned Parenthood is probably far down the list of venues women visit when seeking nutritional care for babies they intend to bring into this world.