Of all the Planned Parenthood data being looked at today as a result of release of the agency’s annual report, one of the more significant is the continued decline in its client total for reversible contraceptive methods (excluding services like sterilization and emergency contraceptive kits). This number is distinct from its contraceptive services total, where discrete services provided to a single individual are separately tallied, leading to a higher overall figure for services and a reduction in the apparent significance of a single “service” like abortion. The reversible contraceptive client total simply refers to the number of women coming to Planned Parenthood to obtain reversible contraception like oral contraceptives, barrier methods and IUDs, and this number continued to drop in 2014 – by more than 122,000 women, or more than 5.7 percent of those clients.
The Congressional Budget Office has published its estimate that eliminating Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding would mean that 15 percent of the organization’s clients would lose their contraceptive coverage in the first year of the funding reduction. With the new decline in Planned Parenthood’s client load in 2014, the organization has lost fully 13.7 percent of its reversible contraceptive client base over a five-year period while under no federal funding stress whatsoever. This trend seems relatively well established and may reflect, as news reports have discussed, the impact of larger changes in health care funding that have expanded access for many women to their own health insurance plans. It may also reflect increased funding for community health centers that offer a much wider array of general health care services at a single site.
Moreover, the new client numbers directly affect CBO’s estimate of client loss, which was based on a Planned Parenthood annual female contraceptive client total of 2.6 million. On this total CBO projected increased births as the singular component of a $130 million increase in Medicaid costs over 10 years. The fiscal implication of more births has its own difficulties, as a CLI analysis has discussed, but at the very least the number of women affected by a change in federal funding is 22.8 percent lower than CBO assumed just four months ago.
More detailed data from Planned Parenthood may reveal whether any of the reduced client load is attributable to state-based reductions in the organization’s funding, but the trend to provide contraceptive services for many fewer patients is well-established and precedes the current state and federal debates. The near-ubiquity of low-cost contraception and Planned Parenthood’s service limitations offer a more logical explanation for hundreds of thousands of women going elsewhere, and for the present (2014) the organization is seeing a much lower number of clients at significantly higher taxpayer cost — one more sign perhaps that, with its consistent excess revenue over expense, it could absorb public funding reductions.
Chuck Donovan is the president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.