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Guttmacher: Planned Parenthood’s “Think Tank”

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October 13, 2015

In the continuing debate over abortion, Planned Parenthood (PP) has a unique associate that often provides credibility for the organization when its own statements have low credibility.

The Guttmacher Institute is generally viewed by politicians and the media as a neutral source of research data about pregnancy issues.

In reality Guttmacher is closely aligned with Planned Parenthood and regularly serves as a de facto source of credibility for the organization. Its role has grown increasingly important in recent years as Planned Parenthood has been hit with numerous exposes that damage its reputation.

Rarely mentioned is the fact that Guttmacher began as a unit of Planned Parenthood in 1968 and was named for a past president. Guttmacher became an independent research organization in 1977, but remains closely aligned with Planned Parenthood's interests. 

Because of damage to PP's reputation, public and media acceptance of Guttmacher as a neutral research organization fills a role that complements it's messaging.

Guttmacher is particularly useful to Planned Parenthood in many state legislative battles over abortion as well as in Congress.

In recent years Planned Parenthood has suffered continuing credibility damage in the abortion debate, especially this year when video clips showed that it routinely sells body parts of aborted babies.  (Planned Parenthood has announced that it will not longer accept reimbursement for those parts but it still will provide them.)

Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities summarized it well when he wrote to the Congress about the exposes of Planned Parenthood’s fetus body part sales.

“Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more ‘intact’ organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans,” O’Malley wrote.

The revelation weakened Planned Parenthood’s voice in many venues. As its voice has become less effective, Guttmacher data helps bolster Planned Parenthood’s messages with its defenders.

Today Guttmacher is widely quoted by news media as a neutral research organization, almost entirely without reference to its strong anti-life tilt. In that role it serves as a vital science arm of the pro-abortion and birth control community.

 A recent TIME magazine routinely referred to Guttmacher simply as “a non-profit research organization”

In Indiana’s debate about defunding Planned Parenthood centers, Guttmacher data is often quoted, but infrequently noted as a cooperator with PP. Guttmacher promoted the claim that two-thirds of Indiana’s women get birth control services from Planned Parenthood.

That assertion was presented as fact by the news media, without noting the tie between the two groups. Others dispute that claim, but get less attention.

A similar example is the media coverage of a Guttmacher employee who asserts that many women will lose their health care if Planned Parenthood closes.

Sometimes Guttmacher’s data receives less attention, which often seems to occur when its data does not support Planned Parenthood’s political claims!

For example, in the current public debate Planned Parenthood receives widespread attention for its assertion that if its centers are defunded and close, many women will have to travel excessively long distances for its services.

Virtually ignored—and no longer promoted by Guttmacher--is its 2013 study that found 73 per cent of women travel less than 25 miles for an abortion, and 81 per cent travel less than 50 miles. 

How Guttmacher can tilt a discussion is seen in its assertions before abortion was legalized in Mexico in 2007. Guttmacher reported that 725,000 to 1 million illegal abortions were occurring annually in Mexico, a statistic used to help legalize abortion.

After abortion became legal Guttmacher quietly revised its numbers drastically downward, saying that legal abortions in Mexico totaled 122,455.

Then a study by researchers not involved in the issue concluded that Mexico’s abortion total was only 12,000.

The drastic discrepancies in Guttmacher’s data were never challenged or explained.

Some Guttmacher reports in the U.S. are not widely cited today, presumably because they put abortion in an unfavorable light.

Its 1995 study explored the reasons women have abortions, and has never been repeated and is rarely mentioned.

The reason could be that its initial study showed that most abortions occur for lifestyle reasons rather than health concerns. The study found that three-quarters of women who had an abortion said their reason was that it would interfere with work, school or similar activities. 

Only 1 per cent said they aborted because of a defect in the child or because they had been raped.

Alan F. Guttmacher (1898-1974) was an obstetrician/gynecologist. He was the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in the 1960s and 1970s.

Guttmacher was started as a division of Planned Parenthood in 1968. It became independent in 1977 and has been a stand-alone entity since then, yet remains on a close track with PP.

Guttmacher today has a staff of more than 80 employees, plus a reservoir of academic researchers who do much of its pro-abortion research. Guttmacher reports a budget of $17,000,000, including $800,000 from the federal government in 2014.

Guttmacher reports 13 individual donors of more than $10,000 each, including the “The Richard A. Busemeyer Atheist Foundation,” which also is a major contributor to Compassion & Choices, the physician-assisted suicide lobbying group.