If $1.3 billion is unaccounted for and the media don't report it, did it really happen?
According to an American Life League review of Planned Parenthood's annual reports, the organization received more than $2 billion in federal grants and contracts between 2002 and 2008. A June 16 Government Accountability Report, however, found that the organization spent just $657.1 million of taxpayer money in the same time period.
The $1.3 billion discrepancy failed to catch the attention of the nation's major media outlets. None of the networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) or major newspapers (Los Angeles times, The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post) reported it.
A Culture and Media Institute review of coverage found that only one newspaper listed among Nexis' "major newspapers" - The Houston Chronicle - even mentioned the GAO report. The Chronicle's June 16 article noted that Planned Parenthood spent $657 million of federal money over seven years, but did not mention the income/outlay discrepancy.
Don't Follow the Money
The media have made Planned Parenthood a go-to source for several stories over the last six months, including debate over abortion language in health care reform legislation, the trial of the activist who killed abortionist Dr. George Tiller, and the 50th anniversary of the Pill.
From Dec. 28, 2009, to June 28, 2010, the broadcast networks and the "Big 4" newspapers mentioned Planned Parenthood 56 times in news stories. None of those stories mentioned the GAO report, and only one article reported the amount of federal money going to Planned Parenthood.
The February 27 article in The New York Times mentioned an investigative operation by pro-life activist Lila Rose which found Planned Parenthood clinics willing to accept donations from people who wanted African American babies aborted. A separate New York Times report on January 28 characterized the investigation as "prank calls" to Planned Parenthood.
Four reports referred to state funding of Planned Parenthood, but did not mention federal resources granted to the organization.
Planned Parenthood's 2008 Annual Report says $349.6 million in taxpayer-funded grants and contracts accounted for more than a third (36 percent) of the organization's income that year, second only to health center revenue. Federal funding for Planned Parenthood has increased by 45 percent since 2001-2002, when it received a reported $240.9 million from taxpayers.
While federal orders mandate that government money not be used directly for abortions, pro-life advocates point out that federal money used to cover non-abortion costs frees up private money to pay for abortions.
Planned Parenthood is by far the most cited pro-abortion group when it comes to national media coverage. In the last six months, 30 broadcast and print reports have quoted Planned Parenthood representatives and another 26 have mentioned the organization.
The 56 mentions of Planned Parenthood dwarf other pro-abortion groups, including the National Organization for Women (30) and NARAL Pro-Choice America (15).
When abortion was a major focus of health care reform debates, the media turned to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and other affiliated representatives to statements and analysis. When the media celebrated the 50th anniversary of "the Pill," the media commemorated Planned Parenthood's role in making it possible.
A February 26 profile in The Washington Post painted a glowing picture of abortion doctor Carol Ball. The article described a "difficult time" for Ball and other doctors who perform late term abortions in South Dakota.
When Planned Parenthood produced an ad in response to Focus on the Family's pro-life Super Bowl ad, the media praised it. USA Today noted it "defend[ed] abortion rights," although the Focus on the Family ad did not target abortion "rights."
The New York Times on January 27 turned to Richards on the increase in teen pregnancy rates, and she used the opportunity bash abstinence education. "This new study makes it crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work," Richards said.
In addition to news reports related to Planned Parenthood, newspapers published five letters to the editor from readers mentioning the organization and fives letters to the editor from Planned Parenthood executives.
Another seven op-eds and entertainment reviews mentioned Planned Parenthood, as well as 15 death notices, and a couple of comedians' jokes. All told, the networks and newspapers mentioned Planned Parenthood more than 80 times in the last six months.
But when someone noticed a $1.3 billion discrepancy in Planned Parenthood's handling of federal money - crickets.
The Sound of Silence
One letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times February 7 illustrated the effect the media blackout has had on public perceptions of Planned Parenthood.
Responding to the media-manufactured controversy over Focus on the Family's pro-life Super Bowl ad, a reader wrote, "If I had it, I would give millions to Planned Parenthood to advertise on CBS during the Super Bowl."
Well, dear reader, your wish has already come true. You might not know it from reading the Times, but Planned Parenthood already receives more than $350 million every year from you and every other American taxpayer, with no oversight from the "watchdogs" in the media.