Was Donald Trump The Most Pro-Life President Ever?
Under Donald Trump, Funding for Planned Parenthood Has Soared
At the 2020 March For Life, Donald Trump delighted the pro-life crowd by becoming the first sitting president ever to address the annual event in person. Signs in the crowd declared Trump “The Most Pro-Life President Ever.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the powerful pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said, “President Trump’s leadership as the most effective pro-life president in American history has been a game-changer.”
But has it? Is he the “most pro-life president ever?”
It’s possible to measure this claim in many ways. But it is certainly fair to use as a yardstick one of Donald Trump’s own campaign promises: That he would defund Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation.
So I took a look at Planned Parenthood annual reports going back to 2013 to get an idea of what the organization was getting from taxpayers in the last few years of the Obama Administration, and what it is now getting since President Trump has been in office. If you think Trump has defunded Planned Parenthood, the numbers will come as a shock.
Record Funding For Planned Parenthood Under Trump
President Trump took office in January of 2017. The fiscal year-end for Planned Parenthood is June 30. So it was not until Planned Parenthood’s fiscal year ending in 2018, and those following, that we can see the impact of President Trump on the abortion provider’s funding.
So what do those years tell us? In Planned Parenthood’s FY 2018, the first year that would reflect a Trump Administration budget, Planned Parenthood received about $563.8-million in taxpayer funding. That level was a record for any administration in history, significantly more funding than Planned Parenthood got during any year of the Obama Administration. In fact, during the last year of the Obama Administration, funding had actually dropped by about $10-million, to the lowest level since 2014.
But in 2019, the Trump Administration broke its own record by a wide margin. Government reimbursements and grants to Planned Parenthood went up by more than $50-million, to $616.8-million. That funding level represents the single largest one-year jump in funding for Planned Parenthood in history. The 2020 Planned Parenthood Annual Report says the number went up yet again, to $618.1-million. This year’s increase was small, but it was still an increase, and a new record.
So has President Trump defunded Planned Parenthood? Not by a long shot. Funding for the abortion provider has gone up every year he’s been in office. If this trend continues another year, no administration in U.S. history will have spent more money with Planned Parenthood than Donald Trump.
The Bully Pulpit
Not only has taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood skyrocketed, President Trump also lit a fire under its donors.
Sarah Wheat, the Chief External Affairs Officer for Planned Parenthood Texas, reported a dramatic increase in donations in the weeks after the 2016 election.
And the trend wasn’t limited to Texas. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood received donations from more than 180,000 people in the week after the 2016 election. That’s about 40 times more than the organization sees in a typical week.
That trend has continued. In 2014, the organization took in what was then a record $391.8-million in private donations. In 2015, Planned Parenthood actually saw a significant decline in donations.
But fueled by Donald Trump’s relentless promise to defund Planned Parenthood, donations came roaring back in 2016, topping $445-million, more than $90-million above the previous year. And during the first two years of the Trump Administration, that explosive growth continued. In 2018, donations to Planned Parenthood topped $600-million for the first time.
So not only did government spending go up under Trump, his rhetoric fueled record giving from donors. Even conservative icon Richard Viguerie recently admitted in a recent “Marketing Memo To Conservative Leaders” that “Planned Parenthood grew 400 percent inn the first year after President Trump’s election. they went from 400,000 to 1,600,000 supporters.” For the past three years, Planned Parenthood’s budget has exceeded $1.6-billion. In 2020, it was a record $1.64-billion. Thanks in no small part to the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood is stronger than ever.
Most pro-life leaders, giddy with their new-found access to the White House, become apologists for Donald Trump, despite this clear evidence that he has not come through on one of his central campaign promises to evangelicals. A part of the reason is that this kind of access to a sitting president — along with the photo opportunities it provides — is fundraising gold. They forgot the reason the pro-life movement had been making gains during the decade before Trump. Those gains came because they were winning the hearts and minds of the American people. Important leaders in the pro-life movement were willing to trade their credibility for a photo-op in the Oval Office.
The sad news is that while abortion funding skyrocketed, so did the budgets of some pro-life organizations. The Susan B. Anthony List took in $5.7-million in 2015. By 2018 revenue had doubled, to $12-million. Students for Life for America, which aligned itself closely to Trump, did even better. 2015 revenue was $4-million. In 2019 its revenue exceeded $12-million, a four-fold increase.
The lone victory the pro-life movement had during four years of Trump was the elimination of Planned Parenthood’s Title X funds. But Title X funding was only about 10 percent of the taxpayer funds that go to Planned Parenthood, and those funds were quickly replaced in many states (including Pennsylvania) with other dollars that more than made up for the funding loss. Indeed, we know know that those dollars were more than fully replaced by the record (and record deficit-setting) $20-trillion budget President Trump signed in December of 2019.
All of these facts are causing the lights to go on for some pro-life leaders. When the Title X funding was eliminated, Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life for America, lamented, “The nation’s number one abortion vendor broke all previous records in taking money from taxpayers this year.” She said that eliminating $60-million was a step in the right direction, but that President Trump had “$600 million left to go.”
She added, pointedly, “The Trump Administration needs to uphold [its] promise to pro-life Americans.”
Many of President Trump’s evangelical supporters stood by him in large part because they believe he has delivered on promises they hold dear, with the promise to defund Planned Parenthood near the top of that list.
It will be interesting to watch what these pro-life leaders will do now that he’s gone. Will they long for the “good old days” when their favorite president sent record funds to the nation’s largest abortion provider? Will they admit their error? Will they have credibility with those Americans we need to convince in order to make abortion both illegal and unthinkable?
Or is it time for new leadership in the so-called pro-life movement in this country, leadership that puts the life of the unborn ahead of photo-ops, political access, and a bloated bottom line.