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Would defunding Planned Parenthood increase abortions?

It is true that Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country: In 2009, the organization performed just over 330,000 abortions, about 40 percent of all abortions that year.

It is also true that Planned Parenthood prevents many more abortions, as one of the largest providers of contraceptives in the country. More than one-third of low-income women who get birth control through Title X — the only federal program dedicated to family planning funding — do so at one of Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics.

Title X does not pay for abortions; federal law prohibits any government dollars from paying for the termination of pregnancies. Organizations like Planned Parenthood often use Title X grants to subsidize birth control, STD screenings, and other reproductive health services for low-income patients who may lack health insurance coverage.

And Planned Parenthood is far and away the biggest provider in this space. Of the 6.7 million women who rely on public programs to pay for contraceptives, 2.4 million of them — 36 percent — do so at Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics across the country.

(Guttmacher Institute)

By providing contraceptives to millions of low-income American women, the Guttmacher Institute (a nonprofit that supports abortion rights) estimates the Title X program prevented 345,000 abortions in 2013 alone.

As the largest Title X provider, Planned Parenthood has played a big role in that.

A handful of headlines lately have argued that abortions would increase if Planned Parenthood lost Title X and other federal funding, with fewer women having access to contraceptives. I don't know if that's quite right: If fewer Planned Parenthood clinics existed, that would mean less access to both abortion and contraceptives — so it's hard to game out where, exactly, the numbers would land.

But here is what is clear: Cutting off Planned Parenthood does mean reducing access to birth control. Access to birth control reduces unplanned pregnancies, and 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. And because the nonprofit is such a large provider in the women's health space, it's hard to see other clinics stepping in to play the role that Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics currently play.

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