How Fake News Helped Planned Parenthood


America’s most popular sexual health care provider received some potentially good news earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of Planned Parenthood that might make good on President Trump’s promise to “defund” the organization — meaning defund poor people by prohibiting them from using Medicare to pay Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD tests, and birth control. (Medicare can’t be used for abortions anyway, so the only effect “defunding” has on abortions is to increase them, by restricting access to birth control.)

In a December 7 letter cited by Reuters, the Department of Justice requested unredacted documents from the 2016 Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Planned Parenthood investigation.

That investigation, and the undercover video investigation by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress that prompted it, both failed to prove that Planned Parenthood was ever involved in the illegal transfer of fetal tissue for scientific research — or, as they say on the alt-right, that it was a “chop shop” trafficking in baby parts for profit.

But the failed investigations did succeed in bringing in a ton of money to Planned Parenthood, from patients and other defenders of health freedom.

The huge influx of cash enabled the organization to send out even more fundraising mail than it usually does, and jump to number 29 on Target Marketing’s 2015 list of Top 50 junk-mailers in the United States, moving ahead of such powerhouses as Pottery Barn, Victoria’s Secret and Bank of America.

Then, with the 2016 election of Trump and Pence (who started the “defunding” movement in the first place), fundraising went through the roof. According to Bloomberg, Planned Parenthood received 128,000 donations — thirty times the normal rate — in the week after the election, and reported an 800% increase in applications for volunteers. Within a month of Trump’s inauguration, over 50,000 people had signed up to volunteer for Planned Parenthood, Fast Company reports.

As for the Department of Justice request, in his letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote: “At this point, the records are intended for investigative use only — we understand that a resolution from the Senate may be required if the Department were to use any of the unredacted materials in a formal legal proceeding, such as a grand jury.”

So with any luck, another huge financial windfall for Planned Parenthood might well be on the horizon.

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Howard Rushmore is America's greatest amateur bartender and the spirited remains of the famous Confidential columnist of the same name.