Bob Smietana, USA TODAY
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Forty years after Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood and its critics are engaged in a fierce brand war.
The billion-dollar charity wants to protect its image as a trusted health care provider and advocate for women.
Its critics say the nation's largest abortion provider is a rogue organization that misuses federal money.
At stake is more than $500 million in government financing for Planned Parenthood's health care, prevention and education programs. That money can't be used for abortion.
Two Congress members from Tennessee say the money subsidizes abortion programs. Both Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black, R-Tenn., introduced bills this month to ban abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from Title X grants for family planning.
"Planned Parenthood received $542 million from Uncle Sam last year. They don't need or deserve your money," Blackburn said in an email.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said the bills would harm those who rely on the nonprofit for health care. She dismissed Blackburn and Black as out of touch with the American public.
"Some members of Congress just don't get it," she said in a prepared statement on the bills.
Controversy over Planned Parenthood is fueled by its dual identity. It is both the nation's largest abortion provider and a major source of health care for women.
According to its latest annual report, the nonprofit performed about 334,000 abortions in its 750 clinics nationwide. That's a little more than a quarter of abortions in the United States.
Planned Parenthood also provided about 10.8 million health care services in 2011. A third of those services were for contraception; 41% were for sexually transmitted infection tests. Abortions represented 3% of services.
Jeff Teague, director of the Nashville-based chapter, said 40.6% of the services it provided in 2011 were for family planning and 22.7% for sexually transmitted infection tests; 15.5% were for abortions.
"We are a health-care provider," he said. "Yes, we do provide abortion service, but the vast majority of what we do is preventive health care."
That argument doesn't sway critics such as David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee.
"One abortion is too many," he said.
Laws cutting a total of $61.7 million in money for Planned Parenthood have been passed in seven states, according to the website of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group. But courts have blocked most of the cuts.
Abortion foes have had mixed results on the national level. In 2011, the House approved the so-called Pence Amendment to cut money for Planned Parenthood. The measure failed in the Senate. Its sponsor, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., was elected governor of Indiana in November and passed the bill on to Black.
Black argues that federal monies help Planned Parenthood keep the lights on at its abortion clinics because some of the money pays for overhead.
"Those dollars are keeping those clinics open," she said.
Blackburn's bill is similar.
"It's unconscionable that Planned Parenthood is receiving record levels in funding while also performing record levels of abortions," she said.
Teague said both Tennessee politicians are wrong. Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee dropped out of Tennessee's Title X program in last year when legislators decided to give the money to government health clinics instead.
The previous year it received $334,600 in family planning money. None of the money went to overhead, Teague said. The funds didn't even cover the cost of the chapter's family planning program.
The chapter's tax returns back up that claim. For the fiscal year ending in June 2011, the group took in $408,603 in revenue for family planning but spent $955,159.
"It's all there in black and white," Teague said. "They clearly don't understand how federal grants work."
This week the charity has asked supporters to wear pink buttons in support of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision on abortion. Many chapters also are hosting "Rock 'n' Roe" concerts as fundraisers.
Anti-abortion activists also are commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe. Many will travel to the nation's capital this weekend for the annual national March for Life.
Both sides point to polling as proof their side is winning.
A Gallup poll from last year showed that 51% of Americans say they are "pro-life" while only 41% call themselves "pro-choice."
But another Gallup poll showed that 52% of Americans want abortion legal in most circumstances with an additional 25% wanting it legal in all circumstances and only 20% wanting an outright ban.
Teague said the pro-choice and pro-life labels don't fit the complexity of abortion.
"People can be genuinely concerned about the number of abortions," he said. "But they still want it to be safe and legal."
Black said it is unlikely her bill will become law any time soon. But she won't give up, in part because of her experience in the Tennessee legislature. She spent years trying to cut Title X money for Planned Parenthood in Tennessee and failed several times but eventually that bill succeeded.
Black believes the same thing can happen on the national level.
"These dollars need to go to women in need," she said. "Abortion is not health care."
Bob Smietana also writes for The Tennessean in Nashville.