2, Blog Post

What is an “affiliate”?

Ok, the questions from members of Congress to Cecile Richards are driving me nuts. It’s not that I’m shocked — Shocked! — that they would sacrifice women’s health care to attack abortion providers. It’s that members of Congress can’t understand how a basic affiliate structure works.

I worked for a Planned Parenthood affiliate for six years before coming to NARAL. Here’s an explainer:

National Level

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is the main national organization. Cecile Richards is the CEO. PPFA is a 501c3 non-profit organization. They do not engage in any political activity. They coordinate health care and business standards for dozens of independent Planned Parenthood affiliates around the world. They do not actually employ anyone to give health care. Any doctor or nurse that works for PPFA does so as a administrator, not a physician.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) is the national political organization. They are a 501c4 non-profit, which means you don’t get a tax deduction for supporting them because money may go to political work. Cecile Richards is also the CEO of PPAF, and only participates in political work through this role. If you are looking for information on political candidates for Congress before you vote on Election Day, you’re looking to PPAF.

State Level (Example: Ohio)

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (PPAO) is a 501c4 non-profit that does political advocacy at the state and local level. If you are looking for information on political candidates for state government before you vote on Election Day, you’re looking to a state advocacy organization like PPAO.

Local Level (Example: Cincinnati)

Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, Inc. (PPSWO) is a 501c3 non-profit health care provider. This is the first point in this structure where you find actual doctors. Affiliates like PPSWO have their own CEO, their own board of directors, and their own IRS employer ID number. They’re completely separate from every other affiliate. They have their own policies for patient care, their own pricing structures, and their own staff.

You can’t ask Cecile Richards how every Planned Parenthood operates because they’re all different. An abortion in New York might cost more than one in South Dakota. Every state has different rules including different waiting periods, rules for prescription drugs, etc.

Independent Organizations

I’d be remiss to omit all of the other abortion providers that are not associated with Planned Parenthood. Ohio has nine abortion clinics, and only three are Planned Parenthood locations. They others are independently operated, just like a small doctor’s office.

What about a government shutdown?

One important thing to remember is that NONE of these organizations are government organizations. People often hear about tax dollars paying for health care, but that’s different than an organization being a part of the government. If the federal government shuts down, Planned Parenthood stays open. The funding that pays for care comes through a grant process, and these grants aren’t affected by shutdowns. Also, none of these funds pay for abortions.


Help build a pro-choice Ohio. Every day, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio fights to protect access to the full range of reproductive health care options—including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and safe & legal abortion care. We educate the public about the real threat to women’s healthcare posed by anti-choice legislation and policies. We mobilize pro-choice Ohioans to take political action to defend reproductive rights. And we are the voice for Ohio’s abortion clinics, helping them navigate the increasingly hostile climate created by extremist groups. But we need your help. As a member organization, we rely on your financial support to fund our important legislative, educational, and grassroots activities.

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