They say the key to successful investing is diversification. But Berkshire Hathaway Chairman & CEO Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is a one-issue man -- and that issue is abortion.
Through the foundation he financed with more than $3 billion of his own money, Buffett donated $1,230,585,161 to abortion groups worldwide from 2001 to 2012. These groups, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Population Council, either campaign for pro-abortion legislation, perform abortions themselves, or helped develop the controversial abortion drug RU-486. Buffett gave an additional $21 million to these groups between 1989 and 1996. (Tax forms between 1997 and 2000 are not available.)
So the $1.2 billion that Buffett gave to these organizations is enough to pay for the abortions of more than 2.7 million babies in the womb. Those figures come from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, which says the average amount paid for a surgical abortion in the United States is $451 for the first trimester. That accounts for the majority of abortions.
To put that in perspective, Warren Buffett donated enough money to abortion groups to perform as many abortions as there are people in the entire city of Chicago.
Moreover, in giving to Planned Parenthood, Buffett is aiding an organization whose employees have been caught winking at confessions of prostitution and sex trafficking, whose management has a history of bullying and holding positions so extreme that one of its lobbyists suggested babies born alive after “botched” abortions should have no legal protections.
Those positions are hardly mainstream as abortion has become increasingly controversial, and Buffett's views are not those of the majority of Americans. According to the Gallup polling company, 48 percent of Americans considered themselves pro-life in 2013, while only 45 percent viewed themselves as “pro-choice.”
One year ago, on May 13, 2013, the infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in a case the major media tried their best to ignore. Another of the groups Buffett funded inspected Gosnell’s clinic -- subsequently described in court documents as a “house of horror” -- and didn’t report conditions at the “worst abortion clinic” the inspector had ever seen to Pennsylvania authorities.
But while Buffett has poured more than a billion dollars into the abortion industry, the media have turned a blind eye. Despite 545 stories on and interviews with Buffett on ABC, CBS and NBC since 2001 when our tax return data began, the networks only mentioned Buffett’s abortion funding once. This was in reference to his wife and her support of Planned Parenthood. Nowhere did any of the network morning or evening news shows mention the extent of his donations to fund the abortion industry.
Buffett’s actions sparked fury in the pro-life community. Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins deemed Buffett the “sugar daddy of the entire pro-abortion movement.” Lila Rose, the president of Live Action, called Buffett a “genocide maker” and likened his funding of abortion to “money invested for genocide by warlords."
That runs contrary to the media's incessantly positive portrayal of Buffett. But, as Rose noted, “There’s a gross lack of reporting around the abortion issue” and Buffett’s giving “needs to be publicized.”
Contributions Linked to Late Wife’s Support of Abortion
After the 2004 death of Warren Buffett’s wife, Susan Thompson Buffett, the Buffett Foundation became the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. This foundation, located in Omaha, NE, manages Buffett’s “charitable” giving. In 2006, he expanded the foundation's giving potential with $3 billion of his own money.
Mrs. Buffett had been president of the foundation and was concerned about overpopulation. She supported “family planning,” including abortion, to curb the global human population. A decade after her death, the foundation continues that work.
Pro-abortion activist Tracy Weitz heads the foundation’s domestic operation. Weitz worked at Planned Parenthood as well as The Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health with a focus on “a national strategic plan to secure access to later abortion care.” An outspoken abortion blogger at publications including RH Reality Check and The Huffington Post, she once defined abortion as “a moral action undertaken by moral agents.”
While Buffett himself rarely mentions abortion in public, his late wife Susan stressed his support during an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show,” which aired shortly after her death. She said that “Warren feels that women all over the world get shortchanged. That’s why he’s so pro-choice.” His daughter Susie also referenced her father’s stance on issues like population control: “That’s what my father has always believed was the biggest and most important issue, so that will be the focus,” for the foundation.
And Warren Buffett’s biographer, Roger Lowenstein, characterized him as holding “a Malthusian dread that overpopulation would aggravate problems in all other areas -- such as food, housing, even human survival.”
Buffett’s Massive Support for Planned Parenthood
Buffett’s donations went to dozens of pro-abortion groups, but none more than abortion giant Planned Parenthood. It received $289,811,421 -- nearly one-fourth of his total abortion contributions. But Planned Parenthood’s actions -- from supporting sex-selective abortions to targeting minorities with abortion funds -- increasingly attract anger from conservatives.
In Florida last year, a lobbyist for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates told the state legislature that the fate of an infant born alive in a “botched abortion” “should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.” In other words, the baby, a living, breathing, child, should have no legal protection from infanticide -- even after leaving the womb.
In 2012, the pro-life group Live Action released videos of Planned Parenthood staffers assisting a Live Action actor with setting up a sex-selective abortions. In 2011, Planned Parenthood was the target of another undercover video. Live Action’s Lila Rose trained investigators to pose as a pimp and prostitute managing a sex ring of 14- and 15-year-olds. In the video, Planned Parenthood workers assured the "pimp" that procuring these abortions would not be a problem.
Planned Parenthood paid out $2 million earlier this year after 24-year-old Tonya Reaves' death from uncontrollable bleeding after an abortion. Reaves had a 1-year-old son at the time of her death.
But the organization still claims to be all about “health.” Planned Parenthood tirelessly promoted Obamacare this year, and stands to gain from it, since the Affordable Care Act includes coverage of abortions.
Abortion is only part of the organization’s controversial activity. Planned Parenthood has no problem encouraging teenagers to be sexually active, instructing that there’s “nothing bad or unhealthy” about multiple sex partners, as well as promoting bondage and sadomasochism. There’s also the time when President Cecile Richards warned that, if Planned Parenthood lost funding, the organization could no longer provide mammograms -- mammograms which it never offered in the first place.
Other criticisms of Planned Parenthood include:
- A former Planned Parenthood abortionist sexually molested patients;
- Four separate Planned Parenthood clinics agreed to earmark money to fund abortions for minorities during another Live Action sting;
- Police in Pinal County, AZ, are investigating a local Planned Parenthood for listing the rape of a 15-year-old girl as a “consensual encounter,” so as not to deal with the “hassle of having to report the assault to law enforcement”;
- Planned Parenthood performed one adoption referral per 149 abortions;
- Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards declared that when life begins isn’t “really relevant” to abortion;
- Richards tweeted that #WhatWomenNeed for Valentine’s day is “Safe + Legal Abortion” in February.
Investing Beyond Planned Parenthood
Buffett didn’t stop there.
Planned Parenthood’s ally, NARAL Pro-Choice America, received $4,696,883 from Buffett. NARAL is dedicated to unrestricted abortion and repeatedly bashes those who differ, claiming that “anti-abortion” is “anti-American” and accusing pro-lifers and tea partiers of “lying and cheating.” The organization recently made headlines after allegedly persuading Google to delete crisis pregnancy center ads. Afterward it surfaced that NARAL made up the story, according pro-life blogger Jill Stanek.
NARAL even dedicated its annual report to late-term abortionist George Tiller who “compassionately and heroically served women.”
Buffett also donated to Advocates for Youth, which hosted an event to fight the “stigma” and “shame” of abortion while debuting its new book “1 in 3: These Are Our Stories.” Anyone could come to this event -- except for the media.
Buffett donated over $24 million to the National Abortion Federation (NAF). The Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell case bashed NAF, “an association of abortion providers that upholds the strictest health and legal standards for its members.” The report explained how, when Gosnell applied for admission, a NAF evaluator “readily noted that records were not properly kept, that risks were not explained, that patients were not monitored, that equipment was not available, that anesthesia was misused.” While “[i]t was the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected,” and she refused Gosnell’s application, she ”never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen.”
National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta later criticized Gosnell -- for not “ensuring fetal demise.”
Not only did Buffett give to groups that provide abortions and campaign for more abortion access, but also he gives to groups accused of performing forced abortions and sterilizations in third world countries. EngenderHealth, for example, which provides sterilization in Vietnam, has received at least $32,452,618 from Buffett. A New York Times article from July 14, 2010, discussed a possible connection between Buffett and the Ryan program, which trained OB/GYNs to perform abortions. According to the Times, “[t]here is no line item for the Ryan program or the Family Planning Fellowship. But the foundation paid out around $50 million to universities with one or both of the programs.” The article also quoted doctors at these universities who claimed that Buffett had funded the program.
Buffett gave $23,864,162 to the Population Council, the group responsible for beginning clinical trials needed to get the abortion drug RU-486 approved by the FDA. RU-486 is used to terminate pregnancies as late as 9 weeks, and has led to the deaths of at least 14 women, according to an FDA report. Buffett gave to the Population Council during the early 1990s when it was testing RU-486. The money was specifically earmarked for “clinical trials.”
Buffett’s Personal Agenda
Buffett’s support for abortion goes back decades.
Abortion is such an important issue to Buffett that he vowed to pull all donations rather than stop funding pro-abortion groups. In 2003, a 34-year-old homeschool mom’s protest made headlines when she revealed that Buffett was funding abortion causes. This caused a discussion by the Berkshire Hathaway leadership about whether or not the company should continue to fund abortion groups. So Buffett allegedly put a stop to all Berkshire Hathaway charitable donations across the board.
Despite Buffett deciding that his multinational conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway was done giving money to any charity, the Berkshire Foundation, headed by Buffett’s sister, Roberta Buffett Bialek, and funded by Berkshire Hathaway, gave $50,000 in 2011 alone to the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights. The Berkshire Foundation only gives away roughly $400,000 a year.
Buffett’s friend and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Munger, himself worth $1.2 billion, helped push Buffett to become pro-choice. According to Munger, “It was emotionally hard for me to become pro-choice because I do have reverence for human life,” but “when I thought through the consequences, I found it necessary to overrule that part of my nature.”
When abortions were legal in California, but still illegal elsewhere in the country, Buffett and Munger sponsored a “church” dubbed the Ecumenical Fellowship that helped women find places to get abortions. Munger once raised his glass at a party for Los Angeles obstetrician Keith Russell, declaring that “I want to toast Dr. Russell for the thousands of babies he didn’t deliver,” according to “Damn Right: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger” by Janet Lowe. Buffett himself wrote the foreword to this book, with nothing but praise for Munger, whom he has known since 1959.
Munger was proud of the role he and Buffett had played. “We were way ahead of the national office of Planned Parenthood in arranging abortions,” said Munger. “The Planned Parenthood chapter in Los Angeles wanted to get into that business, but didn’t know how. We merged our church, the Ecumenical Fellowship, headed by the same guy who headed the Clergy Counseling Service, into the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood.” Munger was a trustee and chief financial officer for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles for “many years.”
According to “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder, the Ecumenical Fellowship was “part of the country’s abortion underground railroad.” This "underground railroad" helped women find places to get abortions in states where it was already legal before Roe v. Wade.
Buffett and Munger were also involved in People v. Belous, an early abortion case, which was cited during Roe v. Wade. The case declared laws against abortion in California to be unconstitutional. “Munger helped write the opinion. Buffett said he had never seen Munger ‘so fired up,'” Schroeder explained in “The Snowball.”
“It’s very hard to argue that the earth would be better off in terms of average happiness or livelihood with twelve billion people instead of six,” Buffett argued in “The Snowball. “There is a limit, and if you don’t know what that limit is, you’re better off erring on the safe side. It’s a margin of safety approach for the survival of earth."
In 1994 Warren Buffett said that the world would have far fewer problems “if you could make every child born in this country and this world a wanted child … the closest thing we have to that is Planned Parenthood. Until women have the right to determine their reproductive destiny, we’re in an unequal society.”
Following in their father’s footsteps, the charities of Buffett’s three children, Susan, Howard and Peter, also support Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups. These include the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the NoVo Foundation and the Sherwood Foundation.
The Culture and Media Institute reached out to both The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and Berkshire Hathaway. The phone number for the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation appeared to be disconnected, but the website states that “The Buffett Foundation responds to questions about College Scholarships and the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award only. We will not respond to any other inquiries.” CMI is currently waiting for a response from Berkshire Hathaway.
The Media Turn a Blind Eye to Buffett's Abortion Funding
The grandfatherly “Oracle of Omaha” is a media favorite. Journalists seek his opinion on taxes and the economy, relish his close ties to President Obama, and always want to hear his business prognostications. So it’s odd that, although ABC, CBS and NBC have mentioned Buffett in 545 broadcasts since January 2001, the three broadcast networks only once alluded to Warren Buffett’s connection with abortion during their morning and evening news shows.
And that story wasn’t even explicitly about Warren. When Buffett’s first wife passed away in July 2004, NBC’s Tom Brokaw mentioned her “major” support for Planned Parenthood in a “Nightly News” obituary.
And it isn’t as though they haven’t talked about his other charitable activity. The broadcast networks also consistently gushed over Buffett’s philanthropy and “incredibly generous” character. For example, on July 30, 2013, the entire “Good Morning America” team fawned over Buffett’s decision to auction off a tour of a chocolate factory for charity. ABC co-anchor Lara Spencer called him “incredibly generous” and praised “his pure imagination,” comparing him to the character Willy Wonka.
The Pro-life Response
But while the media practiced bias, pro-life organizations expressed outrage at the amount of Buffett’s support dedicated to the demise of babies in the womb.
To the Culture and Media Institute, Lila Rose, president of Live Action, described Buffett’s “money to fund abortions for minority women” as something that “rivals the money invested for genocide by warlords.” “By investing this money,” she stressed, “Buffett put himself up there with other genocide makers of the past.”
This “huge scandal,” she noted, “needs to be publicized and could negatively hurt Buffett’s business if people found out that his money was going to fund abortions.”
But “finding out” will prove a challenge as Rose pointed out the “gross lack of reporting around the abortion issue,” both nationally and internationally.
Like Rose, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins recognized that “there is a media bias that we're competing with” on Buffett, the “sugar daddy of the entire pro-abortion movement.”
“An activist with his money,” Buffett, “has made really his life’s passion destroying human life” and “single-handedly is ensuring the destruction of millions of children worldwide,” Hawkins said.
By exposing Buffett’s actions, Hawkins hoped, “we might be able to reduce the amount of money he’s giving” as well as “inspire other philanthropists to consider countering what Buffett's doing.”
Director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, Arina Grossu, voiced similar concerns. “What kind of ‘philanthropy’ is this? Injury and destruction of human life is no philanthropy at all,” she challenged. Noting that abortions impact poor, minority communities the most, Grossu lamented, “He could be doing so much good with his money and instead, he is choosing to destroy the lives of countless mothers, fathers and children around the world.”
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, told CMI that Buffett’s “charitable” donations were far from charitable. Instead, they “sadly undermine and exploit the inherent dignity of the human person – in both moms and developing babies,” Monahan said.
She called Buffett’s giving and research on drugs such as RU-486 “alarming.” When in times of distress women need real health care, love and support, not abortion,” she urged.
“The destruction of human life is not a solution for combating poverty or disease or aiding certain parts of the world lacking basic resources,” she continued. “Abortion is never a solution; it creates more problems. Real solutions help those in need, they do not end human life or exploit the dignity of the human person.”
All information on the Warren Buffett’s charitable donations were gathered through the 990 tax returns for the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which he heads. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation went by the name The Buffett Foundation until 2004. The name change occurred after the death of Warren Buffett’s wife, Susan Thompson Buffett. These tax forms are available to the public, no special permission was required to view them.
According to these tax returns, Buffett gave $1,230,585,161 between 2001 and 2012. He gave an additional $21,042,004 to these groups between 1989 and 1996, adding up to a grand total of $1,251,627,165. The Culture and Media Institute could not get copies of the tax returns 1997 and 2000 for Buffett’s foundation.
The network tally was determined by searching for “Buffett” in transcripts from ABC, CBS and NBC on Nexis and analyzing the result.
The following is a list of pro-abortion groups that have received funding from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. This list does not include any groups that only provide contraceptives, or groups that encourage natural family planning methods. The only groups included on this list, and in the final tally, were groups which either provided abortions themselves or advocated for abortion or access to abortion.
- Abortion Access Project
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Central Iowa Family Planning
- Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights
- National Abortion Federation
- National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
- Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
- Planned Parenthood
- Religious Coalition for Reproductive Health
- Society of Family Planning
- Catholics for a Free Choice
- Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida
- Ibis Reproductive Health
- Medical Students for Choice
- Ms. Foundation for Women
- National Institute for Reproductive Health
- Abortion Access Project
- Gynuity Health Projects
- Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights
- Family Health International
- National Partnership for Women and Families
- Feminist Majority Foundation
- Guttmacher Institute
- Advocates for Youth
- DKT International
- Irish Family Planning Association
- Marie Stopes International
- National Women’s Law Center
- Pathfinder International
- Population Council
- Population Services International
- Engender Health
- Venture Strategies for Health and Development
- Willow Foundation
— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.
Business and Media Institute’s Sean Long contributed to this report.