NRL News

7 Myths Planned Parenthood is Peddling to Fend Off Defunding: Part One

by | Apr 13, 2017

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research

Editor’s note. This is Part One of a three-part series in which Dr. O’Bannon discusses Myths #1 and #2. Part Two will run on Monday with the conclusion appearing next Tuesday.

With its work and reputation facing unwanted scrutiny and many in Congress and the administration talking about defunding the abortion giant, Planned Parenthood is fighting back. PPFA is calling in its political and media allies, trotting out high profile Hollywood celebrities, cranking up its expensive marketing machine to try to make the case that they’re the good guys, facing unfair and unwarranted assaults.

But truth is a stubborn thing.  You can say you’re not about abortion but when you performed well over 300,000 abortions each and every year, the numbers scream otherwise.

Despite impassioned pleadings that Planned Parenthood wants nothing more than to “set the record straight,” an examination of the seven myths PPFA peddles quickly tells us that at some serious factchecking and mythbusting is in order.

MYTH #1: Abortion represents only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s business.

It’s a statistic so often repeated and so often challenged that even some of Planned Parenthood’s erstwhile defenders are beginning to question it (e.g., Washington Post, 8/12/15).  Anytime people start talking about  PPFA as the largest abortion provider in the world, some Planned Parenthood spokesperson or political or media defender tries to minimize its significance, saying it represents only “3% of its services.”

Planned Parenthood is only able to generate this counterfactual statistic by some rather bizarre accounting acrobatics, e.g., counting every packet of birth control pills given out, every STD test, every pregnancy test as a separate “service.”  A woman coming in for an abortion is likely to get all those things.

If all services are counted separately and equally, regardless of price or medical value or necessity, abortion looks like one service among many – 323,999 against a backdrop of 9,455,582 “services.” This is about 3.4%.

But change that denominator to “patients” (individual women or men) instead of “services,” that 3.4% figure jumps to nearly 13% — more than one in every eight. Planned Parenthood says that is sees “approximately two and a half million patients.”

Even that misrepresents abortion’s importance to Planned Parenthood.  At going rates for the most basic surgical abortion, Planned Parenthood’s revenues from 323,999 abortions would run at least $150 million.  Because they also advertise and perform chemical abortions and later surgical abortions, which cost considerably more, that figure is probably a significant underestimate.

Even so, at $150 million, that would represent more revenue in 2014 than all that Planned Parenthood brought in (if  current market rates prevail there) from reversible contraceptives , breast exams, and cervical “cancer screenings” or pap tests, and pregnancy tests combined.

Try to be kind and call it misleading, call it deceptive, but the “3% figure” in no way reflects the actual figure, let alone the importance of abortion to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

And should’t someone point out, that whether it’s 48%, 13%, or 3%, taxpayer dollars shouldn’t go to anyone who makes killing innocent babies any part of their business?

MYTH #2: Planned Parenthood is all about women getting mammograms and “cancer screenings.

Over and over, when faced with the prospect that their extensive abortion performance may threaten their government funding, Planned Parenthood and its defenders start talking about all the mammograms and “cancer screenings” they perform that they say would never be performed if they disappeared.  Often a woman will be brought out to claim that a cancer screening at Planned Parenthood saved her life.

There are serious problems with this defense, however.

First, as we, along with many of nation’s best fact-checkers have pointed out, Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms (e.g., Washington Post, 3/9/17).  Never has, has not announced any plans to add them anywhere.  If a woman’s life was saved by a mammogram detecting early signs of cancer, it didn’t happen at a Planned Parenthood.

Second, for someone so concerned about women’s cancer screenings, there’s a lot of explaining Planned Parenthood needs to do about its own recent service patterns.

In its most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood reported performing 682,208 “cancer screenings” for 2014. For 2009, they reported nearly three times that many. The number of cancer screenings, breast exams, pap tests, colonoscopies has also fallen every year in between.

Why, if those are so critical? Has demand just dropped? Thankfully, new cervical cancer cases are down in the U.S. in recent years, and breast cancer rates are slightly down from what they were in the 1990s (see data from the National Cancer Institute). But they have not fallen at anywhere near the rate that cervical and breast cancer patients have at Planned Parenthood, not by two-thirds!

It doesn’t seem like it could be that money is tight at Planned Parenthood.  Revenues went up during that time from just over $1 billion dollars a year to right at $1.3 billion.  Other services like contraception and prenatal care saw some decline, but one offering stayed fairly steady  – abortion.

Note: even while Planned Parenthood clinics were closing and abortions were dropping everywhere else across the U.S., the number of abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics held fairly steady, generally between 320,000 and 330,000 a year,

If cancer screenings fell because of the 179 clinics Planned Parenthood closed between 2010 and 2015, then why didn’t the number of abortions?  The obvious answer would be that Planned Parenthood kept the clinics performing abortions open, but not those performing just the cancer screenings and other less profitable services.

Planned Parenthood maintained the abortion services, improved its revenues, but lost about 2/3 of its vaunted “cancer screenings.”

So what exactly are “non-profit” Planned Parenthood’s priorities?  How dedicated are they to “cancer screenings” if they chose not to maintain the levels of five years ago, even with increased government funding? (FY 2010 $487.4  million vs. FY 2015 $553.7 million)

You’d think they’d at least be able to buy a few mammogram machines with all that extra money.

Categories: Abortion Funding