Washington Post: 3 Pinocchios for Planned Parenthood’s “3 percent” figure

The Washington Post has made no secret of their support for abortion and Planned Parenthood before, including recently. However, in a shocking change, the Post has given a “three Pinocchios” rating to one of Planned Parenthood’s most popular claims.

Many – including Planned Parenthood – have claimed that the organization’s abortion services only amount to 3 percent of their total services. (This includes the above-mentioned piece from The Washington Post.) But as the Washington Post Fact Checker acknowledges, there are different ways of looking at this issue.

Another way to calculate is by the number of total patients. Recall Planned Parenthood health centers saw 2.7 million patients (men and women) in 2013. If the 327,653 abortion procedures were given to individual patients, patients who received abortions would account for 12 percent of total patients….

The 3 percent figure that Planned Parenthood uses is misleading, comparing abortion services to every other service that it provides. The organization treats each service — pregnancy test, STD test, abortion, birth control — equally. Yet there are obvious difference between a surgical (or even medical) abortion, and offering a urine (or even blood) pregnancy test. These services are not all comparable in how much they cost or how extensive the service or procedure is.

The Washington Post also quotes an op-ed piece in The New York Post, from National Review editor Rich Lowry, who writes:

The 3 percent figure is an artifice and a dodge, but even taking it on its own terms, it’s not much of a defense. Only Planned Parenthood would think saying that they only kill babies 3 percent of the time is something to brag about.

How much credit would we give someone for saying he only drives drunk 3 percent of the time, or only cheats on business trips 3 percent of the time, or only hits his wife during 3 percent of domestic disputes?

The 3 percent factoid is crafted to obscure the reality of Planned Parenthood’s business….

The 3 percent figure is derived by counting abortion as just another service like much less consequential services.

Another worthwhile point to make is that Planned Parenthood’s abortion “services” figures are clearly misleading, because abortion makes up a sizable portion of their income:

Some, including SBA List, have attempted to quantify how much of Planned Parenthood’s clinic revenues comprise revenues from abortions. Typically, this calculation is made by taking the number of abortions, multiplying them by the average cost of abortions advertised by Planned Parenthood clinics, and dividing the figure by the organization’s total non-government health services revenue.

The main Planned Parenthood Web site says first-trimester abortions can cost up to $1,500. Some affiliate clinic Web sites provide a range of costs: a Western Pennsylvania clinic lists $390 to $1,090 for abortions, and first trimester abortion is priced at $515 in Arizona….

Using this calculation, advocates and opponents of abortion rights have calculated somewhere between 15 percent and 37 percent of the organization’s annual non-government health services revenue comes from abortion services. Depending on which price you use, you can even get up to 55 percent. But this type of math is speculative and has limitations. For one, it does not take into account sliding payment scales for patients or reflect costs absorbed by insurance.

Matthew Clark for comments on the Fact-Checking and the 55 percent:

That’s 55% of Planned Parenthood’s clinic income coming from abortion.  I’ve previously calculated this at 51% of its clinic income.  It’s clearly grown in recent years.

In the end, the Washington Post gives Planned Parenthood’s longstanding 3% claim three Pinocchios (out of four), which according to its rating standard means that the claim is a “Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

It is noteworthy and also encouraging that such a major media outlet, especially one not often friendly to the pro-life argument, would denounce Planned Parenthood for their misleading figures and lies.

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