Is Planned Parenthood REALLY All About Abortion?

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Planned Parenthood regularly claims that abortion is really just a small part of what they do. They are all about "comprehensive reproductive health care", not just abortion. In their 2015 Annual Report, they included a pie chart showing their various "services", with "abortion services" taking only 3% of the pie.

Is this true? Well, sort of, if you juggle the numbers. Just going by their own annual report:

They list the services they performed:

STI/STD Treatment & Testing 45%
Contraception 31%
Cancer Screening and Prevention 7%
Abortion Services 3%
Other Women's Health Services 13%
Other Services 1%

In the footnotes and following pages they explain that "other women's health services" and "other services" include health assessments, pregnancy tests, treatment for acne and the like, immunizations, referring clients to regular doctors and hospitals, and a few other things. (Lest you wonder, the "cancer screening" is mostly pap tests and breast exams.)

But here's how they define "service":

A service is a discrete clinical interaction, such as the administration of a physical exam or STI test or the provision of a birth control method. In 2014, Planned Parenthood health centers saw approximately two and a half million patients, collectively delivering nearly 10 million services during over four million clinical visits.

So get it? Each client gets an average of 4 "services". And things like a pre-abortion medical exam and a post-abortion follow-up are counted as "services" that are not abortion. So when they say that abortion is only 3% of their activity, they don't mean that only 3% of their clients get abortions. Say a girl comes to Planned Parenthood looking for an abortion. Presumably they will give her a pregnancy test before they schedule an abortion. That's service #1. Then they'll talk to her about what kind of abortion is most suitable for her situation. That's service #2. They give her a pre-procedure medical exam. That's service #3. Maybe then they perform the actual abortion. That's service 4. They'll tell her to come back for a follow-up visit so they can check for complications. That's number 5. Then they'll tell her to see her regular doctor. That's a referral, number 6. So they count an abortion as at least 6 "services", but only call one of them "abortion". If they test her for sexually transmitted diseases or give her a pack of birth control pills on the way out, those are more services. If they're trying to pad the numbers -- which they clearly are -- they could count all sort of other little things they do along the way as additional services.

Note that they count by number of services, not how much each one costs or how much time it takes to do it. A pack of birth control pills typically costs $10 to $20. A first trimester abortion typically costs $300 to $1500. So if on a certain day they give out one pack of birth control pills worth $20 and perform one abortion for $1500, is it fair to say that abortion was only half their business for that day? One pack of birth control pills and one abortion? If an auto dealership sold 100 new cars for $40,000 each and replaced 100 windshield wipers for $5 each, I don't think anyone would say that replacing windshield wipers was half their business.

Consider the auto dealership analogy further. Suppose an auto dealership told you that they are not really in the business of selling cars. Selling cars is only 3% of their business, they say. And then they show you a list of services they provided to customers: cars sold - 500; test drives given - 2000; credit checks run - 800; financing arranged - 300; brochures handed out - 10,000; etc. Would you agree that selling cars is, in fact, only a tiny part of what they do? Or would you say that all those things are related to selling cars, and they are just playing a silly game with the numbers?

But there's another funny thing about this discussion. Did my auto dealership analogy strike you as a little strange, because, why would an auto dealer try to deny that they are in the business of selling cars? That's what they do. You'd think that they'd be proud of what they do and boast about how well they do it. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the country. Why are they trying to downplay the number of abortions that they perform? Could it be that they know that performing abortions is something to be ashamed of?

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Posted Jan 18, 2017.

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