Politifact Wrong When it Comes to Planned Parenthood, Abortion

Opinion   |   Americans United for Life   |   Apr 22, 2011   |   12:58PM   |   Washington, DC

Recently, PolitiFact has disputed the numbers that describe just how intertwined Planned Parenthood’s operations are with the practice of abortion.  But, PolitiFact has taken a stronger stance than Planned Parenthood is willing to about figures accounting for its pregnancy-related services.  Planned Parenthood Vice President for Communications Stuart Schear merely called it an “unverifiable statistic.”

One point of contention in the calculation of its treatment of pregnant women is “Planned Parenthood doesn’t keep track of [prenatal care] referrals.”

Up until twelve years ago, Planned Parenthood not only tracked prenatal care referrals, but it included the figure in its annual reports.

In 1994 Planned Parenthood referred out 108,466 prenatal clients.  Two years later, that number had dropped to 80,870.  In 1998, it dropped again to 67,052.  By its own reports, Planned Parenthood’s prenatal client referrals dropped by over 40,000 in a four-year span.  After that, Planned Parenthood stopped reporting its prenatal care referral numbers (though it continued to report referral numbers for other categories of care, such as vasectomies, sterilization, breast exams/breast care, and adoption referrals).

If it is true that Planned Parenthood clinics stopped tracking how many prenatal care referrals it makes (and did not just stop reporting the number) that begs the question, “why?”  Did Planned Parenthood adopt a policy to no longer track prenatal care referrals?

Importantly, another statistic Planned Parenthood no longer includes in its annual reports, but which PolitiFact overlooks is its abortion referrals.  Not every Planned Parenthood clinic performs abortions or later-term abortions, and in those instances they do refer for abortions — sometimes to providers that are not Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Between 1994 and 1998, Planned Parenthood’s abortion referrals also significantly dropped from 98,325 to 36,870.  But two things are important to note about these figures.

First, these numbers significantly “off-set” the numbers of prenatal care referrals reported by Planned Parenthood in those same years.

Second, the decrease in abortion referrals (unlike its prenatal care referral decrease) is, in part, explained because Planned Parenthood was expanding its abortion business and performing more abortions itself.  Thus, not only was abortion predominantly the pregnancy-related service of “choice” for Planned Parenthood patients, but the gap between abortions performed and referred for and prenatal clients and prenatal referrals also increased during this time frame.

For the last year that Planned Parenthood reported prenatal care and abortion referral numbers –1998 – abortion constituted 70 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy-related services and referrals (including prenatal care, abortion, and adoption).  That is a significant change from 1994 where abortion was only 64 percent of the total pregnancy-related services and referrals at Planned Parenthood.

And though Planned Parenthood’s abortion and prenatal care referral numbers since 1998 have not been released to the public, it is verifiable that the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood has nearly doubled – from 167,928 in 1998 to 332,278 in 2009. Whereas prenatal care clients dropped from 16,065 to 7,021 and adoption referrals dropped from 4,892 to 977 during the same time period.

Moreover, the increase in abortion at Planned Parenthood is not simply an increase in the number it performs.  Abortion services are provided to an increasing percentage of Planned Parenthood patients.  Planned Parenthood acknowledges that in 2009 12 percent of its patients received abortion services.  In 1998, including abortion referrals (for which there is no reported 2009 number), Planned Parenthood provided “abortion-related” services for 8.7 percent of its patients (and only 7.1 percent of its patients received abortion services at Planned Parenthood).  Thus, the 12 percent of patients receiving abortion services at Planned Parenthood in 2009 is significantly greater than the percentage of patients for which it performed and referred for abortion in 1998.

Planned Parenthood routinely hides behind vague and misleading statements.  What Planned Parenthood cannot deny — and is confirmed by its own reports — is that abortion in an increasing part of the organization.  Abortion means much more than 3 percent to Planned Parenthood and its bottom-line.  And abortion is, increasingly so, Planned Parenthood’s overwhelming response to its pregnant patients.