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Why Protest Planned Parenthood?

I have been asked how a pro-life person could protest Planned Parenthood. It’s a fair question. After all, Planned Parenthood provides a lot of services. Many of these services reduce unwanted pregnancies and presumably abortions. Check out their graphic from their 2014 annual report. According to the graphic, only 3 percent of the services they provide are abortion:

planned-parenthood-3-percent-abortion-2013 (1)

First off, even if I accepted this accounting (and I don’t, as you’ll see), I don’t believe it justifies the carrying out of 327,653 abortions,more than any other provider in the nation.[1] There is no amount of good an organization can do to justify its existence while committing 327,653 abortions per year.

Second, this graphic is grossly misleading, giving a false impression that abortion is a small portion of what Planned Parenthood (PP) does. The information is misleading because it separates every ‘service’ provided even though the services provided are not equal. A woman getting an abortion may use several ‘services’ even as a part of the abortion procedure.[2] I will illustrate PP’s deception by analogy and then offer three ways of reporting the data that provide a more accurate assessment.

Although my thinking isn’t unique and others have seen the same thing, because of how often statistics are misused and how little trust people have in stats, I am purposely trying to make these points using PP’s self-reported data so that what I’m offering is a bare analysis of PP’s practice. I will attempt to cite other sources that make the same points as I go along.

An Analogy

Let’s say I had cheated on my wife with three separate women, one time each, in 2014. This is the picture my wife Ileana would have of my behavior. It would display what a pig I was for doing that:


Now, if I had an interest in looking like I was pretty faithful, I could separate that very same data into ‘sexual episodes’ or, perhaps, days. This would leave me with charts like these:

Sexual ActsDays in 2014

Again, if I had an interest in promoting my faithfulness, I could tell the story by saying, “97 percent of sexual activity in my marriage was faithful.” Telling the story that way wouldn’t make me less of a pig, and I can promise you that Ileana would think the first chart tells the story a lot better than the second two. These are different ways of presenting the same data.

It is my contention that PP’s argument that, “Abortion makes up 3 percent of our services” is exactly like this. It presents the data with a particular interest in minimizing abortion. I believe there are three ways the data of abortion and PP should be presented that paint a clearer picture.

Sheer Volume

Three percent sounds small. When I put it on a pie chart it looks really small. But, reporting the actual number of abortions (327,653) gives a much different picture.  PP performed 327,653[3] abortions in 2013. Let that number sink in. To put that in perspective, that’s 897 every day, or one every 96 seconds.

PP performed one abortion for every 96 seconds in 2013.  They can argue they are about other things more than abortion, but that is a mind boggling statistic. You simply can’t argue that abortions are peripheral to what you’re doing when you are doing one every minute and a half (and more than one per minute during business hours).


Another more honest statistic would be abortions-per-patient. If a patient goes to PP and gets an abortion, it doesn’t matter to a pro-life person that she got an STD test too. I want to know how likely a person going into PP is to get an abortion. That is the way to know how central abortion is to PP operations. To get that statistic, you have to dig into PP’s footnotes. Remember, they have an interest in making abortion look peripheral to what they do. According to the footnotes of that pie chart, PP had 2.7 million patients in 2013.[4] As noted earlier, PP performed 327,653 abortions. If we put those numbers on a pie chart, it looks more like this:

Abortions per patient

Twelve percent of PP patients receive abortions.[5]  One out of every eight people that go into PP receives an abortion. A company that has twelve percent of its clients performing an activity has no right to label the activity peripheral. It is central.

Services Provided to Women with Unwanted Pregnancy

This statistic is extremely important and it is haunting. Unwanted pregnancies happen all the time in America. According to the Guttmacher Institute, over half of the pregnancies occurring in the United States are ‘unintended’ (either ‘mistimed’ or ‘unwanted’).[6]

Those numbers are tragic. I can’t imagine the turmoil a young woman is going through when faced with an unintended pregnancy. Some of these women feel ashamed. Many of them feel afraid. Some of them are strong-armed into abortion by bad husbands or boyfriends who don’t want to care for their babies. Many of these women are faced with the possibility of economic ruin.

How does PP deal with a woman after she is pregnant? The reason this statistic is important if we’re looking at how central abortion is to the organization is because abortions are not possible on people who aren’t pregnant. There are three, reported ‘services’ that PP provides to pregnant women: Adoption referrals, pre-natal services, and abortions. According to their accounting, PP performed 1,800 adoption referrals and 18,684 pre-natal services in 2013. Remember, PP performed 327,653 abortions.

This means, out of 348,217 services that PP provided to pregnant women, 327,653 were abortions.

This pie chart would look like this:

Services Related to Pregnancy

Ninety-five percent of services related to pregnancy provided by PP were abortions.[7] 348,217 women received pregnancy related services at PP in 2013. 327,653 of those services were abortions. Regardless of what their literature says about three percent, PP has a very clear way they deal with unwanted pregnancy: Abortion.


Even though PP literature likes to say that abortion is peripheral to its mission, abortion is central. A more true rendering of their data gives a clearer picture. PP performs an abortion every 97 seconds. One out of every eight women receiving services at PP receive abortions. Ninety-five percent of services related to pregnancy were abortion services. Abortion is not a peripheral part of an otherwise noble organization. It is a central aspect of PP activities.

When it comes to pregnancy, PP is about only two things: Preventing and terminating unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life people do not have an ally in Planned Parenthood.

[1] According to the PP 2014 annual report, PP carried out 327,653 abortions in 2013 (see page 18 of their annual report: http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/annual_report_final_proof_12.16.14_/0)

[2] PP’s description of the abortion procedure says that it requires ‘lab tests.’ (see http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures especially the question, “What happens during an in clinic abortion?”

Each lab test would count as a service. If a woman receives two lab tests (the bare minimum for the literature to use the plural) then, if every person walking in the building got an abortion, 33 percent of ‘services’ provided would be labeled abortion services.

[3] This accounts for an incredible 25 percent of total abortions in the United States.

[4] See footnote six on page 17 of their 2014 annual report: “In 2013, Planned Parenthood health centers saw 2.7 million patients, who collectively received 10.6 million services during 4.6 million clinical visits.”

[5] Assumes one abortion per patient receiving abortion. There would be a slightly different result if we adjusted for the number of patients receiving multiple abortions, but those numbers aren’t reported by PP. Having those numbers wouldn’t change the analysis in any substantial way. The fact remains that an abortion takes place for every eight, unique visitors to PP.

[6] See http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html

[7] For a great video that makes this point, and also lays out the deceptive, 3 percent figure, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKIOBOFaVYs&feature=youtu.be


3 Responses

  1. When I was 19 , I was a pregnant unmarried woman. I went to planned parenthood to receive their free “pregnancy counciling”. This is it: “You’re pregnant and have no financial support. It costs over $100,000 to raise a child to the age of 18.. You have a decision to make”. Without any description of what happens to the fetus (it was referred to as “tissue”) I scheduled and had an abortion. Now as a grandmother I am horrified at the thought of this. It’s killing an unborn baby America, wake up! Everyone needs to know this!

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