Planned Parenthood's number games

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has deservedly taken plenty of flack in the last two days for making up numbers on the Senate floor and then explaining that his comments “were not intended as a factual statement.”

But when liberals rebut Kyl's made-up numbers about what Planned Parenthood does, they point to the numbers planned Parenthood provides [pdf], which Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein posted in pie-chart format:

These numbers are incredibly misleading, and should not be taken as a factual statement.

First, let's use Planned Parenthood's own terms, and break out the services the provide for pregnant women:

In brief: If a pregnant woman walks into a Planned Parenthood, she almost always walks out no longer pregnant.

But the entire counting process here is based on arbitrary terms. Planned Parenthood, in making these stats that bloggers and politicians parrott, never really defines what a “service” is. Is a service a visit? Does it make sense to use “service” as a unit? Does a pregnancy test really deserve the same portion of Ezra Klein's pie chart as a vascectomy, an abortion, or a primary care client?

I've made a chart that uses the same methodology as Planned Parenthood. I counted up my “Activities” over the past week. Here they are:

See, only 2 percent of what I do is sleeping!

Obviously, if you count by other means, you get different piecharts. For instance, here's Media Matters, a liberal organization, saying:Planned Parenthood Receives 15% Of Its Annual Revenue From Abortion Services.”

But if look only at the income of their health centers, Planned Parenthood makes nearly 40 percent of its money by aborting, according to this analysis.

Using Media Matters' numbers, which uses far more concrete terms (revenue as opposed to “services”) Jon Kyl inflated the role of abortion at Planned Parenthood by a power of six, while Planned Parenthood understated it by a power of five. But I think Planned Parenthood and Ezra Klein intend their 3% number to be taken as a factual statement.


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