Debunking Planned Parenthood’s “3 Percent” Claim


A recent article in the University of South Florida’s The Oracle describes as “misguided” the scrutiny of Planned Parenthood that has followed the release of undercover videos by the Center for Medical  Progress. The article is highly critical of attempts to cease government funding to Planned Parenthood, citing the oft-bandied statistic that abortions account for only three percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides.

It should first be noted that the “three percent” mantra is a red herring. If, as abortion opponents claim, abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being, and intentionally killing innocent human beings is wrong, then the question of exactly how much of Planned Parenthood’s business abortion constitutes is moot. If abortion unjustifiably kills preborn children, then we should not tolerate Planned Parenthood performing even a single abortion. If, however, abortion does not unjustifiably kill preborn children, then Planned Parenthood should be proud to perform abortions and not attempt to downplay abortion as a very minor component of the health services they provide. According to their 2013-2014 Annual Report, Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions in 2013. That’s a very large number, regardless of what percentage of Planned Parenthood’s total services it represents.

Beyond this, though, the three percent statistic is misleading. Planned Parenthood arrives at this number by counting every service they provide to every client individually, and then adding all of these “services” together, regardless of the cost, difficulty, or time involved in providing the service. Every time Planned Parenthood gives out a pregnancy test or a contraceptive kit, they count it as a “service.” So if a Planned Parenthood facility gives out ninety pregnancy tests on one day and also performs ten abortions that day, by their figuring abortion would only have constituted ten percent of their services that day, irrespective of the vast resource, cost, and time differential between the pregnancy tests administered and the abortions performed. Or imagine that a woman goes into Planned Parenthood and receives a pregnancy test, an STI screening, contraceptives, and an abortion. By Planned Parenthood’s reasoning, she has received four services, only one of which was abortion. Thus, the abortion would only be counted as twenty-five percent of the services they provided to that client, even if it cost more and took longer than the other three services combined.

Examining Planned Parenthood’s method for calculating the “three percent” statistic, one might reasonably conclude that it is intentionally derived to obfuscate. As an article by Rich Lowry points out, Major League Baseball could similarly argue that since they sell twenty million hot dogs and only play 2,430 baseball games per year, baseball constitutes just .012 percent of their activities. We all know, however, that MLB is not primarily a hot dog vendor. Planned Parenthood performs upwards of 300,000 abortions per year in the United States. If these procedures are really such a tiny part of what they do, you’d think they’d be willing to give them up. But somehow, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.