Planned Parenthood’s most misleading statistic

January 25, 2017

“If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it,” said Charles Haddon Spurgeon in an 1855 sermon, “but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’”

Almost a decade ago, Planned Parenthood began telling a monstrous lie, one so light and airy that it continues to fly around the globe: that abortions represent only three percent of the services they provide. Although the claim has been repeatedly debunked—even by some abortion supporters—the truth is still trying to catch up with.

Since Planned Parenthood continues even today to spread this misleading statistic, it’s worth taking the time to explain yet again why it’s a blatant attempt to dupe the American people.

When All ‘Services’ Are Equal

An effective way to make a misleading claim appear more plausible is to hide it within a truthful package. Planned Parenthood does this by defining the term “service” to mean a “discrete clinical interaction.” A “service” in one of their clinics can therefore include anything from giving out a pamphlet on gonorrhea to performing a surgical abortion. To Planned Parenthood, whether an action cost pennies or hundreds of dollars, takes minutes or hours, they are all equal—at least for the purpose of obfuscation—when lumped under the rubric of a “service.”

This allows them to take extraordinary liberties in comparing the services they provide. For instance, in 2012 Planned Parenthood health centers saw approximately three million patients, who collectively received nearly 11 million services.”

In that year, Planned Parenthood claims to have performed 3,278,111 tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), gave out 2,129,855 forms of contraceptives to women, and performed 327,166 abortions. (Based on this type of counting, Planned Parenthood could plausibly claim they are in the STD business since that category accounts for almost half (40.8 percent) of their services.)

So why is this classification of “services” so misleading? To show how they are concealing their lie, let’s look at an alternate example using the same method of counting and comparison.

Counting Steaks and Services

Imagine tonight is your birthday dinner, and you splurge on your diet at PP’s Steakhouse. You order a 32-ounce porterhouse steak, a house salad, a loaded baked potato, mixed vegetables, and a hot fudge sundae. During the meal you consumed thousands of calories. But how many actual food items did you eat?

Most people would say four. But PP’s Steakhouse disagrees; they say you’ve eaten 33 food items.

Because they’ve received years of criticism from local vegetarians about how the numbers of steaks they sell, PP’s Steakhouse has implemented a peculiar marketing. To make it appear as if selling steaks is a small part of their business they’ve decided to count “food items” as any “discrete eating interactions.”

For instance, here is how PP’s Steakhouse counted the individual “food items” for your meal: Your steak included a porterhouse, steak sauce, salt, and pepper (four items); your salad included lettuce, croutons, red pepper, tomato, bacon bits, blue cheese, vinegar, and oil (eight items); your baked potato included potato, broccoli, cheddar cheese, turkey bacon, sour cream, butter, kosher salt, garlic powder, and chives (nine items); your mixed vegetables included carrots, green beans, peas, corn, lima beans, and sea salt (six items); and your hot fudge sundae included ice cream, hot fudge, marshmallows, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a maraschino cherry (six items).

Based on their unique counting system, PP’s Steakhouse can credibly claim your 32-ounce porterhouse steak accounted for only three percent of the “food items” you consumed during your meal. Even though the massive steak was the very reason you chose PP’s Steakhouse rather than to Bob’s Fish Barn, the restaurant contends that the steak was only a small percentage of the items you were served.

This is exactly how Planned Parenthood counts their services. If a woman comes to their clinic for an abortion, she may be given an STI test and an HIV test, be treated for HPV and given a breast exam, be handed a pamphlet on family planning and provided with some oral contraceptives—all before getting the “service” for which she came: an abortion. Yet because of their counting system Planned Parenthood claims the abortion was only one of seven “services” provided to the woman. Even though the reason the woman came to the abortion clinic, rather than a family doctor, was to obtain an abortion, Planned Parenthood considers the “abortion services” to be merely incidental, accounting for only 14 percent of the total services provided to the woman.  

No vegan would buy the nonsensical claim that a 32-ounce steak was only “three percent” of a steak dinner. So why do so many people fall for the same fuzzy math when applied to Planned Parenthood’s claims about their “services”?

Only Three Percent Evil?

While debunking their misleading statistic is necessary, we should not lose sight of the inexcusable evil committed by Planned Parenthood: they are providing as one of their advertised “services” to kill a human child. As Rich Lowry says,

The 3 percent figure is an artifice and a dodge, but even taking it on its own terms, it’s not much of a defense. Only Planned Parenthood would think saying that they only kill babies 3 percent of the time is something to brag about. How much credit would we give someone for saying he only drives drunk 3 percent of the time, or only cheats on business trips 3 percent of the time, or only hits his wife during 3 percent of domestic disputes?

Even if their claim was true and destroying human life in the womb only accounted for three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities, it would still make them one of the greatest purveyors of injustice and evil in America. We shouldn’t quietly tolerate the abortion giant duping the public by using misleading statistics. But even more importantly, we must never remain silent about the moral horror Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics commit by killing our nation’s children.

If you are not ok with your tax dollars funding abortions, help us defund Planned Parenthood by signing a petition for Congress. Sign your name here

Note: This article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition and is used with permission.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is the author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington location in Arlington, Virginia. Read More

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We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

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We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

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We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

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We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

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We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

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We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

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We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

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We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

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