“If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon said 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 3 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.
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 3 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 scheme. 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 3 percent of the “food items” you consumed during your meal. Even though the massive steak was the reason you chose PP’s Steakhouse rather than 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 “3 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 3 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 3 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.
Editors’ note: Join Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler, Jackie Hill Perry, and more at Evangelicals for Life 2017 in Washington, D.C., January 26 to 28. Register now with the exclusive code TGC30 to receive a 30 percent discount or watch the FREE simulcast.