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Just the facts

Jon Kyl famously misspeaks, but so does Planned Parenthood

Issue: "Tick, tick, tick ...," May 7, 2011

WASHINGTON-When Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, speaking on the Senate floor April 7, claimed that abortions account for "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does," the backlash was swift and predictable.

Planned Parenthood, fighting to keep open a federal funding stream that last year gave the organization more than $360 million in taxpayer money, claimed abortion makes up only 3 percent of its total services.

After a Kyl spokesman tried to douse the firestorm by saying the Arizona senator's remarks were "not intended to be a factual statement," left-leaning critics, including comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, erupted in a chorus of derision.

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A Twitter account satirized Kyl by posting items about the retiring senator that were "not intended to be a factual statement." Kyl's own Senate colleagues began mockingly using the phrase in their own Senate floor speeches.

The reality is that Kyl misspoke-but Kyl's misstatement seems to be more about what he left unsaid than what he proclaimed. A look at Planned Parenthood's own numbers reveals that abortion makes up more than 90 percent of the services the group provides to pregnant women.

Earlier this year Planned Parenthood announced that in 2009 it had performed 332,278 abortions. That's more than a quarter of all abortions performed nationwide and a 14.7 percent increase over the abortions it performed in 2006.

Planned Parenthood also provided prenatal services to 7,021 women and referred adoption services to just 977. Adding the three pregnancy-related services together, Planned Parenthood provided abortions to 97.6 percent of its 340,276 pregnant clients in 2009.

How does the organization get its 3 percent claim? One of the organization's former clinic directors, Abby Johnson, recently wrote in The Hill that the claim is a gimmick. The group, she claims, skews its abortion numbers by "unbundling family planning services so that each patient shows anywhere from five to 20 visits per appointment."

The secret that the organization doesn't want you to know: The number of abortions it provides is going up while the number of prenatal services and adoption referrals is going down. For every adoption referral in 2009, Planned Parenthood performed slightly more than 340 abortions.

Meanwhile, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which Kyl and his fellow Republicans were trying to end, survived the negotiations over the 2011 budget. But pro-lifers succeeded in banning Medicaid funding for abortions in Washington, D.C., and the reaction was telling.

On the eve of the mid-April spending deal, a local nonprofit, D.C. Abortion Fund, sent out a fundraising appeal for 28 women who had abortions scheduled for the next day on the taxpayers' dime. "We never want to turn a single woman away-and now these 28 women need us," the fundraising alert read. "Your contribution will go DIRECTLY to help pay for abortions that D.C. Medicaid will no longer cover."

The popular local blog DCist also broadcast the appeal, and the drive netted $25,000, enough for the 28 abortions. Or, as DCist put it afterward, the donations "enabled all 28 women to make their appointments." Congressional Democrats had lifted the ban on D.C. funds for abortion in 2009, funds the district began spending last August. The city has paid for 117 abortions since last August, totaling about $62,000, according to The Washington Post. One of the three organizations the city contracts with for abortions hadn't submitted its bills yet.


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