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Do Abortions Account for 3% or 38% of Planned Parenthood's Activities?

Does it matter?

2:14 PM, Feb 6, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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"Only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s expenditures go toward abortion services," the New York Times reported last week in a news story on the Komen-Planned Parenthood controversy. But that claim is very misleading, as Ross Douthat notes in his New York Times column, "The Media's Abortion Blinders." He writes:

[A]bortion is hardly an itty-bitty and purely tangential aspect of its mission, as many credulous journalists have implied.

Planned Parenthood likes to claim that abortion accounts for just 3 percent of its services, for instance, and this statistic has been endlessly recycled in the press. But the percentage of the group’s clients who received an abortion is probably closer to 1 in 10, and Planned Parenthood’s critics have estimated, plausibly, that between 30 and 40 percent of its health center revenue is from abortion.

By way of comparison, the organization also refers pregnant women for adoption. In 2010, this happened 841 times, against 329,445 abortions.

For the minority of Americans who have no moral qualms about using surgery or chemicals to put an end to a growing embryo or fetus, there should be nothing troubling in these numbers.

Douthat is right that one can plausibly claim that abortions comprise more than one-third of Planned Parenthood's activities--one estimate shows the organization generates 38.4% of its clinic revenues from performing abortions. 

But does it matter what percentage of Planned Parenthood's activities are are abortions? For those who see abortion as no different than an appendectomy, it wouldn't matter if the percentage of abortions were much higher. For those who recognize that an unborn child has a right not to be dismembered or poisoned to death, no amount of other activities would mitigate the evil of more than 300,000 elective abortions. (Pro-choice liberals just need to imagine what they'd think of Planned Parenthood if it were in the business of clubbing baby seals instead of killing human fetuses.) For some reason, the actual number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood is something the New York Times, the Washington Post, and network news simply didn't report.

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