Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona has been subject to considerable criticism and ridicule in recent days. During last week’s budget battle, Senator Kyl claimed that Planned Parenthood “devotes more than 90 percent of its resources to providing abortions.” He did not help matters much when his office issued a press release saying he hadn’t intended his remarks to be a factual statement.
When Planned Parenthood claims they only devote only 3 percent of their resources toward abortion, this statistic is also misleading — though it has escaped the scrutiny of late-night comics. Planned Parenthood runs a number of tests and procedures on women who are seeking abortions, which makes it appear as if abortion services are small percentage of what Planned Parenthood actually does.
Overall, abortion patients constitute 11 percent of Planned Parenthood clients. Furthermore, by conservative estimates, abortions constitute 37 percent of all Planned Parenthood revenues. What Kyl was probably thinking about when he made the statement is that 98 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services to pregnant women (abortion, adoption, and prenatal care) are abortion. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2009 report, it performed 332,278 abortions, saw, 7,021 prenatal care clients, and made 977 adoption referrals.
Of course, Kyl’s error was promptly pounced on by pundits and the late-night comics. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart said that he would “love this statement to be checked by, uh, anyone.” On his Twitter account, Stephen Colbert ridiculed this remark about 37 times in a little over 25 hours. True, many of these comics poke fun at mistakes made by Democrats, too, but in this case the level of viciousness seems over the top. Could one imagine Stephen Colbert ridiculing President Obama 37 times in a day?
Pro-lifers should take heart, however. The ridicule, scrutiny, and hostility pro-lifers are enduring is actually evidence of pro-life progress. Indeed, the recent LiveAction films and the ongoing budget debates have left Planned Parenthood and its allies feeling very threatened and vulnerable.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.