Planned Parenthood’s new president, Dr. Leana Wen, cut her teeth in major media appearances with a segment on “The View” Thursday. The abortion giant seems to be trying to remake its image and establish more credibility as a “medical provider” by choosing a medical doctor to head their organization.
She is articulate, young, attractive, a new mother, and, at least on paper, she has some serious credentials as both an ER doctor and health commissioner of Baltimore. She’s also a minority who grew up in a working-class home; her parents immigrated to the United States from China.
On the surface, it seems Planned Parenthood couldn’t have picked a better face for their organization. Unfortunately, her appointment doesn’t seem to mark a change in how Planned Parenthood does business, as Wen is parroting the same discredited propaganda the organization has been disseminating for years.
Although two hosts pressed moderately about federal funding for abortion, most of the interview was soft-balled and Wen had ample opportunity to spread further disinformation on behalf of Planned Parenthood, which is still in disaster-control mode after years of federal and state investigations into its fetal body parts business. Here is a fact-check of the major claims Wen made in her appearance on “The View.”
1. Planned Parenthood ‘has done more for women’s health than any other.’
Apparently the destruction of 3,401,891 preborn baby girls since 1978 is a stellar record for women’s health. Beyond the obvious fact that preborn genocide totally negates anything Planned Parenthood does, what is so special about Planned Parenthood that its services are critical to American women?
If you want oral birth control, you can get it at any health clinic. If you need sexually transmitted disease testing, cancer screenings, or prenatal care, you can get it at the doctor’s office. If you simply need “education,” which Planned Parenthood loves to tout as a major accomplishment, you can go to any of the 2,752 pregnancy centers in the United States.
CareNet affiliate pregnancy centers alone, many of which provide ultrasounds and STI testing (1,100), outnumber Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers by almost 2 to 1 (650). Clearly Planned Parenthood is neither replaceable nor crucial for women’s health.
2. One in 5 American women go to Planned Parenthood for ‘basic medical services.’
“Just like 1 in 5 women in America, Planned Parenthood was where we went for basic medical services like cancer screening and family planning.”
This statistic has been bandied about to refer to women who “rely” on Planned Parenthood or to refer to women who visit Planned Parenthood at some point in their lives. Wen seems to be doing the former.
Planned Parenthood picked up this number from a 2013 online poll of 1,000 respondents conducted by YouGov in association with the Huffington Post, in which 20 percent of respondents said they had “ever personally visited a Planned Parenthood clinic for health services.”
It is still incredibly disingenuous to assert that 1 in 5 American women go to Planned Parenthood for “basic medical services.” For instance, 82.1 percent of women aged 18 and over visited “a doctor or other healthcare professional” at least once in the past 12 months.
Out of the approximate total of this demographic in 2016, (67,765,930 is half the total population adjusted for the male-female ratio), an estimated 2,470,000 clients (we’ll assume they are all women) visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, or 3.6 percent just of total adult women who visited a health-care professional. That number is probably a bit lower if you exclude male and minor clients.
If we want to be even more accurate, as of 2017, there were approximately 135,671,118 women above the age of 15 living in the United States, according to CIA data. Even if you consider all of Planned Parenthood’s estimated health clinic clients (still 2,470,000 in 2017), that’s less than 2 percent of all American adult women. Thus, it appears probable that Wen’s estimate of women who “go to Planned Parenthood for basic medical services” is off by a factor of ten.
3. If Confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will overturn Roe V. Wade.
“I’m a doctor and a scientist and I have to go by the data. And one data point is that President Trump has a litmus test, that he will only appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe vs. Wade… And I also have another data point on what Judge Kavanaugh has done before in his rulings and there’s nothing in his confirmation hearings that would reassure me otherwise…”
One first has to consider the most recent Trump position on choosing Supreme Court justices, which is that he would not ask them about the landmark 1973 case. However, when Trump was asked about overturning Roe back in 2016, he said, “If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that will happen. And that will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”
Given the number of times Trump has flipped positions on a variety of subjects, it’s difficult to tell what his “authentic” position is. He’s essentially been winging it, as far as public statements, through his campaign and up to this point in his presidency.
Nevertheless, Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings that Roe “is an important precedent to the Supreme Court. It’s been reaffirmed many times. It was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 when the court specifically considered whether to reaffirm it or whether to overturn it. …That makes Casey precedent on precedent.”
This was a walk-back of a statement he’d made in a 2003 letter saying that he was “not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since the Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”
Kavanaugh has only ruled directly on one abortion case: the illegal immigrant minor who sought an abortion in the United States last year. According to his own testimony during his confirmation hearings, he explained how his decision was made on precedent regarding parental consent, citing Casey as one of those precedents, and specifically said the government “cannot use [the administrative stay] as a ruse to prevent the pregnancy.”
To say this one ruling, or even Kavanaugh’s Priests for Life ruling, in which he said that facilitating access to abortifacients and birth control was a substantial burden on Priests for Life’s religious exercise, means it is certain that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe stretches the evidence pretty thin.
4. Women’s lives are ‘at stake’ in overturning Roe.
“We have to take [Trump] at his word about overturning Roe vs. Wade and the stakes are just so high, I mean we’re talking about women’s lives that are at stake” (emphasis added).
This is a bald-faced lie. Wen is clearly playing off her audience’s ignorance about the nature of the Roe v. Wade decision, making it seem as if pregnant women will all of a sudden start dying if the precedent is overturned.
Roe V. Wade enshrined the right to an abortion in the United States as constitutionally protected. However, before 1973, abortion was already legal in some states. Overturning Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey would only return abortion to state control, where each state can each decide how to regulate abortion. It would not make abortion illegal across the country. In fact, only four states have “trigger laws” that would outlaw abortion should the precedent be overturned.
Wen went for an emotional appeal. “I see every day what’s at stake,” she said, sharing how she had once treated a woman whose cousin had attempted an abortion on her and who ended up dying in the ER because “she didn’t have access to health care.” First of all, abortion isn’t care. Abortion is murder. Further, almost no abortions are done to save the life of the mother, and exceptions based on the mother’s health are standard in pro-life legislation.
The second simplest fact people need to keep in mind is: abortion doesn’t pose any danger to you whatsoever if you don’t try one.
Yes, some women are pressured, even coerced, into abortions. The people who would do that must be brought to justice, and women can seek help from law enforcement and pregnancy centers. Pressure from family or a partner is not an excuse to kill your child. And even if Roe were overturned, pressured women would still overwhelmingly have access to at least first-trimester abortions.
The bottom line: No, women’s lives are not at stake with overturning Roe v. Wade.
5. Abortion is only a tiny part of what Planned Parenthood does.
When co-host Sunny Hostin challenged the transparency of Planned Parenthood’s frequent claim that abortion only constitutes 3 percent of their services, saying the Washington Post found it to be “more like 12 percent,” Wen said, “I disagree. Just like any every major health-care organization that I’ve ever worked for, Planned Parenthood follows the law and makes clear what are the services we offer, what are the procedures that we perform…over 90 percent of the services that we perform are preventive care services.”
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortion procedures. This is fewer than pregnancy tests (1,071,642), breast exams (336,614), reversible contraception (1,854,518), emergency contraception (730,329), and STI testing and treatment (4,434,039), and indeed, it is about 3.3 percent of total services rendered, according to their 2016 report.
If you only tally up preventative services (e.g., excluding line items such as adoption referrals, emergency contraception, and treatments for urinary tract infections), the percentage of preventative care services out of the total services is about 76.5 percent, not 90 percent. In any case, dividing total services by abortion procedures is a misleading way to characterize the role abortion plays in Planned Parenthood’s business model. That was the issue Hostin wanted addressed, and Wen dodged it.
A better, more transparent way to assess this is what percentage of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from abortion. Any business owner would tell you the same. If a company makes 2 cents off red widgets and 80 percent of their sales are red widgets, but makes 20 cents off blue widgets though they’re only 20 percent of sales, clearly the 40 percent of revenue coming from blue widgets is a very important part of their business.
The cost of a chemical abortion (i.e., the abortion pill) ranges from $300 to $800, according to the American Pregnancy Association. A second-trimester abortion could be over $2,000. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, 91.5 percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester, 7.2 percent are induced in the second trimester, and 1.3 percent are in the third trimester.
So if we take a middle estimate, like $550, for the cost of first-trimester abortions, assuming Planned Parenthood abortions follow the overall distribution among first, second, and third trimesters, we get $161,736,498 of revenue. If we take $1,500 as a reasonable estimate for second-trimester abortions (we’ll lump in third trimester since the percentage is so small), we get another $40,976,460 of revenue. In total, that’s an estimated $202,972,958 Planned Parenthood made off abortions in 2016 alone. Planned Parenthood makes an estimated $203 million off abortion. Now, apply that to their revenue statement.
Total Planned Parenthood revenue from services was $861.8 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year (sum of line items 1 and 2 on page 34 of the report; i.e. excluding donor revenue but including any government grants they receive, since they don’t provide a separate figure for that). This means that, by my rough estimate, abortions account for one-quarter (23.5 percent) of Planned Parenthood’s revenue from services rendered. If you include “other operating revenue” ($65.1 million) in the total, abortions still bring in 22 percent of total non-donor revenue.
Considering Planned Parenthood performs roughly a third of all abortions in America, this is a much more reasonable number to share with the public than “3 percent of total services,” or even less than 10 percent of services, as Wen suggested, to characterize the role abortion plays in the organization’s business model.
6. No federal dollars paying for abortions.
“I want to clarify…There are no federal taxpayer dollars that go towards abortions…Planned Parenthood doesn’t get a check from the federal government. It’s not as if they get a check written every year about federal funding. Planned Parenthood, just like every hospital, gets reimbursed for medical services like breast cancer screenings, like cervical cancer screenings, like birth control.”
This claim is technically true, but practically false. Currently, 17 states fund abortion through Medicaid, which is funded partially by states and partially by the federal government. At least one of those states, California, does not even require abortions to be “medically necessary” to qualify for tax-provided Medi-Cal funding. The fact that Planned Parenthood receives federal funding in one area means, of course, that they have more state funds available for other areas, including abortions.
Oregon recently adopted a law that effectively pays for universal abortion for Oregon residents. This, too, is made possible by federal dollars. As I wrote last year,
The Hyde Amendment currently prohibits the Federal government from funding abortions, but Oregon still receives federal dollars for its numerous programs. The Health Authority received $11.5 billion from the federal government for the 2015-2016 Biennium, drawing only $2.1 billion from the General Fund and $6 billion from “Other Funds,” as well as $11 million from the Lottery Fund.
The General Fund’s contribution to the Health Authority will effectively quintuple through this act, but funding is just a game of allocation. Because the state receives federal dollars for its other programs to the tune of $21.58 billion, it can allocate more of the state’s general tax money toward programs like this one. Indeed, it may even be able to receive federal money for the parts of this bill that don’t directly pertain to abortion.
The bottom line is that so long as Oregon receives federal funding, citizens across the country are forced into indirectly helping facilitate the ending of human lives—for whatever reason the mother may give.
Moreover, federal reimbursement rate for “family planning services” is 90 percent. While those do not include abortions because of the Hyde amendment, it certainly provides a lot of money to Planned Parenthood. In 2016-2017, government funding (state and federal) constituted 37 percent of their total revenue.
7. Health care shouldn’t be political.
“Health care shouldn’t be political. Needing medications for your children should be political.”
The government has been deeply involved in health care for many decades (especially since the establishment of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965), and the Supreme Court has made numerous rulings about health care, particularly the intersection of religious freedom and “reproductive care.” Health care is political.
Abortion especially is highly political, because of the government’s efforts to enshrine it and because it is a highly controversial ethical decision that virtually everyone agrees needs to be regulated in some way, from only allowing licensed practitioners to perform them, to parental consent, to outlawing it altogether. There’s no cramming those worms back into the can.
While this line is emotionally appealing, “abortion is health care” is a lie that Planned Parenthood has been hawking for decades in the public square. When abortion is wrapped up in this category, you can simply assert your position that health care “shouldn’t be political,” and any opponent will have a hard time arguing with that question.
Case in point: Abby Huntsman’s response to this statement was, “I agree with that,” perhaps not realizing that Wen had subverted the entire pro-life argument she’d presented—that federal money shouldn’t go to organizations that provide abortions—by defining abortion as health care.
Wen is pushing the same propaganda that her Planned Parenthood predecessor Cecile Richards did, doubling down on the “abortion is health care” meme. As a doctor and a mother, who claims to reach conclusions off “the data,” she should be held to the highest standard.
Indeed, as a smart, accomplished, articulate doctor, pesky questions like “When does human life begin?” and whether women should be informed of the developmental milestones of their fetuses before consenting to an abortion should be easy for her to answer. Hopefully future interviewers will have the courage to ask such questions. Until then, the least Wen can do is stop misleading the public.
Correction: This article has been corrected for a decimal error regarding this figure — $40,976,460 — and thus also the related sums and percentages in the sentences following.