Antis misrepresent Planned Parenthood data, as usual

Lauren Guy

Jill Stanek and the American Life League are running with misrepresented data.

The following was first published at ChoiceUSA.

Just another day in the life of an anti-choice wingnut: the American Life League and Jill Stanek are both reporting that, according to 2008 data, Planned Parenthood does little more than offer abortion services.

While the American Life League takes measures to state (albeit vaguely) that they are only reporting on Planned Parenthood’s services to pregnant women, Jill Stanek makes no such effort.  In her piece, Planned Parenthood: Abortion virtually only service, Stanek presents several pie and bar graphs to display the discrepancy between pregnant women who receive abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics and pregnant women who receive prenatal care and adoption referrals, adding smugly, “You may need a magnifying glass to spot the adoption and prenatal care bars.” 

I wonder why that could be?  Maybe because Planned Parenthood clinics are virtually the only abortion providers in many communities.  They are not adoption agencies and they don’t claim to be, nor are many clinics capable of providing prenatal care.  Rampant survey bias here, and it clearly suggests something that the anti-choicers just can’t seem to get their heads around: women aren’t stupid.  Think about it.  If I’m pregnant and am planning a birth, I’m calling a midwife or an obstetric practice.  If I’m pregnant and thinking about adoption, I’m calling an adoption agency.  If I’m pregnant and considering abortion, well, I’m most certainly calling an abortion clinic!  This “stunning revelation” by the American Life League only proves what we already knew: that many Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortions. 

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More interesting is the reality of the data that ALL and Jill Stanek are “reporting” on.  The official report, a fact sheet on services provided by Planned Parenthood’s affiliate clinics in 2008, reveals much more than how many women received pregnancy-related services.  In 2008:

  • 35% of medical services went to providing contraception to men and women.
  • 34% of medical services went to STI/STD testing and treatment.
  • 17% of medical services went to cancer screening and prevention.
  • 10% of medical services went to other women’s health services, such as pregnancy tests, prenatal care, midlife health care, and infertility treatment.
  • 3% of medical services went to abortion procedures.

The other 1% involves primary care, adoption referrals, and additional services.  Additionally, Planned Parenthood clinics regularly provide non-medical services to the community, including education, support, and outreach.  In other words, ALL and Jill Stanek are running with grossly misrepresented data.  Never mind that the largest chunk of Planned Parenthood’s medical services go directly towards preventing the need for abortion in the first place; no, that fact doesn’t adequately fit the agenda of the antis, and it certainly doesn’t help them paint a picture of a Planned Parenthood that only exists to profit off of women’s abortions.

In all fairness, the American Life League report does address the other services, but only to highlight the fact that Planned Parenthood has seen an uptick in abortion services and a downturn in preventative care clients:  

“Despite the increase in abortion, Planned Parenthood showed a decline in a number of other areas, including a drop of four percent (almost 100,000 visits) in its primary customer base – female birth control customers … The latest Planned Parenthood data are in keeping with the testimony of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, who has publically [sic] testified that Planned Parenthood is intentionally trying to increase its abortion business.”

Once again, the American Life League proves it has little expertise in the interpretation of survey data. Failing to recognize cause and effect, ALL jumps to the unfounded conclusion that the data indicates that Planned Parenthood has some underlying agenda to get women pregnant and lure them into the clinics for abortions.  Such conclusions suggest that ALL might be lacking in the social awareness department and are woefully unaware of the economic downturn that became severe during the very year this data was taken.

In September of 2009, the Guttmacher Institute reported that about half of women surveyed said they are delaying getting pregnant or limiting the number of children they have due to economic concerns.  The report, A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions, did report that more women were being careful with their birth control, which does not adequately explain why Planned Parenthood would see a downturn in female contraception patients.  However, 12% of women said they were thinking of switching to long-term contraceptives such as the IUD to cut costs.  This would mean fewer visits to their providing clinic.  Additionally, 18% of women on the pill reported inconsistent use as a means to save money; this could easily lead to an increased need for abortion, not to mention fewer clinic visits to procure contraception.  The report also suggests that many women might be struggling to access contraception: 

“Twenty-three percent of surveyed women report having a harder time paying for birth control than in the past … Nearly one out of four women report having put off a gynecological or birth control visit to save money in the past year … Forty-two percent of employed women agree with the following statement: ‘With the economy the way it is, I worry more about taking time off from work to visit a doctor or clinic.'”

But again, if you’re an anti, it’s probably just easier (and convenient) to blame the evil abortion chain. Reality has never been a strong suit for their camp, after all. But, while we’re playing with graphs:

You “may need a magnifying glass” to see the Stanek bar.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.


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