Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics About Planned Parenthood, and Unicorns

OK, today I want to talk about Planned Parenthood. And I want all of you...supporters, deriders, pro-choicers, and pro-lifers to sit down and listen carefully. Because I’m going to say a lot of things that neither side is going to like, but that is a lot closer to the truth than anyone has really been saying. And it’s a lot closer to the truth because it’s a lot more nuanced than the binary black/white, good/bad, pro-choice/pro-life version we’ve been getting, and have found ourselves forced to choose between.

But before I start, let me get this important piece of information out of the way: I’m pro-choice, but want to see as few abortions as possible. Pro-choice doesn’t mean that I believe that a woman should be able to have an abortion just because it’s Tuesday and she doesn’t feel like being pregnant anymore. It means that I recognize that there are some situations where what the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America calls on page 4 of its Social Statement on Abortion, the “option of last resort” needs to be safely there. I understand that there are some situations where there seems to truly be no good choice, no choice where there’s a clear “win” for either side.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, I’m going to start out with some commonly bandied about statistics, which for the sake of argument here, I’m going to assume are true. The first is that only 3% of the work that Planned Parenthood does is abortion related. Did you hear that? Only 3%. And yet, there are people who act as if that’s all they do and want to have it taken down for that reason. Why is that?

It’s because of the second statistic…which says that Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of abortions in the United States. Let me repeat that again for emphasis: Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of abortions in the United States. That doesn’t mean they do 99% of the abortions. It doesn’t even have to mean that they do 51% of them. They could do as little as 5% of the abortions in this country, if the other 95% was distributed among thousands of independent places that each did 0.1% or less. It just makes them the largest single provider.

It’s like this…since someone once called Planned Parenthood “the WalMart of the abortion industry”, let’s take a look at WalMart. They’re all over the place. You can hardly spit without hitting one. As a result, it’s pretty safe to assume that they may be the single largest seller of bicycles in the US. But is that all they sell? Not by a long shot. Is that the only place people go for bicycles. Not even. Do most people go there for bikes, or is that the place that most people go for bikes (two different things)? No and no. In fact, just recently we bought our bikes at Target.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

So what percentage of abortions does this “single largest provider” perform? I’ve seen figures that say roughly 30%. This means that 70% of the abortions are being done by other people…that just aren’t as easily targeted.

Does everyone understand that it’s possible for all three sets of statistics to be true? Can the pro-lifers in the audience see that the defenders of Planned Parenthood are not being disingenuous when they say that abortion is only 3% of the work they do? Can the pro-choicers in the audience see why pro-lifers see Planned Parenthood as the “low hanging fruit” in their battle against abortion?

Can everyone see that it’s more complicated than the people on the extreme ends of the argument want to make it out to be?

And what about those unicorns?

Well…you’ll have to wait until next week for those.

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