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We Figured Out the Source of the Disputed '86%' Figure From Yesterday's Planned Parenthood Hearing


A noteworthy exchange during Tuesday's congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood's use of its government funding dealt with how much of its revenue the organization receives from abortions.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cited Planned Parenthood's self-reported figure that only 3% of the services the organization provides are abortion.

Then, she asked Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards:

"If you look at the 2013 statistics that you report, abortions, from revenue, would have been over 86% of your non-government (health services) revenue.

“How do you explain this massive disparity between the amount of revenue you collect from abortion and the fact that you only report 3% of your services being abortion?”

At first, Richards responded:

"One, is as we've already stated, federal money does not go for abortion.

“So the federal portion we are discussing is reimbursement for preventative care services. I think the other— so that's why those numbers are not connected.”

She later added:

“It is important to understand that abortion procedures are probably more expensive than some other procedures that we provide, which might, you know, might explain what you were trying to get at.”

According to Planned Parenthood's 2013-2014 report, the national organization had a total revenue of over $1.3 billion that year. The report states 41% of its revenue is from “government health services grants and reimbursements,” equalling $528.4 million in taxpayer dollars last year.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, September 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on the use of taxpayer funding by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The two main sources of this government funding are the state and federal Medicaid health programs for low-income people and federal grants like the Title X family planning program.

Lummis's office confirmed to IJ how it calculated that 86% of Planned Parenthood's non-government health services revenue comes from abortion.

In its 2013-2014 report, Planned Parenthood breaks its revenue into the following categories:

  • Government grants and reimbursements (41%, or $528.4 million);
  • Private contributions/bequests (30%, or $391.8 million);
  • Non-government health services revenue (23% or $305.3 million);
  • Other (6%, or $77.9 million).

By law, federal Medicaid dollars can only pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. Because of this stipulation, Lummis's office considered the $305.3 million Planned Parenthood cites as its 2013-2014 non-government health services revenue.

Lummis's office also took Planned Parenthood's estimated price for a generic abortion pill at $800 per pill (which is cheaper than the estimated price of a generic first trimester in-clinic abortion). Given that Planned Parenthood reports providing 327,653 abortions in 2013-2014 — and assuming $800 per abortion — that yields $262 million in revenue, or nearly 86% of the total non-government health services revenue.

Thus, while 41% of Planned Parenthood's total revenue is from government grants and reimbursements, using the numbers from Lummis, another 25% of its total revenue — $262 million — is from abortion. That means the remaining 34% of total revenue comes from other services and donations, according to its calculations.

Richards did not challenge the figure that 86% of Planned Parenthood's non-government health services revenue comes from abortion during the hearing. Representatives from Planned Parenthood did not return IJ's request for comment if the figure was accurate.

In the hearing, Lummis further asked:

“Can you tell me how many of your (individual) affiliates receive the majority of their revenue from abortion?”

But Richards responded, “I don't know that answer” and said she “will talk to my team” about the question.

According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, over a million abortions are performed in the United States annually. Planned Parenthood states in its 2013-2014 report that it ended 327,653 pregnancies by abortion last year, making it responsible for about 31% of abortions in the U.S. and the nation's largest abortion provider.

Lummis also asked how many Planned Parenthood facilites have mammogram machines, to which Richards responded:

"There aren’t any Planned Parenthood clinics — I believe, to the best of my knowledge, not any have mammogram machines at their facility.”

Planned Parenthood's calculation that abortion is 3% of its total services has also come under scrutiny because the organization “unbundles” all of its services so that, for example, a pack of contraception, an STD test and an exam count as three separate services, even if they occur in the same appointment. And the 3% figure does not consider each services' share in the organization's revenue.

Tuesday was the third hearing called in response to the series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Over the weekend, House Republicans announced they will vote to create a special panel specifically to investigate Planned Parenthood, which will be the most formal step by the legislature to probe Planned Parenthood thus far.

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