This chart shows how little Republicans care about accurately portraying Planned Parenthood

House Republicans spent the better part of the afternoon trying to shame Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards into admitting that she is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person. She wasn’t having it. Check out this exchange with House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz:

Chaffetz was particularly interested in getting Richards’s take on a chart that used data he claimed to have pulled straight from Planned Parenthood’s corporate records, purporting to show that between 2006 and 2013, Planned Parenthood’s abortion services overtook its non-abortive services as a share of their overall care, undercutting their claim that the majority of the work they do is for medical services that have nothing to do with abortion.

From a distance it looks pretty damning. That is, if you have no idea how charts work:

 

See that? Pink arrow going down BAD. Red arrow going up WORSE. This is apparently what counts as data in the anti-abortion movement. The chart, put together by Americans United for Life, lacks basic features that one expects in a chart. Like a Y-axis, which would help clear up the fact that 935,573 is in fact a much larger number than 327,000.

In an effort to clean up this affront to everything you learned in middle school math, Vox’s Timothy Lee and Javier Zarracina retooled the AUL’s chart to make it fit its own numbers. Here’s what the original chart should have looked like:

abortion-chart-Fpo1.0

But that’s not all. If one assumes that abortions and cancer screenings are all that Planned Parenthood does, even this chart makes it look like Planned Parenthood is performing more abortions as a share of the overall number of patients it sees. But if one adds in STD/STI testing and treatment, along with contraceptive services, that claim goes out the window, too:

abortion_chart-fpo2.0

 

Notice how that Y-axis keeps extending upward? Those things are pretty useful when measuring dependent variables (and since it’s apparently safe to assume that AUL doesn’t know what a dependent variable is, in this case it’s the volume of yearly abortive and non-abortive procedures as a function of time).

Taken together, Planned Parenthood performed nearly identical numbers of non-abortive procedures like cancer screenings and STD treatments in 2013 as they did in 2006 — 10.26 million and 10.29 million, respectively — while performing only slightly more abortions. In other words, their ratio of abortive to non-abortive care hasn’t changed in any significant way.

But none of that matters to Representative Chaffetz. This push to defund Planned Parenthood was started on a lie, so why not keep it going on lies?

As long as the fundraising dollars keep pouring in, who cares if the broader public thinks your lies are a big waste of time?


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Sheila McAndrews Toomey

    This is a regular tactic from Republicans.
    A History of Dishonest Fox Charts
    http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/10/01/a-history-of-dishonest-fox-charts/190225

  • Nicholas A Kocal

    Republicans cannot run on their policies or their records. Both show that they are destroying the middle class and turning America into a third world country. So what they do is find a subjuct like abortion and use it to work up their base of ignorant, low information, racist bigots. Then these people will vote to kill their children to support the “moral” republican candidate who wants to “save children”.

  • therling

    You have to remember that Republicans use Darrell Huff’s classic “How to Lie With Statistics” as a how-to manual.

  • The screeching cries for investigations were prompted by a series of lies and a deliberately falsified set of videos. Why should anything be different now? Abortion services at Planned Parenthood, among the few places where it’s still possible for a woman to exercise her right to an abortion, remains at the 3% of total services as it’s been for ages…and not one penny of taxpayer money is spent on it, in accordance to federal law.

    And just look at those contraception numbers. Nearly 11x higher — and proper use of contraceptives is what can prevent unplanned pregnancies (and abortions) in the first place.

    It’s when these radical right conservatives oppose the availability of contraceptives AND also oppose universal availability of health care for pregnant women that it’s clear they don’t even truly care about the fetus they claim is a person with rights superseding those of the compelled gestational vessel carrying it. They’re purely anti-woman, and personally I think it’s because the conservative far right has never let go of the traditional Biblical belief that women are property, not persons. It seems to be an unconscious cultural thing for them, especially given how they don’t seem to think women should have any say in whether we become pregnant in the first place.

    Honestly, if I’d been sitting there where Ms. Richards was, after the 7th or 8th interruption of an attempt to answer yet another pejoratively-worded question, I’d have sat there in silence. And if asked why I wasn’t answering, to say, “Mr. Chairman, I don’t want to get in the way of your misogynistic political grandstanding and steadfast opposition to women’s health care, as it is obvious you truly are not interested in receiving answers to the questions you keep barking at me. So I’ll just sit here quietly so you can collect video for Fox News and your upcoming campaign commercials. Please continue… perhaps I can find a Sudoku game to play on my phone until you’re done.”

  • sukabi

    What would be interesting is adding in where Obama care kicked in and which which women’s healthcare services have been augmented thru that source.

  • emjayay

    Well that’s Carly’s method. Seemed to work.

  • ComradeRutherford

    The end of that video is excellent. Richards says, ‘I’ve never seen this before, so obviously I can’t comment on it.’ Chaffetz claims the numbers are directly from PP’s own public report. Someone leans in to Richards, who then says, ‘My lawyer just informed me that your chart is from a notorious anti-abortion group, not PP’s report, so I’d check your source for this.’ Chaffetz says, ‘we have to move on!’

  • ComradeRutherford

    There was a good math-based children’s TV show, Cyberchase, and one of the episodes featured exactly this un-labelled chart sheme. The bad guy had a bar chart that looked really bad for the main characters, but through the storyline of the show, they figured out eh chart math and came back with a chart that did have labels on it, thus proving that the bad guy was lying.

    Conservatives know that they can never, ever win by being truthful, the only way they can ever win is by brazenly telling easily-disproven lies.

  • Indigo

    They made it all up but there’s an extenuating circumstance sometimes known as “lying for the Lord” in at least some settings. They’re opposed to any responsible parenting, they’re opposed to birth control techniques most of us consider desirable, and they’re opposed to abortion in all its forms. So why not lie to achieve their goal? That’s who they, that’s what they do.

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