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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