Repost: What Planned Parenthood actually does, in one chart

at 03:56 PM ET, 02/02/2012


(Planned Parenthood)

Judging from its unexpected jump into the most-read list, this graph showing the breakdown of care provided by Planned Parenthood’s health centers is proving useful to people. So here it is again, lifted from April. Note the light blue slice, which suggests that cancer screenings account for approximately one-sixth of Planned Parenthood’s activities.

With Planned Parenthood being either the major obstacle to a budget deal or one of the major obstacles to a budget deal, it’s worth taking a minute explaining what they do — and what they don’t do.

As you can see in the chart atop this post, abortion services account for about 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities. That’s less than cancer screening and prevention (16 percent), STD testing for both men and women (35 percent), and contraception (also 35 percent). About 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s users are over age 20, and 75 percent have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line. Planned Parenthood itself estimates it prevents more than 620,000 unintended pregnancies each year, and 220,000 abortions. It’s also worth noting that federal law already forbids Planned Parenthood from using the funds it receives from the government for abortions.

So though the fight over Planned Parenthood might be about abortion, Planned Parenthood itself isn’t about abortion. It’s primarily about contraception and reproductive health. And if Planned Parenthood loses funding, what will mainly happen is that cancer screenings and contraception and STD testing will become less available to poorer people. Folks with more money, of course, have many other ways to receive all these services, and tend to get them elsewhere already.

The fight also isn’t about cutting spending. The services Planned Parenthood provides save the federal government a lot of money. It’s somewhat cold to put it in these terms, but taxpayers end up bearing a lot of the expense for unintended pregnancies among people without the means to care for their children. The same goes for preventable cancers and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. You can find a lot more information about Planned Parenthood and its services here.

Update: More on the methodology behind the chart, which unbundles services from customers. Note that Planned Parenthood served about three million women last year, and of that number, 329,000 received abortions.

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