16

Many anti-abortion sources, such as the ones quoted by this Washington Post fact-check, counter Planned Parenthood's claim that only 3% of its services are abortions with the claim that a large amount of its revenues come from abortion. The most reasonable source I could find is this 2012 analysis by James J. Heaney, a software engineer who writes for The Federalist:

Where does Planned Parenthood's Money Come From? 33% Taxpayers, 28% Donors, 20% Abortions, 17% Medical Services, 2% Other

This chart assumes that the mean cost of an abortion at Planned Parenthood is $650. Planned Parenthood does not provide this information, presumably because it would allow someone to make a chart very much like this. We did the best we could, while still sticking to our plan to rely exclusively on information provided by Planned Parenthood. [...] Planned Parenthood provided 331,796 abortions in 2009. Approximately 10% of all clients (counting men) received an abortion.

Note that the author added a footnote correcting an error in the chart:

EDIT: Apparently, I am math-challenged tonight. Splitting the difference between $300 and $950 yields a mean of $625, not $650. If this were reflected on the chart, it would take away 1% from the Abortion wedge (leaving it at 19%) and add 1% to the Medical Services wedge (raising it to 18%). I will fix this at some point, when I have time.

I would expect these numbers to be slightly larger now that Planned Parenthood is doing more abortions and less of other medical services, so feel free to correct the data if you can update it, but otherwise we can stick to 2012 for the sake of discussion.

Is this 19% figure a reasonable estimate given the lack of official figures?

  • 6
    I think the biggest problem here is that they don't know the mean cost of abortions at PP, and the appearance of that plot depends STRONGLY on that assumption (imagine how it would change if the mean cost was $10 or $1000). PP provides a lot (most?) of its services at reduced cost or free, depending on whether the person seeking care can afford, so many abortions may result in no income at all. – Rose Hartman Jul 13 '17 at 4:00
  • 3
    The chart's incoherent. The WP article linked makes an argument about evaluating service in terms of cost -- as a rough stand-in for level of effort -- rather than discrete actions/visits (a different alternative measure might be staff person-hours). But Heaney spitballs to come up with "abortion" (presumably meaning "direct fees for abortion services billed to patients out-of-pocket/insurance") as 20% of PP's "money" (gross receipts?) without any indication of how those patient fees relate to how much the organization spends to perform abortions (e.g. are some costs subsidized by donors?). – Alex P Jul 13 '17 at 16:44
  • 6
    ... i.e. that chart could mean anything from "each abortion comes with an upcharge that pays for 100 pap smears for low-income clients" to "clients pay, on average, only half the actual procedure cost for an abortion, and donors pick up the tab for the rest." – Alex P Jul 13 '17 at 16:54
  • 1
    And then, we should ask: So what, if this claim indeed true? Is abortion a bad thing? Is it a necessary advance to society? Is it a good thing? What's the problem if this is, indeed, true? – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Jul 14 '17 at 13:02
  • 1
    @T.sar This isn't the place for that discussion, no matter how much I'd agree that PP probably would absolutely love it if they didn't have to perform any abortions because no women needed to have one. But until that blessed utopia is among us, they'll provide to those who need. – Shadur Jul 15 '17 at 9:54
9

Planned Parenthood does not break down its revenues by service in its annual reports.

Factcheck.org writes:

Planned Parenthood [...] doesn’t track the total number of pregnant women it serves.

All calculations are therefore highly speculative, meaning they cannot be verified. For example, the calculations assume an average cost per procedure, where the costs are on a sliding scale and where we do not know the percentage of subsidized procedures, which would greatly affect revenue numbers.

In addition, the claim is misleading in that it calculates the expenditures (cost per service rendered) as a fraction of annual revenue. The math is correct, but the explanation is not. The money does not "come from," it "goes to" these services.

  • 2
    They don't report how many pregnant woman they serve, but they reported that they performed 331,796 abortions in 2009. The affiliate performing the abortion gets corresponding revenue from a combination of out-of-pocket, insurance, and taxpayer funding. – DavePhD Jul 13 '17 at 12:46
  • 2
    @DavePhD revenues represent money coming in. It is misleading to count services rendered as revenues, by definition. For example, a non-profit that feeds the homeless may receive governmental funding as revenue, but it is not that they receive revenue from feeding the homeless. Planned Parenthood discloses their revenues in the cited report. The calculated numbers are something like a percentage of revenue spent on a particular service (around 20%). – denten Jul 13 '17 at 20:21
  • 1
    The clinics charge a price for the abortion. Here is a fee schedule for Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region: plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-memphis-tennessee/… The minimum price is $600. Note that the terms "Fee Structure" and "prices" are used, so this is revenue that Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region actually gets. Some people do get discounts, but the study in my answer says only 10% of people get any kind of discount from the clinic. – DavePhD Jul 13 '17 at 22:53
  • 1
    This answer misses the point of the question as originally worded (I reverted some overzealous editing), which is whether this estimate is reasonable given the lack of official figures. I already knew the estimate would be speculative. How does the figure from the other answer that only 10.2% of women get any discount affect your last paragraph? – Andres Riofrio Jul 14 '17 at 18:07
  • The 10.2% figure applies to national facilities in general as per cited study. I have not seen the figure for Planned Parenthood in particular and it is not mentioned in the calculations performed in the claim. – denten Jul 14 '17 at 18:27
6

James J. Heaney slightly corrects his information in a footnote, saying $625 instead of $650 and 19% instead of 20%.

That $625 is approximately correct can be verified by Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, which discloses their abortion fees:

Fee Structure:

Total prices for the procedures including the initial 1st day cost of $275 are:

•Medication Abortions (5 -10 weeks, 0 days).......... $600
•In-Clinic Abortions (5 -11 weeks, 6 days)...............$600
•In-Clinic Abortions (12 -13 weeks, 6 days).............$700
•In-Clinic Abortions (14-15 weeks, 6 days)..............$750
•IV Sedation (optional).............................................$160

It is possible in some cases for the woman to get a discount from the clinic, but according to At What Cost? Payment for Abortion Care by U.S. Women only 10.2% of women get any discount.

  • 3
    The study you cite does not mention Planned Parenthood. The 10.2% figure might be completely different for their patients. – denten Jul 14 '17 at 18:24
  • 2
    @denten The study is by the Guttmacher Institute, which was a part of Planned Parenthood, but is now an independently incorporated entity. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guttmacher_Institute I suppose it's possible they only studied other organizations' clinics, but that's very far fetched. – DavePhD Jul 14 '17 at 19:37
  • 2
    To be fair, one of the three authors is from Guttmacher. The methods section does not indicate which facilities they sampled from: "We used purposive sampling, selecting facilities specifically based on their characteristics, in particular, their geographical diversity and wide range in gestational ages at which they provide abortion care. The facilities were located in major cities in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas." – denten Jul 14 '17 at 20:23
  • @denten right, the lead author to whom correspondence should be addressed – DavePhD Jul 14 '17 at 20:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .