Abortion is an emotional topic, and it doesn't help the discussion when either side introduces misleading and blatantly wrong facts. Last week, as the government neared a shutdown, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) was speaking on the floor of the Senate about his opposition to funding Planned Parenthood because abortions are "well over 90 percent" of what they do.
The reaction was swift as individuals and organizations, including Planned Parenthood, pointed out Kyl's massive misstatement.
According to data from Planned Parenthood, abortion procedures account for 3 percent of their total services, with STD testing and treatment and contraception tying for the top spot with 35 percent each.
In response, Kyl's answer was that his remark was "not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."
Kyl's factual faux pas has now made him a target of the national entertainment media, including Jon Stewart, who have taken liberties with his original comment as well as his explanation.103 comments on this story
Yet some also point out that despite Kyl's error, perhaps Planned Parenthood could be clearer with their numbers as well. Ben Smith at Politico.com notes that the Planned Parenthood release notes that in 2009 they provided "nearly 11.4 million medical services for three million people," with the number of abortions at 332,278.
Assuming one abortion per person, 11 percent of clients served received abortions. Planned Parenthood reports the number of abortions (332,278) compared to the total number of medical services (11.4 million) as 3 percent — two different ways to review what Planned Parenthood does. But both numbers are a far cry from Kyls 90 percent.