PunditFact Rates As “False” Conservative Media's Claim That Cecile Richards Said 86% Of Planned Parenthood's Revenue Comes From Abortion Services

In the wake of the September 29 hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on federal funding of Planned Parenthood, several Fox News hosts and conservative pundit Dana Loesch claimed that Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood's revenue comes from providing abortion services. PunditFact examined Richards' testimony and rated that claim “false.”

House Committee Asks Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards About Health Care Provider's Funding

Planned Parenthood's Richards Answered Questions At Hearing About Organization's Services, Funding, And Revenues. On September 29, Cecile Richards testified at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing about Planned Parenthood operations and finances. Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) declared that the hearing was aimed at investigating the $500 million in federal funding Planned Parenthood receives for Medicaid reimbursements and family-planning services. [USA Today, 9/29/15]

During Hearing, Rep. Cynthia Lummis Asks About Planned Parenthood's Revenue From Abortion. During the House hearing Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) asked Richards about Planned Parenthood's revenues, claiming that 86 percent of the organization's “nongovernment revenue” comes from abortion services (emphasis added):

CYNTHIA LUMMIS: OK. Well, let's talk about Planned Parenthood revenue from abortions. If you look at the 2013 statistics that you report, abortions from -- if you -- from revenue would have been over 86 percent of your nongovernment revenue. How do you explain this massive disparity between the amount of revenue you collect from abortion and the fact that you only report 3 percent of your services being abortion?

CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I think there's two questions you've sort of mixed in there, so let me try to address both. One is, as we've already stated, federal money does not go for abortions, so the federal portion that we were discussing is reimbursement for preventive care services. I think the other -- so that's why they're not -- those numbers don't -- aren't connected.

LUMMIS: How many -- can you tell me how many of your affiliates receive the majority of their revenue from abortion?

RICHARDS: I don't know that answer.

LUMMIS: Could you get it for me?

RICHARDS: I'll talk to my team.

LUMMIS: Thanks.

RICHARDS: But I do think it's important to understand that abortion procedures are probably more expensive than some other procedures that we -- that we provide, which might -- you know, might explain what you're trying to get at. [Federal News Service, 9/29/15, via Nexis]

Conservative Media Falsely Claim Richards Admitted That 86% Of Planned Parenthood's Revenue Comes From Abortion Services

Conservative Radio Host Dana Loesch: Richards “Is Forced To Concede That 86% Of Planned Parenthood's Revenue Is From Abortion.” On September 29, Dana Loesch reacted to Richards' appearance before the House committee by tweeting:

[Twitter.com, 9/29/15]

Fox News' Eric Bolling: “We Found Out Today That Planned Parenthood's Revenues, 90 Percent Of The Revenues Come From Abortion.” During the September 29 edition of Fox's The Five, co-host Eric Bolling discussed Richards' testimony earlier that day and erroneously claimed that “90 percent of [Planned Parenthood's] revenues” come from abortion. Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers compounded Bolling's error by incorrectly adding that the figure was actually “86 percent” (emphasis added):

ERIC BOLLING: Only in America would the head of Planned Parenthood make 20 percent more than the president of the United States, $500,000 for Cecile Richards, $400,000 for the president. OK, it's crazy. The other part of the numbers, they -- we found out today that Planned Parenthood's revenues, 90 percent of the revenues come from what?

KIRSTEN POWERS: Abortion.

BOLLING: Abortion, right?

POWERS: Eighty-six percent.

BOLLING: So it's a very profitable group, right?

POWERS: Yeah.

BOLLING: So they make money on abortions, they could survive without federal funding for abortions, right? I got this right so far?

POWERS: I think so, yeah.
[Fox News, The Five, 9/29/15]

Fox & Friends Host Steve Doocy Claims 86 Percent Of Planned Parenthood's Revenue Comes From Abortions. During the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy spoke to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham about Richards' testimony and claimed that  “86% of Planned Parenthood's revenue comes from abortions,” to which Ingraham replied,  “Of course it does” (emphasis added):

LAURA INGRAHAM: Yeah, I mean, this is when you just have no other card to play. Let's remember, these same liberals were more upset about Cecil the lion, than they were about Cecile at Planned Parenthood, okay? So Cecile at Planned Parenthood, oh, the poor damsel in distress who makes half a million dollars a year while the taxpayers shoveled $500 million a year to Planned Parenthood. And she's being put upon because she has to defend these barbaric practices? That is a pathetic and transparent attempt to shift blame away from the barbaric practices of the abortuaries across this country and Planned Parenthood and towards someone like a Jason Chaffetz. It's so obvious. Anyone who is a serious individual knows what's happening and they don't have a leg to stand on.

BRIAN KILMEADE: He also talked about his wife and his mom.

INGRAHAM: Exactly.

STEVE DOOCY: 86 percent of Planned Parenthood's revenue comes from abortions.

INGRAHAM: Of course it does.

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/30/15]

PunditFact Debunked Loesch's “86%” Claim About Richards' Testimony And Rated It “False”

PunditFact Rates As “False” The Claim That Richards Said 86 Percent Of Planned Parenthood's Revenue Comes From Abortion Services. On October 5, the Tampa Bay Times' PunditFact examined Richards' testimony and found no evidence that the Planned Parenthood president “sa[id], or conced[ed] that 86 percent of [their] revenue is from abortion,” rating Loesch's claim as “False” (emphasis added):

Loesch is describing the Sept. 29 meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which included some tough questioning of Richards.

At one point, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., asked Richards a series of questions about the number of Planned Parenthood's clinics, whether it conducts mammograms (Planned Parenthood typically refers women to outside clinics for those), and the claim that just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are abortion-related.

Lummis asked Roberts about Planned Parenthood's 2013-14 annual report, which she said included statistics that abortions “would have been over 86 percent of your non-government revenue.”

“How do you explain this massive disparity between the amount of revenue you collect from abortion, and the fact that you only report 3 percent of your services being abortion?” Lummis asked.

We have to stop and make clear that Lummis asked about non-government revenue, which is not what Loesch tweeted. (Loesch could have made that distinction and kept within her 140-character limit, in case you were wondering.)

Dropping the words “non-government” make a major difference, which we will discuss in a moment. But first back to Richards' answer.

Richards at first responded by saying those numbers are not connected because federal money doesn't cover abortions. (That's correct, except in cases of Medicaid funds in instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother). Lummis then pressed for how many Planned Parenthood affiliates receive the majority of their revenue from abortion, and Richards said she didn't know but would talk to her team about getting the answer.

Then Richards went back to Lummis' original question and said, “But I do think it's important to understand that abortion procedures are probably more expensive than some other procedures that we -- that we provide, which might, you know, might explain what you're trying to get at.”

You can read the complete transcript here. But what's clear in our reading is that Richards conceded nothing other than that abortions are relatively expensive procedures compared to Planned Parenthood's other works.

A different line of inquiry came up on this point in the third hour of the hearing. Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., tried to ask Richards how much revenue comes from abortion services, but she said she couldn't give him a ballpark.

Then Russell walked through an estimate for how he extrapolated the revenue that abortion brings in. He used Planned Parenthood's own estimates for a surgical abortion (up to $1,500) and the abortion pill (up to $800), and then multiplied each by the number of reported abortions (over 327,000) to get a range of $261 million to $491 million in ballpark revenue from those procedures.

Depending on the cost used, the ballpark abortion revenues “would come to 40 percent or 22 percent” of total revenue reported by Planned Parenthood affiliates of $1.145 billion in 2013-14, Russell said. (This method has been used by anti-abortion groups over the years.)

Now we're from 86 percent to 40 or 22 percent. Either way, Richards interrupted, saying that was inaccurate.

[...]

Our ruling

Loesch said Richards was “forced to concede that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood's revenue is from abortion.”

At a U.S. House hearing, Richards said abortions are expensive compared to other health services offered by Planned Parenthood. But we found no evidence of her saying, or conceding, that 86 percent of revenue is from abortion. At one point in the same meeting, she said an even lower estimate for abortion revenues was “too high.”

On top of that, Loesch describes the reported statistic incorrectly by dropping “non-government.” That phrase makes all the difference.

We rate the claim False.
[PunditFact, 10/5/15]