Only three percent of the services Planned Parenthood provided in 2013 were abortion procedures but Reuters labeled the whole organization as an “abortion clinic” in an initial report about the shootings at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado last week.
The Nov. 28 article was headlined “Three killed, nine injured in attack on Colorado abortion clinic.” The first sentence of the article reads: “A gunman stormed a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday and opened fire with a rifle in an attack that left three people dead and nine others injured, authorities said.”
Reuters cherry-picked the most controversial aspect of Planned Parenthood’s work to sensationalize the already-newsworthy shooting. The use of “abortion clinic” as a description for Planned Parenthood grabbed iMediaEthics’ attention when reading about the shooting last week and stood in contrast with other news outlets’ coverage.
When asked why the headline, tweet and first paragraph of the article refer to Planned Parenthood as an “abortion clinic” instead of “Planned Parenthood” or some other more accurate identifier, a Reuters spokesperson told IMediaEthics by e-mail:
“Our reference to the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood as an ‘abortion clinic’ was incomplete, but not inaccurate. Subsequent reporting that followed this story revised references to the clinic to more completely characterize their range of health services.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 28, 2015
This is clearly a case where word selection is important. In our view, calling Planned Parenthood an “abortion clinic” is misleading and could be seen as biased given that a very small fraction of Planned Parenthood’s work involves abortion.
— Sydney Smith (@SSmithWriter) November 28, 2015
Planned Parenthood, however, isn’t simply an “abortion clinic.” It offers health care for women and men.
“This year, Planned Parenthood affiliates reached 1.5 million young people and families through sex education and outreach,” the organization’s 2013-2014 annual report reads. “Planned Parenthood educators trained over 18,000 teachers, school staff, and other youth-serving professionals within their communities. Teenage birth, pregnancy and abortion rates are down to their lowest levels in 20 years. These declines are the result of what Planned Parenthood does better than anyone else – provide sex education and birth control.”
According to Planned Parenthood’s report, in 2013 only 3% of its services were “abortion services,” therefore making it a far cry to call it an “abortion clinic.” Based on the numbers, it would make more sense to say that Planned Parenthood is a STI-testing clinic since it provided 3,727,359 STI (sexually-transmitted infection) tests for both women and men or, even more fitting, a pregnancy testing clinic since it provided 1,128,783 pregnancy tests in 2013.
The figures provided say that Planned Parenthood provided 327,653 abortion procedures out of a total of 10,590,433 services which included 487,029 breast exams/breast care, 378,692 pap tests, and 704,079 HIV tests.
Planned Parenthood’s Vice President of Communications Eric Ferrero said in a statement sent to iMediaEthics
“Despite the recent false and discredited accusations about Planned Parenthood, people across the country know who Planned Parenthood is and what we do. The approximately 700 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country are just that: health centers. Every single one provides a wide range of reproductive and sexual health services including STI testing and treatment, birth control, breast exams, Pap tests, well-woman exams, and more — including safe and legal abortion for women if and when they make that decision.
“About 53 percent of Planned Parenthood health centers provide abortion services in addition to other reproductive and sexual health services. No Planned Parenthood health center provides only abortion services.
“One of the lessons of the awful tragedy last week is that words matter. Accuracy matters. Committed, compassionate Planned Parenthood doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and health center staff across the country work every day to keep people healthy and ensure they can live their healthiest lives by providing a wide range of preventive health services.
“Planned Parenthood is proud of the work we do, including providing safe and legal abortion to women if and when they make that decision. We are committed to providing every patient with high-quality, confidential, and nonjudgmental care. The work of our compassionate and highly skilled health center staff makes this possible, and ensures that the communities we serve get the best care possible, every day — no matter what.”
See below a chart from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 report (chart is on page 19) showing the data count for its services.
UPDATE: 12/1/2015 7:07 PM EST With statement from Planned Parenthood