Perhaps James O’Keefe’s release yesterday of damaging investigative videos against National Public Radio (read more here, here, and here) had nothing to do with it.

Or perhaps a desperate NPR is suddenly trying to appear more fair and balanced in the face of potentially losing $90 million in taxpayer funding. You decide.

One day NPR journalists promote Planned Parenthood’s “only 3% of  our business comes from abortion” lie – the day before the sting video was released – and the next day they fact check and correct the lie. First the Day 1 transcript, on March 7:

Julie Rover, NPR health policy correspondent: And it’s, you know, worth pointing out that abortion services, according to PP’s annual report, are 3% of the services that they provide. The vast majority of services they provide are preventive care services….

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List: Well, it is the biggest abortion franchise in the nation. One in 10 of its clients receive abortions. If you are pregnant, 98% of its services go towards abortion. A quarter of abortions occurring in this nation are performed by PP clinics….

Neal Conan, host: They provide, as our caller just said, services – well, a lot of services in addition to abortions. Abortions compromise about 3% of their activities, as Julie Rovner told us…. PP may be the nation’s largest abortion provider, but that’s a small part of what it does. It’s also the nation’s largest provider of preventive health care for women and teens….

Dannenfelser: But I have to say, one in 10 of PP clients receives an abortion. This is not – this 3% figure about how much abortion that they do is simply not reflective of the import of what abortion is in the array of services…. When one in 10 clients actually receives an abortion, that is a much more revealing figure than 3% , because those other figures are bundled within a client….

Conan: And, Sarah Stoesz, I wanted to ask you – there was our previous guest, Marjorie Dannenfelser, who said that 1/10 of – one in 10 of the patients who visit PP – gets an abortion. Is that correct?

Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota: No, that’s not correct. That’s a made-up number. In fact, it’s about 3% of our patients are abortion care patients. The rest of our patients are there for basic reproductive health services, family planning, cancer screenings and treatment, so on and so forth. So she’s completely wrong about that.

Conan: She said that 3% number is made up….

Stoesz: Well, she can say that all she wants, but that doesn’t make it true. We do keep patient data, and we are audited regularly by outside auditors. And so the data are there in addition to our own auditors looking at our books. We’re also audited by the Title X program. So there are plenty of outside eyes on this.

That was March 7. On March 8, the day O’Keefe’s 1st video was released, came this grudging correction

Conan: Finally, several of you wrote during yesterday’s show about PP, about the conflict over what percentage of the agency’s clients receive abortions. We’ve asked NPR’s heal policy correspondent Julie Rovner to join us again. Julie, always nice to have with you us.And we heard two figures from opposing sides yesterday, 3% and 10%, who’s right?

Rovner: Well, the conflict is really that PP keeps its statistics according to the percent of those services that are provided, not according to how many people get what. So it turns out that there are – that indeed, abortions are 3% of the services provided, although – and that was what, I think, Sarah Stoesz from PP kind of misspoke when she said it was 3% of patients who come in get abortions.

It is actually a little bit closer to the 10% that Marjorie Dannenfesler suggested, because there are about 3 million patients who come in. There are about 300,000 abortions provided.

Now, you can’t really divide that because that’s not how they keep their statistics. But indeed, that – those are the actual statistics. Three million patients, 300,000 abortions, but you have to contrast that to more than a million pregnancy tests and all kinds of other services provided. So indeed, it’s a small amount in terms of percentage of services provided.

Conan: And the difference might be that the same woman who later received an abortion also got a pregnancy test and counseling and some other services.

Rovner: Absolutely. So many of those patients are getting more than one services and who – many of the patients who get an abortion are probably getting other services as well.

“A little bit closer”? 3 million divided by 300,000 is actually 10%. Furthermore, and the bigger point, as pointed out, over 35% of PP’s income comes from abortion. NPR would be fair and balanced to report that statistic as well.

[Photo by Eric Scheidler’s son Sam of Eric’s daughter Ada]

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