Bill O’Reilly’s Fact-Free War on Planned Parenthood

pp-oreillyFox  News host Bill O’Reilly welcomed viewers to last night’s show (1/8/13) with this: “Aborting babies at taxpayers’ expense.”

As he explained:

We have been taking a very hard look at a disturbing situation that may be a major violation–may be–of federal law.

He told viewers that the Hyde Amendment “forbids federal tax dollars from being used for abortions.” So what’s the problem? Planned Parenthood gets federal money, and–well, follow the logic:

Planned Parenthood says it doesn’t use that money for abortion purposes, but that’s hard to believe. In 2011, Planned Parenthood performed 334,000 abortions–close to half of all the abortions performed in the USA.

Well, that’s not close to half of the abortions performed in the United States: In 2007, the latest year the Census Department has figures for, 1.2 million pregnancies were terminated in the U.S., so Planned Parenthood performs about a quarter of U.S. abortions. (O’Reilly seems to be relying on figures from the Center for Disease Control, whose voluntarily reported figures do not include four states, including California, the most populous one.)

O’Reilly went on:

Now, Planned Parenthood will tell you that they perform prenatal services. Yet in 2011, it’s estimated that fewer than 30,000 women received prenatal care from the organization. So who is kidding who here? Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill.

Actually, what Planned Parenthood will tell you is that around 3 percent of the services they provide are abortions–which wouldn’t really qualify as a “mill.” plannedparenthoodAs this graph indicates, most of their work has nothing to do with prenatal care, either. But O’Reilly must think he’s doing a good job of crafting a convincing argument by choosing a big number–334,000–and putting that next to a much smaller number–30,000.

More relevantly, O’Reilly could have compared the number of abortions Planned Parenthood provides to the services it performs involving STDs (4.5 million), contraception (3.4 million) or cancer screening and prevention (1.3 million).

O’Reilly has done this schtick before–claiming last year that Planned Parenthood is “primarily in business to provide abortions.” And this isn’t just about doing O’Reilly-style journalism–he wants government action to result from his misinformation: “We need a congressional investigation into the funding of Planned Parenthood.” Expect to hear more about this from him–and from Republican politicians. 

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.