U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Planned Parenthood performed hundreds of thousands of abortions in a recent year while fielding hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars--in violation of federal law.
Planned Parenthood has been under fire from Republican quarters in the wake of stealth videos showing its representatives talking about providing fetal tissue to individuals posing as medical researchers. And the day the Texas Republican piped up, the GOP-majority Senate was debating whether to shift federal aid from Planned Parenthood to other health care providers.
Cornyn said in an Aug. 3, 2015, tweet brought to our attention by a reader: "In FY 2014 Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions while receiving $528 million from taxpayers, in violation" of "the Hyde amendment."
Later in the day, after our initial inquiry, Cornyn deleted the tweet and posted a new one that left out mention of the Hyde amendment while saying that in 2013, Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions; and in fiscal year 2014 received $528 million from taxpayers.
Cornyn’s spokesman, Drew Brandewie, said by email that Cornyn wrote the new tweet because "the timeframe for the data is inconsistent and presented in a confusing way in the" latest annual report from Planned Parenthood, "and it’s ambiguous as to whether or not federal funding is being directly used for or indirectly subsidizing abortions."
Separately, Cornyn left in place this similar tweet he’d posted Aug. 2, 2015:
We asked how Cornyn concluded Planned Parenthood received such money in violation of the Hyde amendment, which struck us as a potentially consequential no-no. Cornyn’s office did not say.
The Hyde amendment refers to longstanding language barring federal funding for most abortions; the first version of the provision, named after its original sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill, passed into law in 1976. Texas is among more than 30 states to limit state funding of abortions in accord with the federal restrictions, according to a 2009 report by the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and advocates on issues related to reproductive health. The Hyde language does not single out specific groups barred from getting funds.
Let’s cover Cornyn’s abortion count, then turn to the money he says Planned Parenthood got in violation of Hyde.
To our inquiry, Brandewie pointed out Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report, published in December 2014. The report says the group provided 327,653 abortions in the 12 months from July 2013 through June 2014--while a headline on another chart says 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services in 2013 consisted of abortions and a footnote to that says the chart actually speaks to the 12 months that ran through September 2013. (Confusing? A bit.)
Overall, the group said, its clinics provided nearly 11 million services to some 2.7 million patients.
The report’s breakdown of other services:
Sexually transmitted infection/disease testing and treatment: 4,470,597
Cancer screening and prevention: 935,573
Pregnancy tests: 1,128,783
Prenatal services: 18,684
Family practice services: 65,464
Adoption referrals: 1,880
Urinary tract infection treatments: 47,264
Brandewie also noted another page in the annual report listing $528.4 million in "government health services grants and reimbursements" in the 12 months through June 2014 as part of nearly $1.15 billion in total funding for the year.
Other language on that page indicates this money reflects payments from Medicaid managed care plans.
We spotted no other indication of what this aid was spent on. But news stories including an Aug. 2, 2015, New York Times article say defenders of Planned Parenthood, taking issue with a move by Senate Republicans to divert the $528 million to other health care providers, say cutting the aid "wouldn't affect the abortions it provides because federal money cannot be used for abortions except for cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in peril," a reference to the Hyde restrictions. The Times’ story continued: "Opponents say squeezing money from Planned Parenthood makes it choose between spending its remaining funds on abortions or other services."
Separately, Liz Clark, spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told us by email: "The vast majority of public funding that Planned Parenthood receives is reimbursement for providing care to patients enrolled in Medicaid--2.2 million patient-visits a year. The rest helps provide basic, preventive care for low-income and uninsured women who have nowhere else to go; and goes toward important programs like teen pregnancy prevention and evidence-based sex education."
Clark also said: "All government funds that Planned Parenthood affiliates receive are restricted for specific purposes. No federal funds can be used for abortion—with the rare exception of Medicaid funds in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is in jeopardy (in accordance with federal law). As a high-quality health care provider, Planned Parenthood fully complies with this restriction and all federal and state laws and regulations."
Asked how many Medicaid-funded abortions were performed by Planned Parenthood over the 12 months within the Hyde restrictions, Clark said she didn’t have a figure.
She otherwise pointed us toward a July 2015 Guttmacher Institute publication, "Publicly Funded Family Planning Services in the United States," presenting detail on contraception services provided nationally. Generally in 2010, Guttmacher said, "subsidized family planning services were provided at 8,409 safety-net health centers—3,165 (38%) were federally qualified health centers, 2,439 (29%) were health department clinics, 1,324 (16%) were other clinics, 817 (10%) were Planned Parenthood centers and 664 (8%) were hospital clinics."
But the document did not speak to abortions funded with government aid. To our query, Guttmacher spokeswoman Rebecca Wind guided us to a March 2012 institute report stating that according to its surveys of state and non-governmental agencies, U.S. states in fiscal 2010 spent $68 million on about 181,000 abortion procedures for low-income women, almost all of that in 17 states tapping their own funds to pay for most or all medically necessary abortions provided to Medicaid recipients. The report said federal aid, available only to pay for abortions permitted under the Hyde amendment, contributed to the cost of 331 of the procedures--including three in Texas, according to a chart.
Cornyn said: "In FY 2014 Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions while receiving $528 million from taxpayers, in violation" of "the Hyde amendment."
This tweet, which Cornyn later deleted, starts with basically accurate figures--the number of abortions provided by Planned Parenthood one recent year and government aid it says it fielded around that time.
But linking the figures is misleading in that such funding largely pays for other health services. It’s also an unsubstantiated leap to say the money came in violation of decades-old restrictions on abortion funding. Far as we could tell, that just isn’t so.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.