And John Kyl sentences himself

He claims on the Senate floor that “90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion.” The actual number is 3%. Kyl clarifies: the number “was not intended to be factual statement.”

John Kyl said on the floor of the United States Senate – the world’s greatest deliberative body, we’re told – that “abortion is well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” In fact, it’s under 3%.

Challenged on the lie, Kyl later said that his claim “was not intended to be a factual statement.”

Well, that sums it up, doesn’t it? One of our two great political parties is made up of people whose statements are not intended to be factual.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

40 thoughts on “And John Kyl sentences himself”

  1. Cecile Richards (president of Planned Parenthood) says John Kyl “was mistaken”. I think he was lying.
    Now for a senator to be so misinformed about a subject of debate when the information is easily available would be gross incompetence on his and his staff’s part. After all what does a senator do if not debate? To intentionally lie about the figures is worse.
    I don’t know why I find this shocking. He is a Republican so it is to be expected.

  2. No. The “party” is made up of no such thing. John Kyle is in this instance either knowingly lying or is knowingly exaggerating for dramatic effect. Either is worthy of scorn. But for you to paint with the same broad brush as Kyle is just as shrill and inaccurate. If you’re striving for exactitude try starting with yourself.

  3. Exaggerating for dramatic effect is when someone claims abortion is 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business when it’s really 82%. Saying it’s 90% when it’s actually 3% is usually technically referred to as lying.

  4. The 3% number is a sham. Its based on PP’s self-reported count of “services.” PP counts an abortion as 1 “service.” But counts every monthly refill of birth control pills as 1 “service” as well. So they get to the 3% by doing the math such that a patient who gets birth control pills from them “counts” 12 times per year but a patient getting an abortion “counts” 1 time (obviously there will be some overlap as effective rates on birth control pills are not 100%).

    If you did an accounting of PP’s costs incurred by service you would get a number much, much higher than 3% for abortion. Not sure if it would approach the 90% that Kyl references, but it would be a helluva lot higher than 3%, given the fact that an abortion is a complex, labor-intensive surgical procedure and refilling a monthly prescription for birth control pills generates minimal incremental costs.

    John Kyl may be a liar. But an PP spokesman who claims that abortion accounts for 3% of what they do is a liar too.

  5. ^^^ Um, your math doesn’t make sense. We’re not talking about how much abortion costs PP compared to their other services. We (and Kyl… no E) are discussing how many of PP’s client services include abortion. 3 percent still does not tell us how many abortions they do total (compared to other institutions), but how many abortions they do for their patients compared to other services like prescribing birth control pills or inserting IUDS and the like.

    Nice attempt at trying to distort the argument to make your liar claim, though.

  6. Planned Parenthood is attempting to convey the notion that a miniscule percentage of its activity is related to abortion. They are doing this because they know that the public, while ambivalent on the degree to which abortion should be restricted, is actually strongly against using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.

    So PP uses every accounting gimmick in the book to give the impression that abortion is a minimal part of their overall services. Specifically, they use a counting scheme designed to inflate the impact of non-abortion services and deflate the impact of abortion services in their tally of services provided. But the debate in Congress over the last few weeks is about whether or not PP should be funded. So the relevant tally isn’t some arbitrary count of “services,” but the financial cost of those services.

    Let’s say that in a given afternoon a PP clinic performs one abortion that costs $500 to deliver, and dispenses 19 rounds of birth control pills that collectively cost $100 purchased at bulk from a generics manufacturer. You could count “services” and say that abortion is “only 5% of what PP does.” Or you could choose not to ignore the blindingly obvious fact that abortion accounts for over 80% of the incurred cost of the clinic.

    If you really want to fund those contraceptive prescriptions you can do so by giving a local clinic $100. Indeed, if the general public, which has consistently opposed public funding for abortion, had any kind of factual sense for what PP’s budget actually funds and in what proportions, it almost certainly would clammer for exactly that.

    Money is fungible. The idea that taxpayer monies don’t fund abortions at PP is laughable. The idea that abortion forms less than 5% of PP’s activity, by any meaningful common sense measure of activity, is laughable.

  7. Nice try at changing the subject, sd. Thanks for playing.

    Now, back to the topic: John Kyl told a flat-out lie, and, when called on it, admitted that he hadn’t even been trying to tell the truth. He’s the #2 Republican in the United States Senate. If the whole party isn’t devoted to lying, then why keep him in office?

  8. So don’t normal schlubs get sent to prison for lying to Congress? Reid should at least censure him for lying to the Senate.

  9. When I worked for Planned Parenthood in San Francisco, abortion was a LOT of what we did. We had a party for one of the doctors on the occasion of the thousandth abortion she did. A lot of our floor space was the abortion clinic. That’s forty years ago, but I’m inclined to think with sd that the 3% number reflects something other than the level of effort, or financial weight, of abortion as a part of their service load.

  10. Kyl said: “was not intended to be a factual statement.”

    Rather he was intending to catapult the propaganda.

  11. Sometimes the end does justify the means. Who cares if Kyl is lying. News flash…politicians lie. Hardly a revealing statement, and hardly a Republican trait. The same people who are obsessed with Kyl lying are then ones who ran around frantically trying to make us care that George Bush supposedly lied. Again, who cares. While some are stuck on discussions of Kyl’s honesty and integrity, the great diversion is from the real issue which is that Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of abortions in the U.S. and that they continue to receive federal funding to do so (and oh yeah, to support child prostitution). So excuse someone like SD for changing the subject. When the subject is dumb, people tend to want to move on to the real subject.

  12. @bux– so in what contexts are honesty worth caring about? i know we disagree on most issues but i never imagined the value of honesty would be one of them. i suppose when i saw you linking planned parenthood to child prostitution i should have realized that honesty is irrelevant to you.

    i don’t think we have anything left to discuss if honesty is that irrelevant to you because it is not possible to have a principled discussion with someone for whom facts and truth have no meaning.

  13. Two posts below I find a wonderful embedding (embeddedousness) of Sir Humphrey explaining that he did a deal. YouTube is not about to let me get away after watching just one clip, so I clicked and found Sir Humphrey sentencing Senator Kyl

    And that was some sentence. I carefully counted 6 commas and three semi-colons. Of course the preceding sentence “was not intended to be a factual statement.”

  14. navarro, I do value honesty. But unlike you, I apparently value human life more. If someone breaks into my house, says he want to kill my daughter, and asks where she is hiding, I’m gonna lie about the fact that she is hiding in the closet. Is that wrong?

  15. navarro….

    You can read Bux for his false bravado about dishonesty…
    Or you can read him for his tuant emotional anger.

    Try it that other way. He then reads like someone realizes he has lost yet another battle on abortion. Someone who realizes that even if all funds were cut to PP, that liberals would still see to its existence. And that even if abortion is someday made illegal in the US, George Soros and other well-funded liberals, will fly woman out of country for free, to a place where they can legally have an abortion.

    In other words: Bux realizes he can’t win this abortion issue. Ever. He’ll never be able to force women to toe the line like good bitches and whelp on demand. That’s a bitter pill for his manly genes to swallow. Fundamentally, that drives reason and morality out of his brain. Worse men then Bux have caved to that sort of inner pressure, and fashioned bombs, and fired bullets at doctors. Be grateful Bux takes his rage out for a walk wearing words of false bravado.

    So you see?

    Once you get the source of Bux’s anger out in the open…
    You can better lasso why he regards honesty as something sold to the highest bidder.

  16. Bux, if someone does that at my house, I’d shoot the guy. Is shooting abortion doctors wrong?

  17. Bux, ends justify the means?
    By your logic, nothing you say here has any truth or meaning.
    A waste of bits, since no lie ever is too big in the service of ending abortions.

    All the statistics about ‘abortions causing X’ we can assume are lies.
    All the correlations you quote about anything have any credence.

    Your logic is the same logic that justifies killing abortion doctors in church.

  18. why are liberals so concerned about abortion doctors being killed but not about unborn babied being killed?

  19. Why do conservatives shy away from telling the truth when asked a simple question?

    Oh yeah, you’ve covered that already. You might want to call it a day, Bux. The trick for guys like you is to duck, dodge and lie without admitting that you are doing so.

  20. Do those on this thread offering such low-quality, pathetic commentary get embarrassed over their pathetic rhetoric? Wow.

    Let us hope that is not the cream of the crop for GOP defenders.

  21. Bux, I’m not particularly a liberal, but I am an abortion-on-demand guy, so maybe I can take a shot at your question: I don’t buy ‘unborn babies’. I think humanness happens after birth, as a product of the interaction of the newborn with its environment. Before birth, I see potential, and parents’ hopes – but I don’t see cognition, or ability to feel dread, or awareness of other humans. So I’m not particularly concerned about the death of a fetus, except for the loss which its parents (if they want it) can feel at its loss. If I did think ‘unborn babies’, I would share your views. But I don’t, so I don’t.

  22. Changing the subject? Oh OK. Then lets use you as an illustration. Since your a Democrat and you like to to use individual instances of poor behavior to plaster an entire party then I guess it’s safe to grab any individual scandalous behavior by any politician with a “D” in front of their name and apply that to the entire party. Money hidden in a freezer, lying und.. oh hell I could list examples all day.
    The statement in your post is at best bush league and intentionally inflammatory so I suppose all Democrats are now shrill exaggerating flame throwers. Is this the new civility? Way to keep it classy Kleiman..

  23. Steve, if Rep. Jefferson had been the Democratic Whip, and if they’d let him hold on to that post, that would have been a reproach to the Democrats. But in fact Nancy Pelosi quickly kicked him off his seat on Ways & Means. That’s how grown-ups behave.

    But presumably your comments, and Bux’s, weren’t intended to be factual.

  24. @bux–this is the last time i plan on responding to any of your posts. i just want to point out that your attempted counterexample–“If someone breaks into my house, says he want to kill my daughter, and asks where she is hiding, I’m gonna lie about the fact that she is hiding in the closet. Is that wrong?”–does not meet the standard i set in my farewell to you of holding a principled discussion with a liar as it is impossible to consider a discussion held under duress as being principled.

    to put that another way, i respectfully decline any further participation in your hallucination.

  25. I don’t understand how anybody can excuse or justify Kyl’s behavior here. The man just made himself look like either a liar or a fool (or both) and we’re supposed to just be ok with this? Politicians will be politicians just like boys will be boys? I know this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it certainly won’t be the last. But to have an outlook that condones this type of behavior is just depressing. If we have no standards for our elected officials then what right do we have to complain about anything they do? Just call it what it is and stop making excuses for the man.

  26. I’ve painted the GOP with a broad brush! Oy. So why do I think “it is to be expected” that a high ranking Republican politician will lie at the drop of a hat? It is because if they told the truth they would never get elected. The truth is that the GOP has one constituancy, the hand full of billionaires who fund and direct their operation. The goal is to make those billionaires richer and more powerful at the expense of the other 99.9%* of the citizens of America.
    So they lie. Or I should say LIE! To string togeather enough suckers and single issue voters to stay in the saddle. They lie that reducing taxes on the rich will create jobs when it just contracts the economy and piles up debt (that the middle class will have to pay some day). They lie that wars are about freedom when they are about making the rich richer and stiffling political desent. They lie about unions claiming that unions hurt the economy when strong unions make the economy strong by building the middle class and providing broad based economic security. They lie that a gun under every bed will make people safe when it is obvious that guns are one of the most dangerous things to have in a household. They lie when they claim to care about children and families because the policies they embrace always seem to be to the detriment of the majority of families and children. And they lie when they claim to care about abortion. Abortion is just a hot button issue that has a strong block vote for the GOP. If they really cared about abortion they would support effective family planning, improved health care services, improved financial security for women and families,… as the rest of the civilized world does.
    So why does the GOP lie by commission and/or ommission? For the same reason con-men from Nigeria lie to get you to give them your bank account number, because if they told you they plan to steal your money you wouldn’t give them the time of day. The GOP lies so all of the confused and frightened and dissillusioned Christians, fiscal consevatives, libertarians, second amendment fanatics, paranoid anti-imagants, paranoid states rights fanatics and any other voting block they can figure out how to get stirred up and to the polls so long as what they care about won’t touch their bottom line of making the rich (remember the rich?) WAY RICHER.
    And since it’s suckers they want the bigger the lie the better. So why not say 90% of Planned Parethood’s activities are abortion, right there on the senate floor? Yeah, that’s the ticket, 90…eh 99%. Yeah 99%.
    All politicians exagerate for effect and even lie sometimes but the GOP’s whole house is built on the BIG LIE ’cause otherwise who would ever vote for them? They even pay guys to post messages on blog sites like this. Hi guys!! We see you.

    *not meant to be a factual statement but is pretty close give or take 😉

  27. Seems to me that, if abortions are only about 3% of what Planned Parenthood does, they ought to be able to spin off an entirely privately funded subsidiary to do the abortions, no problem. The cost would be almost trivial. And it would resolve a lot of PR problems. So, why don’t they?

    Yeah, I’d say this is a bit of verbal misdirection: What percentage of PP’s budget is spent on abortion? Let’s do a rough estimate:

    According to Planned Parenthood, the organization performs a bit over a quarter of a million abortions a year. (Chart on page 7.)

    Yes, this is about 3% of “services”. OTOH, per the same chart, “Total unduplicated clients served” is under a third as many as “services”, and I think we can safely say that PP isn’t giving many women two abortions in the same year. So, thus far we can say that, of the individual people who walk in off the street, it’s more like 10%, not 3%, who get abortions.

    Now, at the low end, early and no complications, an abortion costs about $3-500. Being conservative at a quarter million and $300, that’s $75 million. My understanding is that Planned Parenthood’s budget is in the neighborhood of a billion a year, so that would be at least 7.5%, not 3%.

    Looking for more recent numbers, I find Planned Parenthood’s latest report. Ok, so their abortions average more $500 than $300. And numbers were up a bit, too. So we’re talking 15% of their budget.

    Now, that’s not 90%, and shame on Kyle. But it ain’t 3% either, and shame on people who want to pretend that abortion isn’t a big part of what Planned Parenthood does.

  28. Brett, I haven’t looked it us as I don’t care, but I find it hard to believe that such an organization – under a microscope and facing multiple daily threats – would lie about such a controversial part of their programming.

  29. The US crime rate started falling in 1994, and has been dropping ever since. The single strongest correlation to this drop in crime is the legalization of abortion 21 years earlier. Abortions reduce crime and reduce social costs in the long run. Sad, but true. Anyone who rails against abortion, without a feasible plan (i.e. besides abstinence) to either reduce unwanted pregnancies or make the resulting children somehow wanted, is just a stupid ideological shill. Planned Parenthood does MORE to address the “unwanted child” issue than all the conservative politicians put together.

    I would tend to believe Brett’s 10%-15% figures. Certainly more than 3%, but nowhere near 90%. I’d still call Kyl’s statement a baldface lie. Yes, national politicians – on both sides of the aisle – are almost nothing but bags of lies. Does that make the lying any more “right” than having an abortion? Should we condone either one? NO. We should address the problem head-on. Drop the puritanical nonsense about abstinence, recognize sexuality in modern culture, and prepare young people for the realities of sex. Contraceptives STOP pregnancy and abortions.

    Oh, and stop letting Kyl act like a spoiled 5-year old, too. Give him consequences for stating baldface lies into the public record.

    In the end, the abortion issue is just like the drug issue: Criminalizing it doesn’t stop it or solve any associated problems, it just doubles down on the damage. Is that really what we want?

  30. Obviously there are different ways to count up abortion as a percentage of service. You could count by clients served, or by cost of procedure, or maybe percentage of doctors’ and nurses’ time, or some other plausible metric. So then let’s say for argument that we agree that abortions make up 15% of Planned Parenthood’s services, rather than 3%.

    Would that make Kyl’s 90% claim any more defensible? Um, no. 90% is not 15%. It’s still a baldfaced lie.

  31. OTOH, the 3% claim is a lie too. Who put that one out, again? Does anyone know the real truth? No. I’ve done medical IT and medical data analysis, and I agree with Brett’s assessment of PP’s own published data as the best approximation of the real truth, FWIW.

    I think the goal here is to reduce abortion. Information and education about sex and sexuality, and availability of contraceptives, are by far the most effective tools we have to make that happen. According to almost any reasonable assessment, Planned Parenthood is at least 85% just that: Education, information, and access to contraceptives. It’s sad and ironic that they are vilified for the horror of the other 15%, which is still a mind-numbing epidemic of people using abortion as last-ditch birth control.

    The other 15%, i might add, is rather intractable. We’ve made incredible improvements in early birth survival rates, but until medical science can pull an 8-week-old unborn baby out of the womb and make it thrive, there’s not a darned thing in the world anyone can do to stop abortion. The pregnant woman, or people willing to hurt her, are the only ones with any real control.

    Finally, the absurdity of it all. Has anyone done their homework, and come up with any estimates of how many spontaneous abortions occur?

  32. Ok, first off, I wouldn’t say that Planned Parenthood is lying, as such. They’re, as I said, engaged in misdirection. Counting each individual time somebody comes to them over the course of a year, and they do something, be it give them a brochure, a month’s supply of contraceptives, or an abortion, only 3 percent of the time it’s an abortion. Most of the time it’s a brochure or a pill or some such. Of course, by this standard, since most people who enter a car dealership walk out without having bought a car, car dealerships aren’t primarily in the business of selling cars… It’s not a definition of “services” most people would use. But they’re open about it, and it’s from their own numbers that you can determine that 15 percent of their budget is abortions. They’re the largest abortion provider in the country, after all.

    Was Kyl lying? A “lie” is generally understood to mean a deliberate untruth, and the ravings of politicians have too little connection to the truth to be “lies”. Did he mean the 90% figure to be believed? Sure. But he didn’t bother to find out what the real figure was.

    I’d call that something different from a lie, and possibly worse. Not so much hostility to the truth, as sheer indifference. PP has enough respect for the truth, or at least enough fear of exposure, to mislead rather than tell a direct untruth.

  33. h4x354xor, you’ve done poor homework. Abortion was not the single largest explanation for the crime drop that began in the mid-1990s. Go back and read Freakonomics again. Or better yet, read another paper by Steve Levitt entitled “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six Factors That Do Not.” The best research indicates that increasing imprisonment rates had the largest impact on the crime drop, explaining about 25% of the total crime drop. Abortion can explain a maximum of only about 10% of the crime drop. It’s interesting that you should bring abortion up as a crime reduction strategy (as sick as that is), when we have plenty of evidence of better crime reduction strategies. Of course for those of us who believe abortion is murder, a suppposed crime-reduction strategy based on more abortions for “unwanted” children is nothing more than a crime-producing strategy since murder is a crime the last time I checked.

  34. Kyl spells his first name “Jon.” Mark probably took the misspelling from the article to which he links, which is from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. The article also fails to provide the 3% figure, but says only that the 90% figure is “inaccurate.” I’ve seen the 3% figure elsewhere, so I am commenting on the accuracy of ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, not on the accuracy of the 3% figure.

  35. Marcel, certainly the reduction in lead exposure was another contributor, but estimates that it accounted for 90% (or even half) of the crime drop are ridiculous. My best guess is that it contributed about the same that abortion did- somewhere around 8 to 10%. Two great books to read on the crime decline are Franklin Zimring’s “The Great American Crime Decline” and Alfred Blumstein’s “The Crime Drop in America”. Don’t try to look for one magic variable that explained the crime decline, most experts agree that it involves a multi-factor explanation.

  36. Uh oh, I’m totally busted by Bux! Indeed, the Levitt analysis assigns about 10% of the crime reduction on legalized abortion. Not the single largest, according to that source. What should my consequence be? No bedtime snack tonight?

    But then, we see another report that claims to explain 50%-90% the fluctuation in crime rates; not just the rise starting in the early 70’s and the acceleration in the early 80’s, but supposedly also the rise and fall in crime in the early 19th century. Wait… which one is true? Does anyone really know the truth? No. In the end, Bux probably nails a fair approximation: “…it involves a multi-factor explanation.” In fact, it’s such a widely fractured, multi-factor explanation, that if any single factor accounts for 10% of the total, it’s a significant single factor. Should we totally ignore the 10% impact that Bux admits abortion has on crime rates, just because it’s only 10%? It cracks me up how conveniently people can either write off 10% as being insignificant, or see 10% as an epidemic, depending.

    I’ll go back to talking directly about the hot button issue: Abortion. Bux still has no answer for the “Defacto Control” issue (and good luck with that one), or a perspective on “natural” abortions. And I haven’t seen a challenge of my claim that education, information, and access to contraceptives are, indeed, the single most effective tools we have to stop abortions. I just wish everyone could get behind that strategy first, before bickering about the rest.

  37. Kyl knew exactly what he was saying, and the reason is obvious, to me anyway.

    Picture a court in progress:

    Prosecutor to Defendant: “Did you, or did you not,……….?
    Defendant(twitching, sweating): ” Uh……..”
    Defense attorney: OBJECTION! Irrelevant!
    Judge: Sustained, the jury will disregard prosecutor’s question

    Right, and the Tea Party has their new talking points, and as so many studies have shown when outlandish claims are rebutted by factual, empirical evidence the response is universally, “Liars.”

  38. Brett Bellmore wrote: “I’d call that something different from a lie, and possibly worse. Not so much hostility to the truth, as sheer indifference.”

    You’re channeling philosopher Harry Frankfurt, who gave the label “bullshit” to this indifference to truth. My favorite quote from his essay “On Bullshit”: “Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

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