Washington Post Factchecker Zings Planned Parenthood for Misleading Poll Claims on Pending Abortion Bill

WASHINGTON (June 18, 2015) — The Washington Post’s widely read “Fact Checker” column has zinged the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), declaring that the organization was misleading when it claimed, in a June 11 press release, that “a solid 60 percent of voters oppose 20-week [abortion] bans when they understand the real-world impact these laws would have.” The PPAF release attributed that statement to Cecile Richards, who is president of both the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its political arm, PPAF.

In a piece published June 18, 2015, under the byline of Michelle Ye Hee Lee, the Post Fact Checker awarded PPAF “two Pinocchios” on its four-Pinocchio scale of deception.

The PPAF press release was an attack on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, an NRL-backed bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13, and that was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 11, the day of the PPFA release.

The quoted assertion that 60% of the public opposes such legislation was based on a 2013 poll conducted by Hart Research Associates, commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In the poll, Hart purported to show that majorities of Americans did not support banning abortion, even after 20 weeks, in certain specific circumstances.

A number of Hart’s statements about the bill were inaccurate when they were made in 2013, and Hart’s characterizations of the bill depart even more from the current version of the legislation.

The Fact Checker noted that “Americans generally are opposed to abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A 2013 Washington PostABC News poll found 56 percent of voters preferred limiting unrestricted abortion rights to 20 weeks rather than 24 weeks. A 2012 Gallup Poll found 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should generally be legal during the first trimester, but the support dropped to 27 percent in the second trimester and 14 percent in the third trimester. . . The November 2014 Quinnipiac poll found 60 percent of registered voters support a ban after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities.”

Moreover, the Fact Checker said, “The [Hart] poll did not specify that it was asking about terminating a pregnancy 22 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period [equivalent to the 20 weeks post-fertilization age cutoff in the bill] — the dating method that Planned Parenthood and other opponents of the bill use and accept. Moreover, it did not test for the actual bill under consideration, with its exceptions for certain cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother but not for emotional issues. . . this particular [Hart] poll is outdated at best for the 2015 debate. . .”

The Fact Checker concluded that “at least two other national polls” have found “60 percent of Americans support a ban after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape and incest,” and that the Planned Parenthood claim to 60 percent opposition was “misleading.”

The Fact Checker piece also noted, “A Planned Parenthood Action Fund representative did not provide a response on the record.”