Cornyn Won't Take "Nickel Tour" of Planned Parenthood

Sen. John Cornyn will not be “taking the nickel tour” of any Planned Parenthood branch, his office said Wednesday, in response to an offer by one of the organization’s Texas branches to arrange an informational visit.

But his office did request statistics from Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region following questions the senator fielded at Monday’s Texas Tribune TribLive event, a spokeswoman for the family planning and abortion provider said. In that interview, Cornyn was unwilling to distance himself from the recent controversial and non-factual claim made by his colleague, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, that 90 percent of services offered by Planned Parenthood are abortions. The actual number, Planned Parenthood says, is 3 percent.

“I’m not so sure,” Cornyn responded, when Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith suggested Kyl’s claims had been repudiated. “… I went on Planned Parenthood’s website yesterday to see if I could get some good information. I came up empty.” 

Statistics on abortion rates aren’t front and center on Planned Parenthood’s website. It takes a quick perusal of the organization’s annual report — clearly linked on plannedparenthood.org — to find them. Planned Parenthood reported treating 3 million patients in 2008-09; of the services it provided, 3 percent were abortions, 36 percent were contraception-related, 31 percent were STD tests or treatment and 17 percent were cancer screenings.

Cornyn also said in Monday's interview that said he’s been told 98 percent of the services Planned Parenthood offers to pregnant women are abortion-related.

 

Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman with Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said she “can’t imagine” where Cornyn's number comes from. She said she’s not even sure Planned Parenthood keeps such a statistic, because many of the women who come in for treatment of a variety of medical issues, from urinary tract infections to STD screenings and breast health exams, aren’t given pregnancy tests. “That’s really hard to track,” she said.

But Alex Albright, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas School of Law and board chairwoman of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said that regardless of what the figure is, Planned Parenthood isn’t a big prenatal care provider; pregnant women who show up there are generally seeking pregnancy tests or abortions.

During the question and answer portion of the Tribune event, Albright, who knows Cornyn because of her long-standing role on a Texas Supreme Court advisory committee, offered the senator statistics on the family planning provider’s services, and invited him for a visit.

“It’s like he was trying to make us sound like Planned Parenthood is some secret organization,” Albright said in an interview Wednesday. “... I’m afraid he doesn’t really want to know what we do.” 

Cornyn responded to Albright on Monday, saying he was “interested in learning more.” His office has since reviewed statistics from Planned Parenthood that the senator finds very concerning, his staff said, including how much of the organization’s revenue comes from abortions (more than a third, Cornyn staffers estimate), and how rarely it refers women to adoption agencies. In 2009, Cornyn’s staff says, Planned Parenthood performed 332,278 abortions, and referred women to adoption agencies 977 times.

“Sen. Cornyn is morally opposed to abortion,” spokeswoman Jessica Sandlin said. “Planned Parenthood performs hundreds of thousands of abortions each year. So no, Sen. Cornyn will not be taking the nickel tour at any Planned Parenthood centers."

 

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