Pod people: Theodicy, pinnochios and the war on women

Last week was not one of the best for the mainstream media. I just wrote a lengthy screed about how awful the coverage, or the lack thereof, was about an Indiana Senate candidate, the administration’s handling of a terrorist attack by Muslim extremists in Libya and a so-called “war on women.” You know which one didn’t receive much coverage from most outlets and which ones did. And you can hear me talk about it on this week’s Crossroads podcast.

The only thing I will add is that the mainstream media missed an opportunity to talk about religion in a mature manner because of their single-minded focus on horserace politics. What I wish we would have seen is what some alternative media outlets excelled at this past week, looking at theodicy and different theological approaches to the question of why good or bad things happen. By wanting to push a political narrative, the media lost the opportunity to educate, inform or even just reflect the values of the communities they seek to serve. And I can’t help but think it’s a great example of why the media have lost so much trust in the public they seek to profit from.

Anyway, I don’t want to spend too much time harshing on the horribly biased week the media had. I had figured I’d have to write a “Got News?” piece about the failure of the media to call out President Obama for a particular statement he’s been making quite a bit. A statement that turns out not to be true. But the Washington Post‘s “fact checker” looked into the statement:

 “You’ve got issues like Planned Parenthood, where that organization provides millions of women cervical-cancer screenings, mammograms, all kinds of basic health care.”  — President Obama during an interview on “The Tonight Show,” Oct. 24, 2012

The media have also made this claim. I will never forget the ABC News piece that led the nightly news with a fabrication about Planned Parenthood providing mammograms. You can read my piece about it here. It’s a common statement from President Obama, as the Post piece explains, providing multiple examples. And all year long this claim has been repeated by the most powerful people in the country.

Only problem? Well, it’s not true. Or, as the Washington Post puts it:

The problem here is that Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms or even possess the necessary equipment to do so. As such, the organization certainly does not “provide” mammograms in the strict sense. Instead, its clinics provide referrals and direct low-income women toward resources to help pay for the procedure.

It is good to correct inaccurate statements! All year long I have been frustrated by how this inaccurate statement has been bandied about. A casual news reader might be under the impression that Planned Parenthood’s most noteworthy work is the mammograms it supposedly provides (you’ll note how rarely the 300,000 abortions get mentioned or the $500 million in federal subsidies it receives each year get mentioned).

But I want to show how the Post concludes it’s “fact check”:

The president has suggested time and again that Planned Parenthood directly provides mammograms, but the organization only offers referrals and helps women find financial resources for the exams. This suggests an intentional attempt to mislead voters about all the services that are at stake with decisions regarding federal funding for the controversial group.

Obama’s campaign points out that the incumbent was referring in each case to Planned Parenthood’s broader role as a health-care provider. But that doesn’t make his remarks any less inaccurate.

We wavered between Two or Three Pinocchios but ultimately decided the president earns Three Pinocchios for his mammogram remarks on “The Tonight Show.” He has repeated them too many times in one form or another for this to be considered just playing with words to generate a misleading impression.

This is what annoys me — the awarding of a subjective Pinocchio score. Just tell us what the politician said and then tell us whether it comports with the facts. If there are differences of opinion on how to interpret something, go ahead and include that. But this Pinocchio thing? I can do without it.

Also, while the mainstream media is obviously anything but curious about why Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms but does do 300,000+ abortions each year, you can read the pro-life press for more (e.g. “Abortion is 125 to 165 times more profitable than mammography.”) And back to the GotNews? thing … did anyone see mainstream coverage of the pro-life event “Schedule Your Imaginary Mammogram Day“? I didn’t.

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  • Chris M

    Politifact also fact-checked the PP-Mamogram claim last month, where they came to the same conclusion. Surprising that it wasn’t commented upon at the time.

    http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/sep/25/karen-handel/karen-handel-seeks-set-record-straight-komen-plann/

  • Ann

    Mollie,

    ” the $500 million in federal subsidies it receives each year get mentioned”

    Where did you get your numbers? Government funding is a small portion of Planned Parenthoods total funding. The official number for 8 years:

    A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, published May 28, 2010, compiled federal funds disbursed to family planning agencies for the fiscal years 2002 to 2009. The amount expended by Planned Parenthood was $657.1 million for 8 years.

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10533r.pdf
    In my opinion, your outrage about Planned Parenthood is splitting hairs/parsing words in another article that demonstrates the inability to use reason instead of emotional dislike of Planned Parenthood and President Obama. I understand you are passionate about stopping abortions; however, ignoring the good provided by Planned Parenthood is biased journalism that Get Religion is supposed to be against. If Planned Parenthood “only offers referrals and helps women find financial resources for the exams,” they are providing mammograms, even if it is indirect, the results are women getting needed mammograms. See below info on mobile cancer screen that included mammograms.

    From the Washington Post‘s “fact checker” that you did not like the results:

    “In terms of connecting women with financial resources, Planned Parenthood helps women find grants to pay for mammograms and hosts visits from mobile mammography vans.”

    “This suggests an intentional attempt to mislead voters”

    When will you be reviewing the many Romney statements intended to fool voters? I have often been amazed at Get Religion ignoring Republican candidate’s lies, focusing instead on their stated religious beliefs rather than whether their actions match their claimed religious beliefs. The same cannot be said for the partisan statements about Obama and not deleting nonfactual comments about Obama.

    Obama’s statements about Planned Parenthood are far closer to the truth than many of the Romney statements designed to fool voters, one of the worse is the misleading statements about Medicare designed to make voters think Obamacare cut Medicare benefits when in fact the opposite is the truth (added no deductible preventative care and donut hole for drugs). Why aren’t Christian outraged at the many Romney lies? I have never seen anything in the Bible that provides exceptions or justification for lying. People often only see what they want to see.

    FactCheck.org: ” At the second presidential debate, President Obama said that women “rely on” Planned Parenthood for mammograms. Actually, mammograms are not performed at the clinics; Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses conduct breast exams and refer patients to other facilities for mammograms. Individual clinics sometimes provide more than referrals, arranging for mobile mammography vans.”

    Planned Parenthood of South Central New York, Inc:

    “Need a free mammogram? Look no further than across the street. Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties Cancer Services Program has partnered with our Oneonta health center to offer comprehensive cancer screening all in one place. A patient can have her exam in our office, cross the street, and get a mammogram just minutes later! ”

    “If a patient is diagnosed with cancer after being screened at PPSCNY, we can enroll her in additional programs to cover the costs of surgery and treatment.”

    The cancer screen was also available for men over 50.

    “Income is never a barrier to accessing lifesaving cancer prevention at PPSCNY. We accept Medicaid, Family Health Plus, Child Health Plus, and private insurance. We can help patients sign up for programs that help them get their services for free. No one is ever turned away due to inability to pay. Planned Parenthood offers health care to people regardless of their immigration status, and translation services are available for patients who do not speak English. For more information,
    Call …”
    http://tinyurl.com/9a53828

    Planned Parenthood advertised the free mammograms: http://tinyurl.com/9rhuswu

    Romney has flip-flopped continually on abortion and contraception mandate, which is well documented. It is impossible to know what his real position would be. Maybe like George W Bush campaigning to end abortion, but increased the funding for Planned Parenthood and did nothing to end abortion (just like Ronald Reagan).

    • Martha

      Okay, so if Planned Parenthood “helps women find grants to pay for mammograms and hosts visits from mobile mammography vans”, how is it different from health board workers, social workers, medical clinics and other groups?

      I admit, I am not familiar with precisely how the American medical system works. I get the point that women who can’t afford to pay for a visit to a doctor need to go elsewhere to access screening services, so Planned Parenthood clinics may do that for them (if they provide those services). But the last time I saw a mobile mammography van in my own area, it was parked in the carpark of a private medical clinic and you didn’t have to make an appointment through the clinic to visit them. Had I availed of the opportunity, I would not have said that the clinic in question provided me with a mammogram, and that is the kind of disingenuous statement about Planned Parenthood that Mollie is objecting to – the impression is being given that if you go along to your local Planned Parenthood clinic, you will be offered a mammogram there on the premises with their own equipment – not that they will tell you where you can go to get one in another medical centre or premises, or that they might permit a service to park its van in their carpark.

      Are there no equivalent of Well Woman Clinics or Centres in America? Is Planned Parenthood the main or only provider of health care? And, given the bad publicity rained down on the Susan Komen Foundation for daring to think they might do better to directly fund the mammography vans or other services rather than giving money to Planned Parenthood, I think it is important to make this point very clear.

  • Ann

    Something for pro-lifers to consider:

    Barack Obama, Pro-Life Hero – Yes, really. October 22, 2012

    “Writing in the National Catholic Reporter in early August, Nicholas Cafardi made the provocative assertion that between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the president is the more pro-life candidate. A significant part of the Duquesne law professor’s argument is that Obama favors “support for vulnerable pregnant women and alternatives to abortion [which] will make abortions much less likely, since most abortions are economic.” A few weeks later, just thirty-four days before the election, that argument became even stronger.

    On October 3, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine published a study with profound implications for policy making in the United States. According to Dr. Jeffery Peipert, the study’s lead author, abortion rates can be expected to decline significantly—perhaps up to 75 percent—when contraceptives are made available to women free of charge. Declaring himself “very surprised” at the results, Peipert requested expedient publication of the study, noting its relevance to the upcoming election.”

    … ” If Peipert is correct, however, the ACA may prove the single most effective piece of “pro-life” legislation in the past forty years.”

    http://tinyurl.com/8fynzos

    • Ted Seeber

      The National Catholic Reporter is widely known in pro-life circles for outlandishly liberal biased stories.

      Having said that, as a social justice/consistent ethic of life candidate, I’d love to see Obama throw out the bathwater of Planned Parenthood, and devote those funds directly to WIC providing *every pregnant woman free pre-natal services and every child under the age of 5 food in their bellies*.

      Might actually lead me to vote Democrat if they did that.

  • sari

    On the mammograms, Mollie, pilpul, pilpul.

    Does PP technically offer mammos at its facilities? No. Has it created a mechanism to ensure that women have affordable access to a necessary test? Yes, it has. How is that different from obtaining a PAP smear and sending it out? I have yet to encounter any OBGYN that houses a path lab on its premises. This speaks more to the issue of medical specialization than it does to the unproven assertion that PP ignores mammograms in favor of abortions because the latter generates revenue. And it completely ignores the ideological divide, which has nothing to do with finances and everything to do with providing access to the full spectrum of women’s health care to women who cannot afford to go elsewhere.

    Where is the unbiased coverage on the current situation in Texas, where poor women stand to loose access to services if Texas gets its way? This is a topic that should be examined from a religious perspective, since the politicians involved regularly invoke their faith to justify their actions. But it hasn’t been.

    • Ted Seeber

      Maybe we need a “Women’s Health Care” spinoff, totally separate from Planned Parenthood, that actually provides women’s health care instead of poisons and invasive unnecessary surgeries.

  • Julia

    The problem is that people believing that PP provides mammograms by its personnel leads people to also believe that is where a lot of the funding for PP is being used. It’s not if they don’t do mammograms on-site.
    That’s how referring people out to get mammograms is not the same as PAP smears being sent out to a lab.
    The bill for the PAP smear comes through the referring doctor’s office. I don’t think the costs of mammograms flow through PPs billing office.

    The studies reported about abortions going down are projections, not actual facts. It’s just as likely that as time goes by we won’t know the real abortion rate any longer b/c of the pills now available to be used at home – never to show up on any studies.

    Final point: Presidents don’t have the power to end abortions. Unlike most other countries where elected officials determined the basic rules on abortions, in the US it’s in the hands of the Supreme Court.

    • sari

      “The bill for the PAP smear comes through the referring doctor’s office. I don’t think the costs of mammograms flow through PPs billing office.”

      Not mine. My OB charges for taking the smear or includes it as part of the exam, if one is performed, but the path lab always bills separately. The same is true for radiology, even when performed at the doctor’s office. Labs and radiology each add a specialized doctor to the mix. OBs are neither certified to examine tissue for anything more than gross (blatantly obvious) pathology nor to give definitive readings for radiological scans.

  • dalea

    In medical administration terminology, Planned Parenthood is the ‘gatekeeper’. The function of the gatekeeper is to direct patients to those who provide services directly. The HMO I am in works in this fashion. This seems to be a case where lack of knowlege about how medicine works can give the impression that falsehood is involved. Planned Parenthood performs the initial screening thru manual examinations, pap smears etc. Based on the information from the initial tests, PP then refers patients to more specialized providers. It is not an unusual situation that the lead organization does not perform specialized services. The GP who refers someone for surgery is usually credited for the surgery even though he does not operate.

  • dalea

    Julia says:

    ‘The bill for the PAP smear comes through the referring doctor’s office. I don’t think the costs of mammograms flow through PPs billing office. ‘

    Costs do not go to the billing office, which is part of Accounts Receivable. The bills for mammograms go to Accounts Payable, which is a radically different part of the organization. The reports make clear that part of Planned Parenthood’s work is to find grants to pay for mammograms. So, if the woman can not pay for her mammogram, PP will find a way to pay it. NFP hospitals work this, it is not an unusual situation. I worked at a charitable hospital where AP spent most of its time finding funds to cover treatments. The PP setup is very typical of NFP medicine.

  • mollie

    Friends, those of us who are female perform breast exams on ourselves. No one would argue that we “provide” mammograms because we might ask for one after finding a lump.

    I think the Washington Post did a find job of explaining what Planned Parenthood does.

    The big question for the media to answer, still, is why the heck don’t they provide mammograms when they do provide 300K+ abortions each year.

    • sari

      “The big question for the media to answer, still, is why the heck don’t they provide mammograms when they do provide 300K+ abortions each year.”

      Why is this the big question for the media to ask? What does one thing have to do with the other? PP terminates pregnancies because women choose not to carry to term. Period. They refer mammos out because other organizations choose to pick up the bill. Again, why is this or should this be a hot button issue?

  • Mike

    Because its much easier to outsource mammograms than it is to find outsiders to proved abortions. No doctor was ever assassinated and no clinic was ever firebombed for providing mammograms.

  • JC

    Bottom line: you can’t provide mammograms if you don’t have the equipment. Does that mean that Planned Parenthood provides nothing of value in this regard? No — it sounds like they provide case management services whereby an employee directs them to services and alerts them to government programs, etc., that may provide funding. That is valuable. But to say that they provide mammograms when they don’t have the equipment to, you know, PROVIDE MAMMOGRAMS, is to exaggerate the good that they do here.

    In this case it is the president who is making this exaggeration, and he is doing so for political gain, i.e. so that people will infer that if Governor Romney defunds PP, people will no longer get these mammograms that PP is supposedly providing. This claim has been so overused that a newspaper that is decidedly friendly to the president has finally called him on his rhetorical excess, and yet we just had about 8000 words in this combox arguing that PP provides a service for which they have no equipment! Good Lord, what happens to people’s ability to reason objectively during an election season?


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