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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch's staff said he "misspoke" when he recently alleged that abortions account for 95 percent of what Planned Parenthood does, a comment similar to one that caused a Senate colleague considerable grief last year.
But Hatch isn't backing down from his call to eliminate the more than $350 million in federal funds that Planned Parenthood receives even if the money doesn't directly go to cover abortions.
"Planned Parenthood is the single largest abortion provider in America," said Hatch spokesman Matt Harakal, "and it shouldn't be funded with taxpayer dollars."
Hatch appeared last week on a webcast held by the conservative Family Research Council to discuss his objection to a proposed federal rule involving contraception, when he shifted the focus to abortion.
"Look, we all know that Planned Parenthood does 400,000 abortions a year or more and yet that's supported by the federal government," he said. "They claim ... they don't use federal funds, well, about 95 percent of all they do, from what I understand, is abortion."
Planned Parenthood and its allies said Utah's six-term senator was way off. According to its most recent annual report, the organization performed 330,000 abortions in 2010, accounting for 3 percent of its services.
"And here in Utah it is less than 1 percent. Those are the facts," said Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah. "I can't change what Senator Hatch wants to believe. Abortion is still legal in this country. It is health care."
Galloway said independent audits have shown that Planned Parenthood does not spend federal money on abortions, shifting it to less-controversial aspects of its work such as the 4.1 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases performed in 2010.
Harakal acknowledges Hatch got it wrong on the webcast and said the senator meant to refer to a letter he sent with the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins in April, which claimed that 98 percent of Planned Parenthood's services for pregnant women involve abortions.
Planned Parenthood disputes the accuracy of that claim, and independent fact-checking website PolitiFact.com scored a similar comment as "false."
Their reasoning is that Planned Parenthood does not identify the number of its patients who are pregnant and may have received other services, so any statistic along those lines would be skewed.
Hatch's misstep is similar to that of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who in a speech on the Senate floor in April said, "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."
After being confronted with Planned Parenthood's statistics, Kyl's office released a statement to CNN that said his comment "was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."
Comedians and liberal commentators pilloried Kyl for his response to the error.