WaPo Gives Schumer Three Pinocchios for His ‘Problematic’ Planned Parenthood Claim

Chuck Schumer
Chuck Schumer / AP

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) falsely claimed on Tuesday that "millions of women" turn to Planned Parenthood for mammograms.

Democrats in Congress developed a messaging strategy this week to tie President Trump to the health care bill that House Republicans proposed Monday night to replace Obamacare. Schumer dubbed the health care proposal "Trumpcare" and voiced his opposition to it on Tuesday afternoon.

A Washington Post fact check took issue with Schumer's claim on Twitter and gave him "Three Pinocchios," meaning his statement was "mostly false," for saying that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms for "millions of women."

Planned Parenthood supporters often use "slippery language" to defend the talking point about mammograms, according to the Post, which has previously given "Three Pinocchios" for this claim.

Planned Parenthood does referrals for mammograms, and some of their affiliates will provide free mammography mobile vans for uninsured women, the fact check noted. However, it added that affiliate clinics do not have mammogram machines, citing the Food and Drug Administration's list of certified mammography facilities.

The Post then broke down cancer screening statistics from 2014 at Planned Parenthood facilities and highlighted how they account for a small percent of patients.

Among all services, 7 percent were related to cancer screening and prevention and 13 percent were "other women's health services" (1.2 million pregnancy tests and 17,419 prenatal services). Out of the 682,208 total cancer screening and prevention services, 53 percent were breast exams or breast care. This is a clinical breast exam, checking for changes or lumps in women's breasts. If the doctor finds something abnormal or worth checking out, the patient is referred for a mammogram, which requires X-rays given at a licensed radiology facility.

Other cancer screening and prevention services include Pap tests and HPV tests, both of which screen for cervical cancer and are directly administered at the clinics. In 2014, nearly 72,000 women had cancer detected early or had abnormalities identified through care through abnormal Pap tests or breast exams at a Planned Parenthood clinic, according to the organization.

A small percentage of Planned Parenthood clients are women over 40 who would "turn" to Planned Parenthood for mammogram referrals.

There were 363,803 breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics in 2014, resulting in approximately 11,000, or three percent, that resulted in a referral for mammography and other specialized providers. Based on the statistics, less than one percent of total Planned Parenthood patients received mammogram referrals that year.

The Post also cited a 2015 Congressional Research Service report that compared federally qualified health centers to Planned Parenthood, determining that the former provides more radiological services, like mammograms.

"The tweet referenced the fact that each year Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide referrals for women to receive mammograms and hundreds of thousands more receive breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics," Matt House, Schumer's spokesman, told the Post. "It is a fact that the Trumpcare proposal that defunds Planned Parenthood next year would eliminate access to critical screening and resources for women across the country."

House also said that women do not always have access to federally qualified health centers as an alternative to Planned Parenthood. However, the Congressional Research Service says that two-thirds of U.S. counties have these health centers, compared to 13 percent of counties that have Planned Parenthood clinics.

The Post concluded that Schumer's claim is "problematic" and "greatly exaggerates" the number of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for mammograms.