Friday, November 25, 2011

New Charts Reveal Personhood USA Doesn't Know Facts

If there's one thing I hate, it's a liar. The people involved with Personhood USA seem to be very angry with liars also. The trouble is: I say they are lying and they say Planned Parenthood is lying. In 5 minutes that I will never get back, I read Keith Ashley's little article entitled "New Poll Reveals Real Reason Behind Mississippi Personhood Loss." It came with a neat little pie chart and a whole bucketload of claims. 

The entire paper can easily be summed up as follows:

Planned Parenthood took our tax dollars and funneled it into Mississippi from out of state to lie about us and make everyone think we wanted to get rid of in vitro fertilization and birth control. They spent over a million dollars to make us look bad. How could we compete with that? 


For those of us who choose to live in reality on planet Earth, let's take a look at their whinging and complaining and see if we can find some facts.

1. Everyone should have known that IVF, birth control, and women's healthcare was safe because the Mississippi Center for Public Policy said so.

FACT: That's a huge argument from authority. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is not an unbiased organization. They promote "strong traditional families" which we know is code for right-wing religious beliefs. To expect that one analysis from a biased source should have settled the debate is ludicrous.

2. Planned Parenthood sent over a million dollars to Mississippi to fight prop 26.

FACT: The truth is not nearly as simple as Personhood USA makes it out to be. As I demonstrated in our video "Following the Money," Planned Parenthood wasn't the only out-of-state contributor and wasn't even the biggest out-of-state contributor at the time. After analyzing the October 2011 financial reports, I discovered that 16% of all donations to Mississippians for Healthy Families were "in kind" donations. Again, that means they were NOT cash donations - they were materials, supplies, time, etc. If we're going to pretend that campaign money is dirty, then we must exclude all "in kind" donations.

If we leave in the "in kind" donations, Planned Parenthood did send 82% of the donations, the SEIU sent 3%, the FPA sent 1%, and the ACLU sent 2%. The remaining 12% was divided between private donations (5%) and non-itemized entries (7%). 

But, as I said, it's not really right to leave these "in kind" donations in the equation as if it's cash; after all, Personhood USA claims that Planned Parenthood sent in over a million dollars to fight 26. When we run the numbers again based solely on cash donations, we find this:

Planned Parenthood - $904,750.00 (82%)
Private Donations - $67,250.00 (6%)
SEIU - $40,000.00 (4%)
Non-itemized contributions - $89,260.97 (8%)

So when Ashley writes, "As of October 31, with well over a week to go before the election, they reported a hefty $1,030,000 poured into Mississippi from out of state Planned Parenthood affiliates alone." he is not actually making a factual statement.

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't apply the same vigorous scrutiny to the Yes on 26 campaign finance report. If you'll recall from the video I mentioned above, Yes on 26 did what I thought was a sloppy job of writing up their reports. I couldn't get their numbers to add up right and, unfortunately, I still can't. But I'm close enough from using their line-by-line numbers to give you what I believe to be a very fair and very close estimate. May I remind you at this time that NO donations were labeled "in kind" by Yes on 26. Everything they took in was cold, hard cash.

Personhood USA (Colorado) - $824,175.42 (78.4%)
AFA - $136,485.95 (13.0%)
Private Donations - $73,744.50 (7.0%)
Non-itemized contributions - $15,892.00 (1.5%)
MS Pro-life groups - $1,600.00 (0.2%)

When you take an honest look at the money, Personhood USA has no reason to whine. They came very close to singlehandedly putting more out-of-state money in the game than all the Planned Parenthood resources combined. And just as an aside, when Personhood USA talks about all the doctors, lawyers, and important people who backed them, it is worth remembering that many doctors, lawyers, accountants, retired military, and many others donated to fight 26. Their contributions should never be forgotten.

3. The money Planned Parenthood put into the Mississippians for Healthy Families campaign was income from our tax dollars. 

FACT: Federal tax dollars are required by law to be used for family planning services (not including abortions). There are strict rules governing the use of federal funds and PP has been investigated and found compliant numerous times. Personhood USA would be better served making sure that the churches they use to peddle their politics don't end up losing their tax exempt status because they can't follow the rules.

4. Planned Parenthood deceived Mississippi voters by making them believe Haley Barbour voted no.

FACT: Mississippians for Healthy Families did run an ad that used a media clip in which Barbour expressed his (well-founded) misgivings about 26. They had every right to use it but they did stop when he asked them to. There was no intent to deceive here - they simply repeated the clip and he did the talking word-for-word.

5.  Planned Parenthood deceived Mississippi voters by making them believe IVF, birth control, and women's healthcare was at risk.

FACT: Those things were at risk and if you still don't believe that, then you either haven't read Personhood USA's (and the other groups') literature or else you are incapable of simple logic. Time after time we exposed these groups saying in black and white that they wanted to get rid of IUDs, the Pill, and frozen embryos. A couple of times we even found where their literature stated that the mother's life wasn't as important as the fertilized egg's rights which would imply that treatment for an ectopic pregnancy might be delayed or refused. Every time they were presented with their own words, they stuck their fingers in their ears, shouted LA LA LA, and tried to redo their web pages. If anyone did any deceiving, it was on Personhood's side of the fence, not ours.

6. Useful information can be gleaned from the pie chart based on the exit polls located at the bottom of the article.

FACT: We can't really make any definitive statements other than the fact that whoever made the pie chart knew how to make a pie chart. We are not told how this exit poll was conducted. We are told that 10,000 people were polled on a question that almost 800,000 people voted on. The sample size of 1.25% isn't anything to write home about, especially considering that we don't know how these people were selected. Was it random? Were only registered Republicans (or Democrats) called? Did they self-select? It's important to know these things if we don't want our results to be tainted with bias.

Also, we don't know how many answers the respondent was able to choose. If the person could only give one answer, then Personhood USA needs to explain how 8% of 10,000 = 28. But if respondents were allowed several answers or were forced to list their answers in a particular order, then it will be difficult to draw any solid conclusions from the poll. For this reason, I am very skeptical of their claims that only 8% were pro-choice and only 8% were worried about no rape/incest exceptions. We just don't know enough about how the polling was done to feel as confident about the results as Ashley does.

So what have we learned from this whole fiasco? Well, this is what I've learned:

1. Personhood proponents believe math means whatever they want it to mean. I've never seen such sloppiness on reports and figures and that's particularly disturbing when the treasurer is getting paid $6k/month to fill out those simple reports. 

2. Personhood proponents believe science means whatever they want it to mean. They generally seem to distrust science when it comes to origins of life, age of the earth, evolution of the species, and such. But they fully embrace its language when they need to use it to push something and they don't let little things like facts or evidence get in the way of a good story.

3. Personhood proponents believe the law means whatever they want it to mean. They play fast and loose with legal language just as well as they do math and science terms. It's almost as if they are playing Twister with words. They seem to think that if they just throw enough big words out, the stupid sheep will come gobble them up.

4. Personhood proponents believe that the ends justify the means. If one must lie, slander, and demonize others to get one's way, oh well. They should remember that childhood saying: when you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you.

Personhood is not finished, not by a long shot. Although the concept is rooted in hard-core creationist minds, it is not intelligently designed by any means. It, like every other messy organism struggling to survive, is evolving as we speak. It is adapting to hostile environments and is learning new ways to propagate itself. If we want to see this thing go extinct, we must continue the exhausting work of rooting out the lies and severing the heart of the beast. I know we are all really tired of this. I know our friends and families probably don't want to hear about it any more. But we are no less in danger from Personhood now than we were a month ago. We must renew ourselves, reequip ourselves, and get moving. We must reach across state lines and help our neighbors as they so kindly helped us. Remember: anything you can do is helpful. It's not just about money (though that's always nice). Sometimes, making a picture, writing a blog, talking to someone, or volunteering some time is all you need to make a difference.  Get your gear on, team! The DFFT patrol is ready for action!