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Eye On Olympia

Benson on condoms…

Seattle's The Stranger newspaper obtained and posted to YouTube a video clip of state Sen. Brad Benson speaking to some group.

In the short clip, Benson makes an astonishing claim: that condoms provided by Planned Parenthood have an 80 percent failure rate.

"You know which one worked the worst, which one had the 80 percent failure rate? Condoms that Planned Parenthood gives them," he says.

Then the video cuts to a quote in which Benson appears to claim that the group is giving out these allegedly failure-prone condoms because they want to encourage abortions.

"Well, they have an interest in the follow-on product, and that's why they give out 80-percent-failure-rate condoms," he says in the video.

It sounds like a friendly crowd. A woman's voice can be heard agreeing with Benson ("Right...right...") and a man's voice chuckles at the "follow-on product" statement.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Kristen Glundberg-Prossor told The Stranger's Josh Feit:

When did he say this? That’s poppycock. That’s just bizarre and completely inaccurate. Studies show that people who use condoms have a 97% effectiveness rate against pregnancy. They’re also extremely successful at preventing HIV and STDs. It’s completely irresponsible to spread misinformation about condoms and about Planned Parenthood. The condoms we use are as effective as any other condoms.

Benson -- I just left a message for him -- may have been referring to a Feb. 2005 Consumer Reports study which, judging by Google results, was widely circulated among social conservatives. It ranked two of three Planned Parenthood condoms last in strength tests of nearly two dozen condoms. Both the "Assorted Colors" and "Honeydew" brands provided by the group ranked "poor" in strength -- the only tested condoms to get that rating. Honeydew also got a poor in reliability (Assorted Colors got an excellent.)

All the tested latex condoms, however, passed industry standards. (There is no standard, the magazine said at the time, for polyurethane condoms.)

Consumer Report's take:

If you obtain condoms from Planned Parenthood, avoid the low-rated scented Honeydew and Assorted Colors varieties. Instead, choose the Lollipop, a brightly colored condom packaged on a stick. We rated it excellent overall.

The magazine said nothing about an 80 percent failure rate, however. In fact, it said the worst-ranked condoms broke 18 out of 120 times when inflated with 25 liters -- that about six gallons of air. That works out to a failure rate -- under extreme testing -- of 15 percent.

The Consumer Reports technician who drew this unusual assignment, unfortunately, is out of the office until Wednesday. But Joan Quinn, a spokeswoman for the magazine, said that the 18-month-old ratings are now outdated, and with manufacturing changing frequently, Consumer Reports now has no idea of whether the condoms would test the same today.

Update Benson provided the article from which the figure came. It's based on a 2005 article from "Talon News", the apparently now-defunct right-wing web content whose former White House correspondent, Jeff Gannon, was famous for his softball questions for President Bush.

In the article, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed that the magazine "found defective" three Planned Parenthood condoms. (As mentioned above, the magazine says that all, even the lowest-ranked, passed industry standards. None, according to the magazine, were found to be defective.)

In the article -- which is no longer on the website, Perkins also cites an alleged failure rate of "more than 85 percent" -- a result that the magazine said it simply did not get.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.