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Abortion Advocates Defend Illegal Abortion Claims of Women Dying

by Steven Ertelt | WASHINGTON, DC | LIFENEWS.COM | 7/20/05 9:00 AM

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 20, 2005

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Despite governmental figures and former abortion advocates disproving their claims, a top pro-abortion organization and U.S. senator are sticking with their contention that thousands of women will die from illegal abortions every year if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

The debate about what will happen if abortion is illegal is at the forefront of the fight over President Bush’s nomination of appellate court judge John Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court. Roberts, who is pro-life, would replace outgoing pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who voted to uphold the Roe decision.

Earlier this month, California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, responded to a question about whether Senate Democrats will use a filibuster to block President Bush’s expected Supreme Court nominee and what kind of impact on abortion a pro-life judicial pick would have.
"It means a minimum of 5,000 women a year will die. So all options are on the table," she said.

Her claim was rebutted, but she is sticking to it.

"You have to know that it is estimated that there were up to 1.2 million illegal abortions every year, so this 5,000 is four-tenths of 1 percent. I think it’s actually an understated number," Boxer told the Associated Press Tuesday. "I personally believe it’s higher than that, given the fact that these were back-alley, and a lot of them done in unsanitary situations."

NARAL, one of the top groups battling to keep Roe intact, says it backs the false figure number as well.

Ted Miller told AP that "the 5,000 number is one we’ve always been comfortable with."

But Dr. Bernard Nathanson, NARAL’s co-founder before Roe was handed down in 1973, admits his group lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions when testifying before the Supreme Court in 1972.

"We spoke of 5,000 – 10,000 deaths a year," he said. "I confess that I knew the figures were totally false [but] it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?"

Official governmental numbers don’t substantiate Boxer’s figures.

The National Center for Heath Statistics reveals that, before 1941, in the days before penicillin became available to control infections, there were only 1,400 abortion-related deaths. Following its introduction, the number of deaths was reduced in the 1950s to about 250 per year.

By 1966, with abortion still illegal in all states, the number of deaths had dropped steadily to 120 thanks to new and better antibiotics, better surgery, and the establishment of intensive care units in hospitals.

By the time of Roe v. Wade in 1972, the death rate for illegal abortions had fallen to just twenty-four. Though abortion was legal in 1973, abortion deaths rose to 25 and they rose to 26 in 1974 and 29 in 1975.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, says Boxer’s claim ignores the fact that abortion deaths still occur, despite abortion’s legal status.

"Wild, unsubstantiated numbers and fear mongering won’t help women. Right now women die from legal and lethal abortion," she told LifeNews.com. "Was Sen. Boxer equally concerned about Holly Paterson’s death from RU-486?"

Boxer’s aides tell AP that the 5,000 figure was first cited in the 1968 book "Septic Abortion" by Dr. Richard H. Schwarz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. They also look to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood affiliate, which wrote in 1982, "As many as 5,000 to 10,000 women died per year from illegal abortions" before Roe.

Regardless of the numbers, Foster tells LifeNews.com that all abortion fails women.

"We need our elected leaders to help solve the problems women face — housing, child care, maternity leave, financial support, telecommuting options in school and the workplace, adoption options," Foster concluded. "Legal or illegal, abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women."

Related web sites:
Feminists for Life – http://www.feministsforlife.org