Legalizing Abortion Did Not Stop Women From Dying in Abortions

Opinion   Nick Reynosa   Jul 4, 2014   |   9:17AM    Washington, DC

We come to the last part of the life equation: women’s deaths from illegal abortion. I think this is a three part question:

  1. Are their deaths avoidable?
  2. If some women will die attempting to abort their offspring, how many?
  3. Once we establish that number, what is the net difference between the number of women who die in illegal abortions (which are presumably riskier, but will occur less frequently) versus legal ones (less risky, but extremely common)?
First: will the illegality of abortions drive women to the “back alley”? Pregnant women in countries where abortion is illegal have a range of options: carry the pregnancy to term and place the child for adoption; carry the pregnancy to term and raise the child alone; carry the pregnancy to term and raise the child with the help of the father, government assistance, extended family, and/or pro-life charities; obtain an illegal abortion from a physician; or attempt an illegal abortion themselves or from a non-physician.
Some women may take matters in their own hands despite the risks, but this is certainly not the only choice present for them. How many will actually make this most dangerous choice, and die as a result? Pro-choice advocates would have you believe that this is a monumental figure; some claim that prior to Roe, a whopping 17 percent of maternal deaths were related to unsafe abortions. Surely we would want to avoid this tragic loss of life, wouldn’t we?

But those figures are inaccurate and misleading. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1972, the last year before Roe, 39 women died in illegal abortions. Emergency medicine has advanced since then, but to give pro-choicers the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that the number would be the same if abortion were criminalized today.Since Roe v. Wade, more than 400 women have died obtaining legal, state-sanctioned abortions: an average of 10 per year. Those ten deaths obviously would not occur after the right to life is restored.Revisiting the Life Equation

Pro-Choice Life Equation
Current # of abortions (1.06 million) minus # of abortions prevented by contraception (estimated one half, or 530,000) minus # of women saved from dying in illegal abortions (39) =  529,961 annual abortion-related deaths under pro-choice policy.

Click here to sign up for daily pro-life news alerts from

Pro-Life Life Equation

Current # of abortions (1.06 millionminus # of abortions prevented by contraception (estimated on half, or 530,000minus # of abortions prevented by legal ban (using Chile’s 67.5% reduction, 67.5% of 530,000 is 357,750) plus # of women dying in illegal abortions (39) minus number of women not dying in legal abortions (10) = 172,279 annual abortion-related deaths under pro-life policy

Thus if the pro-life movement is successful in outlawing abortion while supporting effective contraception use, the net result will save, in my estimation, 357,682 more lives per year than the implementation of pro-choice policy. So the next time you find yourself listening to pro-choicers proclaim that they are the only ones preventing abortions, challenge their arithmetic. They may still be pro-choice—for instance, they may believe that the loss of life is a necessary price to pay to secure women’s equality, in which case you can discuss from there. But they are certainty not “pro-life pro-choicers.”

LifeNews Note: Nick Reynosa writes for Secular Pro-Life.