The Washington Post fact checker slammed Planned Parenthood with its worst rating this week for claiming thousands of women died from illegal abortions annually prior to Roe v. Wade.
The abortion chain’s new president, Leana Wen, made the claim repeatedly over the past few months, but it is not true.
“We face a real situation where Roe could be overturned. And we know what will happen, which is that women will die. Thousands of women died every year pre-Roe,” Wen said in March.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) similarly has claimed up to 5,000 women died annually from unsafe abortions prior to 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its infamous abortion case.
But the Washington Post called this “shoddy” data. Its fact checker did not find research to back up these claims. Instead, it found what pro-life advocates have been saying for years: that few women died from abortions in the decade prior to Roe, and a rise in the use of antibiotics appears to be the biggest factor in the drop in maternal deaths, not legalized abortions.
“Wen is a doctor, and the ACOG is made up of doctors. They should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics,” the fact checker chided.
It gave Wen four Pinocchios, its biggest “whopper” rating.
According to the report, researchers did find that thousands of women were dying every year in the 1920s and ’30s, but those numbers include miscarriages as well as abortions. After antibiotics grew widely available, however, the number of maternal deaths dropped rapidly, the report noted.
Planned Parenthood medical director Dr. Mary Steichen Calderone wrote in 1959, “Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure” because of antibiotics. She said almost all illegal abortions were done by trained physicians, not back alley abortionists, as well.
“… about 90 percent of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians…Whatever trouble arises usually arises from self-induced abortions, which comprise approximately 8 percent, or with the very small percentage that go to some kind of non-medical abortionist…So remember…abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians.”
Stanley Henshaw, a researcher with the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, agreed.
“In my opinion, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, women would turn to relatively safe medications that can be purchased over the internet,” Henshaw told the newspaper. “There would be some deaths but probably not as many as there were in the 1960s.”
Confronted with the real data, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson tried to spin the issue in response to the Washington Post.
“While stigma, fear, and poor tracking mean we can never know the exact number who suffered before Roe v Wade was decided, what we do know is that even one woman’s death from abortion before it was legal is one too many,” said Erica Sackin, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.
Today, women still die every year from legal, botched abortions, but Planned Parenthood never talks about them. It even lobbies against legislation to make abortions safer, including annual inspections for abortion clinics and hospital admitting privileges for when patients do experience emergency complications.
As of 2008, the Centers for Disease Control reported more than 400 women died from legal abortions in the United States, including 12 that year. The most recent annual report from the CDC says four women died from abortion complications in 2013.
However, the numbers likely are higher. Some states do not report their abortion data to the CDC, and pro-lifers believe the abortion industry sometimes covers up women’s abortion deaths so it can maintain its claims about “safety.”
It just is not true that legalized abortions equal safer abortions for women.
The Washington Post concluded:
Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions.
… advocates hurt their cause when they use figures that do not withstand scrutiny. These numbers were debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood. There’s no reason to use them today.
Overturning Roe will not destroy lives, as abortion activists claim. It will save them by preventing hundreds of thousands of unborn babies from being slaughtered and their mothers from the pain and regret of aborting a child.