Figures never lie, but liars sure do figure. - Mark Twain
The biggest and most-useful lie that the pro-abortion movement has spread has been the one that says that there are just too many desparate women seeking abortion to be able to do anything but legalize abortion. The problem is too big they say, and we cannot jeapordize the safety of women. After all, no one wants to send masses of women to their death beds. If legalizing the abortions that will occur anyway will help to save the lives of thousands of women every year, then we'd be hard-pressed not to support the law. Right?
Except for this...the numbers are exaggerated to unrecognizability. The most often quoted statistic states that women died at a rate of 5,000 to 10,000 women per year prior to legalization. It was a version of this statistic that rolled off the tongue of our beloved senator from the state of California last week. This statistic was taken from a book in 1936, written by Dr. Frederick Taussig, entitled "Abortion, Spontaneous and Induced." Dr. Taussig was a supporter of abortion rights. However, in 1942, Taussig appologized for using "the wildest estimates" to come to the conclusion he had. Likewise, the founder of NARAL, Bernard Nathanson, is also on record stating: "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL, we generally emphasized the frame of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always '5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.' I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the 'morality' of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible."
The truth is that women pre-Roe did not die at a rate any larger than today's abortion deaths, even taking into consideration the percentages of women who were having abortion then compared to now:
- The number that comes closest to 5,000 took place prior to the emergence of antibiotic use, in 1942, with approximately 1,400 women dying that year from abortion. (JAMA)
- From that point on until legalization, abortion deaths fell from 1,400 to a little over 100. (JAMA)
- The Centers for Disease Control states that in 1972, 39 women died from illegal abortions.
- In 2000, the CDC states that 11 women were reported as dying from legal abortion.
What makes the pro-abortion crowd think that those numbers are going to sky rocket out of control all of a sudden, and why would they climb higher than the death rate associated with abortion before antibiotic use started? 90% of abortions done prior to Roe in 1973 were done by physicians - they weren't done by the coat-hangers that are so defiantly paraded in pro-choice rallies, and there is no reason to think this statistic would change now. With the use of antibiotics and aseptic techniques, how could the number possibly climb to 5,000 deaths per year? Remember the words of Bernard Nathanson, the founder of NARAL, anything within reason that had to be done was permissible. These untruths are being spread simply because they want the law to remain the same at any cost.
Missing in this argument, however, is the reality that should Roe be overturned, abortion would not be outlawed. When Roe was put into effect, it superceded the rights of many states that had already ruled that abortion is illegal. If Roe were to be reversed, the state laws would be the "law of the land." It would be up to the individual states to decide whether or not abortion should be legal within their borders. I suspect that most red states would outlaw abortion, while the blue states would keep it legal. The states where it would become illegal to have an abortion would, no doubt, see a rise in illegal "back-alley" abortion. (Note: The term "back-alley" does not refer to where the abortion was done, but rather it refers to the door where the woman had to enter the clinic to keep from being seen and reported.)
We have a lot of work ahead of us if Roe is overturned. It's easy to say, "Abortion is illegal in my state now - my job is done." If this is what you're looking forward to, you have another thing coming. As pro-women pro-lifers, we need to be thinking about how we can create a society where abortion is no longer desired, where women will feel so supported in their pregnancies that they will not want to seek out that illegal (or legal) abortion, and where women are educated about their fertility so that they know how to avoid intercourse that might lead to a pregnancy. How do we do this? We commit to putting women first. It's as simple as that.