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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Myths About Illegal Abortion

Deaths Continue, But Advocates Ignore Legal Abortion's Harm to Women

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and others are making the claim that if a pro-life justice is appointed to the Supreme Court and abortion is overturned, thousands of women will die from illegal abortions--despite the fact that statistics do not back up their claims.

Boxer was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that if Roe is overturned, "it means a minimum of 5,000 women a year will die. . . . I personally believe that [the number of women dying from illegal abortions was] higher than that, given that these were back alley, and a lot of them were done in unsanitary conditions."

On the heels of Boxer's remarks, the National Organization for Women (NOW) issued an online "Emergency Alert" that included photos of four women whom the group claims "died because they could not obtain safe and legal abortions." According to pro-life advocate Jill Stanek, however, only two of the women died from illegal abortions (one in 1929 and the other in 1940).

The other photos are of Rosie Jiminez--whose 1977 abortion death was used by abortion advocates to attack the government for not funding abortions for poor women--and Becky Bell, an Indiana teen who died in 1988 from what her parents and abortion advocates claimed was an illegal abortion, despite a coroner's report that she died of pneumonia after suffering a miscarriage.

Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, who did extensive research on illegal abortion deaths for his landmark book Aborted Women, Silent No More, pointed out that NOW's alert did not mention that hundreds of women have continued to die from abortion--including Erica Richardson, a 16-year-old Maryland girl who died from a legal abortion six months after Bell's death, and five women who died after taking the RU-486 abortion pill.

"Ironically, abortion advocates continue to oppose stricter regulations for abortion businesses and tougher civil liability standards that would hold them accountable for performing unsafe and unwanted abortions--measures that could help prevent the deaths of more women from abortion," Reardon said.

Boxer's staff allegedly told the AP that her figures on illegal abortion deaths came from a 1968 book called Septic Abortion, and from a claim by the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute in 1982 that as many as 5,000-10,000 women died from illegal abortions each year. However, these figures contradict claims by pro-life activist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who helped lead the push for legal abortions as a co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Nathanson wrote in his book Aborting America: "We spoke of 5,000 - 10,000 deaths a year. 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?"

In fact, says Reardon, deaths from legal abortions are probably many times higher than those from abortions prior to Roe.

"Independent studies have confirmed that before Roe, deaths from illegal abortions were pretty accurately reported because they were deaths resulting from criminal activity and the medical profession and the police will eager to investigate them," he said. "After the 1940's, after antibiotics were introduced and with advances in health care, deaths from abortion dropped sharply. In 1972 there were only 32 reported deaths. Since Roe, however, the number of abortions taking place each year skyrocketed, but no one usually bothered to examine women's deaths because abortion was no longer illegal."

Further, Reardon said, the image of illegal abortions as taking place under unsanitary conditions is largely a false one.

"The evidence shows that about 90 percent of illegal abortions were performed by doctors, with most of the rest being performed by midwives, nurses, or people with some medical training," he said. "They had to be very careful in their activities because if they did lose a patient, they risked being exposed and prosecuted for their illegal actions. After abortion became legal, a lot of the illegal abortionists simply turned into legal abortionists. The difference was, no one was going to investigate them because abortion was now legal."

If anything, Reardon says, banning abortion could actually help protect women from being pressured into unwanted abortions.

"Studies have shown that the majority of women have abortions because they are coerced or pressured to do so by the people around them," he said. "When abortion was illegal, it gave women an out because most people were probably not willing to pressure them into an illegal and dangerous activity. Most people now assume that since abortion is legal, it must be safe. The result has been many, many more abortions, with many more women suffering physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries."

"Legal abortion has been a tragedy for women," Reardon added. "However, the cost to women has been routinely covered-up, denied, and dismissed by abortion advocates and their sympathizers in Congress. It seems most abortion advocates care more about protecting abortion than they do about the lives and well-being of American women."


For an accurate examination of deaths from illegal vs. legal abortions, see the article, "Illegal Abortions: The Myth and the Cure," from the Winter 1999 issue of The Post-Abortion Review, which is posted on our web site at www.afterabortion.info/PAR/V7/n4/illegalabortions.htm.

An even more detailed exploration of this issue can also be found in Dr. Reardon's book Aborted Women, Silent No More. More information on this book (including pricing) can be found at www.afterabortion.info/awsnm.html. To order, call Acorn Books at 1-888-412-2676.