I get into debates about abortion, and sometimes my opponent will complain that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, then thousands of women would die in illegal abortions. Well, if that ever happens to you, this post will help you to know how to respond to it.
First of all, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, then each of the 50 states would pass legislation deciding when abortions would be legal.
Here’s a map taken from the Washington Examiner:
Red states are more pro-life than blue states in this map. For example, New York is ranked #6, and Tennessee is ranked #45.
So, if a woman did have irresponsible sex with a hot bad boy, then she easily could terminate her child in one of the blue states.
Second, the number thrown around by abortion advocates is not accurate. It’s simply not true that “thousands of women” were dying from poorly-performed abortions when abortion was still illegal. Actually, abortions were performed by trained medical personnel, but it just wasn’t reported to the police.
Here’s a recent article from the radically leftist Washington Post:
Erica Sackin, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, directed us to a 2014 policy statement issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): “It is estimated that before 1973, 1.2 million U.S. women resorted to illegal abortion each year and that unsafe abortions caused as many as 5,000 annual deaths.”
There is no citation in the statement for the estimate of “as many as 5,000 annual deaths,” even though many of the other sentences are carefully documented. None of the citations around this sentence supports the figure, and there is no explanation about how it was calculated.
[…]Meanwhile, Sackin also sent a variety of reports, many of which were referenced in a footnote in a document published by NARAL Pro-Choice America. One of the citations especially caught our eye: Frederick Taussig, “Abortion Spontaneous and Induced: Medical and Social Aspects,” (1936).
Why was a study from 1936 being cited? Because in 1936, we didn’t have antibiotics! People were dying all the time from any kind of surgery – not just abortion.
The advent of antibiotics such as penicillin and improved medical procedures suddenly made abortion less risky. Another prominent researcher, Christopher Tietze, argued in a 1948 paper that the number of deaths from abortion was rapidly declining because of three reasons: contraceptive methods had improved so fewer women were getting pregnant, abortion providers were getting better at avoiding infections, and many lives had been saved because of the introduction of sulfa drugs and penicillin.
[…]The data collected by Tietze showed 2,677 deaths from abortion in 1933, compared with 888 in 1945, with much of the decline in septic cases associated with illegal abortions. (The numbers also include deaths from “therapeutic abortions,” permitted by law, and “spontaneous abortions.”)
By 1959, a leading researcher wrote: “Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure. This applies not just to therapeutic abortions as performed in hospitals but also to so-called illegal abortions as done by physicians. In 1957, there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind. In New York City in 1921, there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15.”
The writer was Mary Steichen Calderone, at the time medical director of Planned Parenthood. She attributed the decline in the mortality rate to antibiotics and the fact that 90 percent of illegal abortions were done by trained physicians.
OK, so abortion advocates cite the study from 1936, which already relies on questionable estimates, because they know that the later numbers are far, far lower – thanks to the widespread use of antibiotics. They’re lying, essentially, because lying helps them to persuade people who think with their feelings, and don’t look too closely at facts.
My third point is simple. Even if women hurt themselves during abortions, that wouldn’t be a reason to legalize abortion. Bank robbers hurt themselves during bank robberies, and drug dealers hurt themselves during drug deals. We do not legalize criminal activities just because criminals get hurt during the commission of those activities. So the real question is, what is the unborn? If the unborn is a living human being, then abortion on demand takes the life of an innocent human being without justification, and should therefore be illegal.
UPDATE: My pro-life friend Nathan sent me a fourth response:
There is a difference today that did not exist in 1973. We have a pro-life movement. We have over 2,000 pregnancy care ministries and clinics operating throughout the continental United States. I highly doubt these clinics will just disappear overnight if abortion became illegal nationwide. Women and children will still be in need, and the free market principles that enable charity to flourish will be there to help.