"If we make abortion illegal, women will seek dangerous back-alley abortions and deaths will skyrocket." This is a very common argument used to defend abortion today. But how accurate is it? Let’s unpack this statement with Dr. Kathi Aultman, former abortionist and Medical Director for Planned Parenthood.Read Transcript More Resources Next Video
If we make abortion illegal, won’t women have dangerous back alley abortions?
I used to think that legal abortion was necessary to protect women from the dangers of illegal abortion. I not only thought that abortion was necessary, I also believed it was a woman’s right. I used to perform 1st trimester suction abortions and 2nd trimester dismemberment abortions, and I felt I was doing something good for women. I was also a medical director for Planned Parenthood for about 2 years. I even had an abortion myself.
I came to realize that the whole idea of keeping abortion legal to protect women’s safety was a lie. With every abortion, I was harming a woman and killing a child.
There is no such thing as a “safe abortion.” One person is killed, and the other is at risk for serious complications, including death. A woman cannot kill her child and remain unharmed.
Historically speaking, legalizing abortion did not make it less deadly for women. From the 1940’s to the 1970’s, deaths of women due to abortion rapidly declined because of better medicine and increased use of antibiotics, not because abortion was made legal.
The widespread belief that tens of thousands of women were dying from illegal abortions was a lie propagated mainly by two individuals. Their names were Larry Lader and Bernard Nathanson, co-founders of NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Like me, Bernard Nathanson eventually converted from abortionist to pro-life advocate. He admitted, “When we spoke of [deaths due to illegal abortion], it was always 5,000 to 10,000 per year. I confess I knew the figures were totally false.”
Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (1979)
In 1960, over a decade before the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade legalized abortion in all 50 states, the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood at the time, Mary Calderone, made this statement, and I quote, “Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure. In 1957 there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind. 90 percent of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians.” End quote
“Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem” Mary Calderone. 1960 (Paper presented before the Maternal and Child Health Section of the American Public Health Association at the Eighty Seventh Annual Meeting in Atlantic City, N.J. October 19, 1959.
In 1972, the year before Roe v Wade, 39 women died from illegal abortion, and 24 women died from legal abortion. In 1973, the year of Roe v Wade, 19 women died from illegal abortion, and 25 women died from legal abortion. So, in the year that abortion was nationally legalized, more women died from legal abortion than illegal abortion.
The truth is that whether it is legal or illegal, abortion poses long term physical and emotional harm for women, including an increased risk of suicide, future infertility, pregnancy loss, and damage to her internal organs. Women still die from legal abortion today. Tonya Reaves and Cree Erwin are two women who recently died from legal abortions at Planned Parenthood.
Despite legalized abortion, the United States maternal mortality rate is HIGHER than that of nations with MORE restrictive abortion laws. The United States has a maternal mortality rate of around 14 deaths per 100,000 live births, but in Poland, for example, where abortion is illegal except in rare cases, the maternal mortality rate is only 3 deaths per 100,000 live births. Or Malta, where abortion is illegal for any reason, the maternal mortality rate is only 9 deaths per 100,000 live births.
After Roe v Wade, the number of abortions in the United States skyrocketed. As of today, over 60 million children have been legally killed by abortion. The reality is, legalizing abortion has not made abortion safer - it has only led to the deaths of more children and has harmed more women. This doesn’t need to continue, however. If we truly care about the safety of women and their children, then we should make abortion illegal.