The claim that thousands of women died annually from illegal abortions was manufactured and spread by NARAL co-founder Bernard Nathanson. In the twenty-five years before 1973, an average of 250 women died from illegal abortions annually. This was a far cry from the 5,000-10,000 annual deaths cited by abortion advocates.
Ultimately, Nathanson reversed his positions and became a vocal opponent of abortion. His change was precipitated by advances in technology that made it more difficult to ignore the life of the fetus. He didn’t find the pro-choice stance intellectually viable anymore.
According to Human Life Alliance, “countries that have strict limits on abortion — and where laws against abortion are enforced — often have much lower maternal mortality rates than those nations with legal and common abortion.” Supporting pro-life legal measures doesn’t endanger women’s lives.
Conversely, hospitalizations and even deaths of women from abortion complications are more common than reported. Operation Rescue estimates that nearly 1,000 women in Texas are hospitalized annually due to “abortion-related injuries.” We need to dispel this narrative that abortion is a safe procedure. The figure above is just from one state.
Also, women would be less likely to get abortions if they were restricted. Abortions performed per year dramatically increased after Roe v. Wade. People are less likely to perform activities that might have legal consequences. The argument that “some women would get illegal abortions anyway,” is not a sound basis for public policy.
Even if we ignore the bogus statistics, the “back-alley abortion” argument is lazy and evasive: it doesn’t address whether or not abortion is morally permissible. A legal action isn’t necessarily a moral one. We logically enter the moral realm when people discuss using force against a defenseless human being.
As pro-lifers, we should continue to communicate our concern for the safety of both the mother and her child - and how pro-life policies harm neither and protect both. People can increase safety for the women obtaining abortions - a move that pro-lifers encourage - but a “successful” procedure will always end in the death of one person whose safety is ignored: the child.