Sunday, January 30, 2005

A falsehood exposed

In 1973 the Roe vs Wade decision struck down anti-abortion laws in America. This was a victory for NARAL, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. In its campaigns, NARAL made much use of the argument that 10,000 American women died every year from backyard abortions. Now the co-founder of NARAL, Dr Bernard Nathanson, has admitted that the 10,000 figure was simply fabricated for political purposes. The true figure for 1972 was 41. This is how Dr Nathanson explains things:

I confess that I knew the figures were totally false - but the overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible.

As this interesting article by David van Gend explains, it seems that it is advances in medicine, and not legalisation, which has caused a dramatic decline in deaths from abortion procedures. It was due to improvements in medicine, rather than any changes to the law, that deaths from illegal abortions declined from about 100 a year in Australia in the 1930s to just 1 in 1969.

Meanwhile, very extensive research from Finland shows that women who undergo abortions are 6.5 times more likely to suicide in the following year than women who completed the pregnancy. (There are graphs showing the research results here.)

So it certainly should not be assumed that legalising abortion leads to a lower female mortality rate. First, because illegal abortions have been made safer by modern medical treatment, and second, because legalisation increases the total number of abortions, which increases the total number of female deaths by suicide.

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