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Claims that thousands of women were dying from illegal abortions at the time of Roe were fabricated for political purposes. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a chief strategist for legalizing abortion, said he and his associates invented the "nice, round shocking figure" of "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year" from illegal abortions:
I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the "morality" of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?1
Research confirms that the actual number of maternal deaths resulting from abortion in the 25 years prior to 1973 averaged 250 a year, with a high of 388 in 1948.2 In 1966, before the first state legalized abortion, 120 mothers died from abortion.3 While any death is a tragedy, by 1972, when abortion was still illegal in 80 percent of the country, the number dropped to 39 maternal deaths from abortion.4
Furthermore, a groundbreaking 2012 study of abortion in Chile published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal found that Chile's abortion prohibition in 1989 did not cause an increase in the maternal mortality rate (MMR). On the contrary, after abortion was prohibited, the MMR decreased by 69.2% in the following fourteen years.5
1 Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (New York: Doubleday, 1979), 193.
2 Ibid, 42.
3 U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics.
5 Koch, E. (2012). Women's education level, maternal health facilities, abortion legislation and maternal deaths: a natural experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007. PLOS One, Volume 7 (Issue 5). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0036613
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