Planned Parenthood President Hit With Fact Check for Claim on Illegal Abortion Deaths Before Roe v. Wade

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The president of Planned Parenthood was hit with four “Pinocchios” in a fact check piece published by The Washington Post looking at her claims that “thousands of women” died from illegal abortions prior to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

The fact check, published Wednesday morning, looked at Dr. Leana Wen’s multiple claims that “thousands of women died every year” from illegal abortions prior to the Roe decision in 1973. Wen had made her claim in a variety of mediums, including in interviews and on Twitter.

Take a look:

While investigating Wen’s claims, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who authored the fact check, was referred by Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Erica Sackin to a policy statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published in 2014.

The statement claimed, “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.”

Kessler pointed out that the number cited by ACOG was not supported by citations directly nor by any of the citations of the surrounding data.

He also took issue with a 1958 report regarding the number of induced abortions in the U.S. sent to him by ACOG spokeswoman Kate Connors that estimated the number of induced abortions as being “as low as 200,000 and as high as 1,200,000 per year.”

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The report also said that “there is no objective basis for the selection of a particular figure between these two estimates.”

Kessler pointed out that the large range for the “number of illegal abortions” showed “how fuzzy the numbers are” and that neither the report nor any of the other information sent to him by Connors supported the “5,000-death estimate” that ACOG made in 2014:

That’s quite a range for the number of illegal abortions, indicating how fuzzy the numbers are. The ACOG took the high-end estimate for its statement. But this report contained no mortality rates or an explanation of the 5,000-death estimate, nor did any of the other material sent by Connors.

He also noted that “the advent of antibiotics such as penicillin and improved medical procedures suddenly made abortion less risky,” stating that a former Planned Parenthood medical director wrote in 1959 that abortion, including those performed illegally, was “no longer a dangerous procedure” and that in 1957, there “were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind.”

Kessler deemed Wen’s claims worthy of four “Pinocchios” — the most a person can receive for a claim outside of “bottomless Pinocchios.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman/Reuters

He blasted her for using data that was “debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood” and added that Wen, as a doctor, and the ACOG “should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics.”

“Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions,” Kessler wrote.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to uphold an Indiana abortion law that required fetal remains from abortion to be cremated or buried while declining to make a ruling on the legality of abortions motivated by the sex of the child or disabilities.

As IJR Red previously reported, Justice Clarence Thomas released a concurring opinion on the issue of abortions regarding the sex of the child, disabilities, or race on. Tuesday.

He stated that “enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement.”

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