Tuesday, July 19, 2005

AP covering abortion death dispute!

This AP article notes that Barbara Boxer, et al, and being held accountable for the use of the discredited 5,000 maternal deaths claim should Roe be overturned!
Supporters of abortion rights cite the estimate that some 5,000 women a year died from illegal and unsafe abortions before the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Opponents call the figure grossly exaggerated, noting that after the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, the official count of abortion-related deaths plummeted — to 193 by 1965.

The article notes that Boxer and company claim that deaths were grossly underreported, and quotes Boxer defending her bogus figures:
"You have to know that it is estimated that there were up to 1.2 million illegal abortions every year, so this 5,000 is four-tenths of 1 percent. I think it's actually an understated number," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told The Associated Press. "I personally believe it's higher than that, given the fact that these were back-alley, and a lot of them done in unsanitary situations."

The AP story notes that ProLifeBlogs and After Abortion pointed out how bogus Boxer's numbers are.

According to the AP story, Boxer's aids cite the 1968 book "Septic Abortion" by Dr. Richard H. Schwarz, and "Many abortion-rights advocates also cite a 1982 article written by three scholars in Family Planning Perspectives, a publication of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which favors abortion rights. The scholars' conclusion: "As many as 5,000 to 10,000 women died per year from illegal abortions" during some stages in the pre-Roe era." Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you follow these more recent claims to their original source, you still get Taussig's flawed estimate.
NARAL Pro-Choice America spokesman Ted Miller told the AP that "the 5,000 number is one we've always been comfortable with."

Well, of course they're comfortable with it! They've been successful in scaring people with it for nearly forty years now!

The AP story goes on to note,
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the best estimates of abortion-related deaths suggest that the number of women who died from abortion-related causes was significantly higher before the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion.

The article then notes the fall in abortion as the official cause of death from nearly 2,700 in 1930 to around 1,700 in 1940, 316 in 1950, and 193 in 1965. But it then adds an AGI caveat that "it is probable that the number of deaths due to abortion was much greater than officially reported".

On the one hand, kudos for covering this and getting the numbers out. On the other hand, this is just a surface examination. Let's keep up the pressure! Write to thank them for investigating, but let's not let them just sit back and rest until they've brought up the following vital points:

1. A woman's abortion death was not mere medical malpractice prior to decriminalization. It was homicide! It was taken so seriously that the first person ever sentenced to the electric chair in Illinois was a doctor whose patient died of a botched abortion. An anonymous phone tip was enough to get a woman's body exhumed to see if she had actually died from a criminal abortion. How likely, really, was it that healthy young women could be dying in such large numbers without raising suspicions?

2. Before legalization, maternal mortality studies involved intense searches for possible abortion deaths. Researchers pestered doctors, hospitals, coroners, and law enforcement. Public health officials were well aware of the possibility that a young woman's death might well be due to criminal abortion. Are we supposed to believe that these in-depth studies really only found the tip of the iceburg?

3. Pre-legalization abortions were done mostly by doctors. Doctors who risked going to jail if they screwed up. These guys didn't quit with legalization. Although there's no doubt that additional physicians started doing abortions, the same old guys who had been doing abortions when it was illegal kept right at it, sometimes with fatal results. Two former criminal abortionists, Jesse Ketchum and Milan Vuitch, had never been linked to an illegal abortion death but each went on to kill two women with sloppy practices after legalization. If you look at mortality trends, it's clear that legalization's impact on mortality, if there was any impact at all, was slight, since the downward trend had been in place for 70 years before legalization.

Here are the email addresses again:

JUSTIN M. NORTON is the Associated Press writer who didn't fact-check his Sen. Barbara Boxer story, thus making himself an accessory to journalistic error/"perjury" with the urban legend about "5,000+ abortions if Roe is reversed."


Associated Press' BURL OSBORNE, Chairman,
TOM CURLEY, AP President and CEO,
at the email addies: BOSBORNE@ap.org, tcurley@ap.org, KCARROLL@ap.org .

Annie CC'd:
Annenberg Public Policy Center
320 National Press Building
Washington DC 20045
E-Mail: Editor@FactCheck.org

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