The focus of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process is on the sexual misconduct allegation made against him by a former high school classmate. This includes scrutiny of his character, that of his accuser, Christine Ford, and that of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who gave the accuser’s letter to the FBI.
There are those who believe Feinstein was involved in deception, pointing to her appearing to walk back her belief in the validity of Ford’s claim. The California senator said Tuesday she couldn’t “say that everything is truthful” about Ford’s allegation.
But there is another Feinstein falsehood that bears scrutiny, as noted by syndicated columnist Star Parker this week. It revolves around her questioning of Kavanaugh about abortion during his confirmation hearings.
Feinstein said, “In the 1950s and ’60s, the two decades before Roe, deaths from illegal abortions in this country ran between 200,000 and 1.2 million. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute. So a lot of women died in that period.”
The Guttmacher Institute, which is tied to Planned Parenthood, does not make such a claim. Feinstein’s numbers do appear to come from a report by Guttmacher, but she misstated what they represent.
The institute’s 2003 report gives those exact figures, but it says they are the numbers of illegal abortions — not deaths from abortion — during those decades: “Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year.”
So how many deaths actually occurred before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court legalized abortion? A tiny fraction of what Feinstein said, according to Guttmacher:
“In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women — nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion).
“By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.”
It is important to note that even in the institute’s own claim, it attributes the reduction in deaths, years before the national legalization of abortion even occurred, to antibiotics. Legalized abortion did not create the reduction in deaths; the decline began long before the Supreme Court got involved.
At any rate, Feinstein wildly overstated the number of deaths from illegal abortion.
FactCheck.org previously researched illegal abortion death claims and found them to be greatly exaggerated.
In fact, the use of inflated numbers of illegal abortion deaths for political purposes is nothing new. They were part of the effort by pro-abortion forces to sway the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.
“Undoubtedly this argument, that the illegality of abortion was leading to the deaths of countless women at the hands of ‘back alley butchers,’ played an essential role in leading the seven justices to conclude that legalizing abortion would prevent harm,” Alexandra DeSanctis wrote in National Review last year.
“In fact, (Justice Harry) Blackmun in the majority opinion cited the papers of NARAL attorney Cyril Chestnut Means Jr., who falsified the legal history of abortion to make it appear as if abortion restrictions were not imposed until the 19th century and were created then only to protect maternal health rather than the lives of unborn children.”
Additionally, Live Action News noted that past Planned Parenthood president Alan Guttmacher and Mary S. Calderone, a former medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, both acknowledged that the majority of illegal abortions before Roe were performed by licensed physicians.
This brings us full circle back to Feinstein and Kavanaugh. She made a wildly false statement about the number of illegal abortion deaths that occurred before the national legalization of abortion, grossly inflating the numbers. She was repeating history in terms of pushing a narrative in relation to SCOTUS and the “need” for legalized abortion to save lives.
They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps it should be added that those who fail to learn from history may be suckered in by false claims about it.
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