LIFE DIGEST: Legal abortion has taken 400 women’s lives

By Tom Strode
Nov 28, 2012

More than 400 women have died from legal abortions since state bans on the practice were outlawed in 1973.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported Nov. 21 there were 403 deaths related to legal abortions through 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The Supreme Court legalized abortion effectively for any reason throughout pregnancy Jan. 22, 1973. The deaths related to legal abortions dwarfed those from illegal abortions during the same time period. A total of 56 women died from illegal abortions, according to the CDC.

Also in this edition: Pediatricians urge advance approval for minors of ‘morning-after’ pill, Pro-life congressman agreed with first wife’s abortions, and Nearly 500 babies die in Canada after live births following abortions.

The new report also showed 12 women died from legal abortions in 2008. That total doubled the number of deaths from legal abortion reported in 2007 and was the most since 1989, when 12 also were reported.

There likely were more deaths from abortions in both 2008 and during the years since the practice was legalized.

For one thing, the CDC statistics, which are based on reports from state health departments, do not include figures from some states. California and New Hampshire have not reported such information since 1998, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). At least one other state typically does not provide statistics to the CDC, the NRLC reported.

In addition, both abortion clinics and families of women who die have interests in keeping the cause of such deaths unknown.

The much larger number of reported deaths from legal abortions in contrast to illegal ones runs counter to the arguments of abortion rights organizations, which contend the procedure needs to be legal in order to be safe and reduce mortality among women who want abortions.

The CDC also reported the number of abortions fell by five percent in 2009, from 825,564 to 784,507, according to the NRLC. The Guttmacher Institute, which compiles its data directly from abortion clinics instead of the states, has reported about 1.2 million abortions annually in recent years.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, applauded the five percent decrease in abortions in 2009 but said, “At the same time, we have to ask why the abortion-related deaths of 12 women are buried in the very last table of the [CDC] report and unremarked on in the news. The news from this report is that abortion harms women, as well as their babies.”

Pediatricians urge advance approval for minors of ‘morning-after’ pill

The country’s leading pediatrics association has urged its members to provide information about the “morning-after” pill to under-age, female patients and give them prescriptions in advance for the drug, which can cause abortions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has 60,000 members, made the recommendation Nov. 26, according to Reuters News Service. If heeded by pediatricians, the policy would enable girls under 17 to acquire the “morning-after” pill more quickly after sexual intercourse.

Under federal regulations, girls 16 and under must have prescriptions to buy the drug. Women 17 and older do not need a prescription, but they must request the drug from pharmacists, who stock it behind their counters.

The “morning-after” pill, also known as emergency contraception, is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. There are two-step versions – Plan B and Next Choice – and one-step versions – Plan B One-Step and Next Choice One Dose.

Under the two-part regimen, a woman takes a pill within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. The one-step version is taken in a single dose within 72 hours.

The “morning-after” pill can restrict ovulation in a woman or prevent fertilization, but it also can block implantation of the early embryo in the uterine wall. The latter effect causes an abortion, pro-life advocates point out.

Pro-life congressman agreed with first wife’s abortions

A pro-life Tennessee congressman supported his first wife’s two abortions, according to a court transcript released Nov. 15.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican, said Nov. 21 he did not plan to resign, explaining his view on abortion has changed over time, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. “(Abortion) was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect,” said DesJarlais, who was a doctor before being elected to Congress in 2010. “Going back, if I could change and do things differently, certainly I would.”

DesJarlais won re-election Nov. 6, about a week before a judge released the transcript from his 2001 divorce trial.

The two abortions by his former wife helped him adopt a pro-life stance, DesJarlais said. His marriage to his second wife, Amy, about 10 years ago also helped shape his view, he said. She chose to get married and have a baby after becoming pregnant while in high school, according to the News Sentinel. Her first husband died when their son was 3 years old, and DesJarlais helped rear him after Amy and he were married.

DesJarlais also said he regrets having sexual relationships with several women while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn., the newspaper reported. His partners in those relationships included three co-workers and two patients.

Nearly 500 babies die in Canada after live births following abortions

Nearly 500 babies were born alive after failed, late-term abortions and left to die in Canada during the first decade of this century.

Statistics Canada reported 491 babies of 20 weeks’ or more gestation were born alive after unsuccessful abortions and permitted to die from 2000 to 2009, according to the pro-life blog Run With Life.

A Canadian lawyer questioned why there have been no homicide investigations or prosecutions in the infants’ deaths.

“The lack of prosecution demonstrates two things: first, that political correctness surrounding the abortion issue trumps common sense, common decency and the rule of law; and second, that those who advocate for this type of [behavior] are truly pro-abortion and not pro-choice,” wrote Andre Schutten, legal counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada, Nov. 19.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to protect the sanctity of human life. If you would like to learn more about this issue, additional resources are available here. Our free, downloadable Impact resource is also available online. If your church is interested in purchasing materials on the sanctity of human life, please visit our online bookstore and

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