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The Fruits of Roe vs. Wade
With friends on the Supreme Court, who needs enemies?
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Dateline: 1/23/01

Death was puttering around in the shadows until January 23, 1973, when a bunch of black-robed men decided to invite him in the front door. Let's look at some of the fruits of the Roe vs. Wade decision unleashing unfettered abortion in the United States.

We can start with the direct impact on women. Roe was supposed to put an end to the scarred, maimed, and dead women. But if you look at the abortion mortality numbers for the 20th century, you'll see that all Roe did was stop public health officials from making any real effort to tally the casualties of abortion. After all, the dead and maimed women were no longer crime victims; they were merely disgruntled purchasers of a legal "service."

First, let's look at pre-Roe abortion statistics:
The Truth of Pre-Roe Abortion Mortality.
Abortion deaths were plummeting before legalization. From 1940 to 1945, there was roughly a 50% drop in abortion deaths, thanks to the development of antibiotics. Then from 1945 to 1950 came a tremendous drop, with abortion mortality falling to roughly a third of the previous tally.

What came after 1970? According to the Centers for Disease Control, by 1972 the total abortion death toll (legal, illegal, miscarriage and unknown) was down to 90. The number of dead women counted annually continued to fall, reaching a recorded low of 10 from all abortions (legal, illegal, miscarriages and unknown) of 10 in 1990.

There are two things these numbers fail to tell you:

  • How many women really died
  • What kinds of deaths these women suffered.

    If you look at studies of pre-legalization abortion mortality, you'll find that no stone was left unturned to uncover abortion deaths. After all, a death from an induced abortion was the death of a crime victim. Law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners, funeral directors, health care providers, government officials, and the press were all very interested in induced abortion mortality. It is unlikely, in a time when an anonymous tip could lead to a woman's body being exhumed for autopsy, that many induced abortion deaths went unnoticed and uncounted.

    Enter Roe vs. Wade. Abortion was no longer a crime; it was a consumer "service." Law enforcement was no longer interested. Since there was no longer the promise of a spectacular and sordid trial, interest flagged in the press. Coroners, medical examiners, and funeral directors were no longer required to bring apparent abortion deaths to anybody's attention. Doctors and hospitals who glossed over the cause of death were no longer committing a crime. And government health officials were being stymied by lawsuits declaring that any information having to do with abortion was privileged information that a physician could refuse to disclose to anybody.

    Abortion mortality research done prior to Roe found that the official numbers were very much in keeping with the number of deaths uncovered in an intense investigative effort. But research after legalization found that deaths were routinely overlooked by the very people charged with keeping track of abortion mortality.

    "Oh, really?" you may ask. Yes, really. Behold:

  • What California Found
  • What Minnesota Found

    Before legalization, two studies involving law enforcement, state agencies, coroners and medical examiners, hospitals and doctors, found no significant difference between the official number of abortion deaths, and the number of abortion deaths that were likely to have really occurred in the United States if their in-depth research was finding more abortion deaths. But after legalization, just one researcher operating out-of-pocket found at least 56 percent more abortion deaths than were officially being reported. Clearly, one of the things Roe accomplished was giving abortionists someplace discreet to bury their dead.

    Still skeptical? Then consider this one piece of anecdotal evidence that I think clinches it. In 1991, abortionist Robert Crist sent a 17-year-old Black abortion patient, Latachie Veal, home to bleed to death. Crist openly discussed this death at the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in Dallas. Present at that seminar were two -- count 'em, two -- members of the Centers for Disease Control team charged with tracking abortion morbidity and mortality: Stanley Henshaw and Lisa Koonin. Koonin, in fact, was the very employee charged with the task of "verifying" abortion deaths and obtaining death certificates so that other staff could begin the process of investigating and classifying the deaths.

    Crist's discussion of Latachie's death was not by any means the only way it could have been brought to the attention of the Centers for Disease Control. Latachie's family filed suit, retaining the flamboyant "Racehorse" Haynes to represent them. The death and ensuing lawsuit were covered extensively by the news media not only in Texas, where Latachie died, but also in Missouri, where Crist had previously been responsible for the death of a 19-year-old developmentally disabled rape victim brought to him for an abortion. Prolife organizations quickly picked up the story and it was disseminated throughout the country in newsletters.

    CDC abortion mortality data for 1991 counted no deaths of Black women in the 15-19 age range whatsoever. Latachie Veal's death -- discussed by the abortionist responsible at a seminar attended by two CDC staffers, highly publicized in two states, and trumpeted in prolife newsletters nationwide -- went utterly unnoticed by those responsible for keeping track of abortion mortality in the United States. How, if they were oblivious of Latachie's death, could CDC staffers be expected to notice abortion deaths that were being hushed up by those involved?

    Clearly, then, claims that Roe reduced abortion deaths ring hollow. At best, Roe had no impact at all, merely substituting legal abortion deaths for criminal abortion deaths. What is more likely, though, is that Roe simply made it easier to hide abortion deaths even as the number of dead women began to climb with the skyrocketing abortion rate.

    And what of the way women died? Surely legalization at least made for an easier death, right? Doubtful. Consider these:

    No improvement here. The only "improvement," if you can call it that, is that none of the abortionists involved faced criminal charges for these deaths. In fact, it is so rare for an abortionist to be held legally responsible for killing a woman on the abortion table that the very fact that he's facing charges -- not the fact that the woman died a horrible death -- is what makes the case newsworthy.

    If there's been no improvement on the mortality front, neither has there been an improvement in morbidity (injuries). Women are still left with injuries that can leave them infertile, or lead to hysterectomy or colostomy. Women are still left incapacitated. Not all of the patients who have amputations because of sepsis die. (When I was working at Life Dynamics, I spoke to two prolifers who were providing support to women who had lost limbs to abortion sepsis; one had lost her right leg, the other had lost both feet and both lower arms.) So we have not only the continued horrible deaths, but the accumulation of the wounded, some of whom languish for years in long-term care facilities before they finally die, as did Suzanne Logan.

    And let's not forget the children. As abortionists became more bold, they took to doing riskier, later and later abortions, sometimes maiming rather than killing the fetus. Blindness, mental retardation, missing limbs, and cerebral palsy are some of the repercussions innocent children have suffered as a result of the carte-blanc Roe gave to abortionists.

    These are just the direct effects of legalizing abortion. The indirect effects -- grieving post-abortion women, skyrocketing breast cancer rates among young women, the dramatic increase in child abuse and abandonment, violence against women who refuse to exercise this "right," chaos on once-quiet streets, abortionists who once feared only the law but who now fear for their lives -- could fill volumes.

    Anybody who looks at Roe vs. Wade and sees reason to celebrate has a lot of explaining to do.

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