A Glimpse Into Abortion's Past
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Through the miracle of time travel (okay, microfilm at a university library), I was able to imagine this interview with former Planned Parenthood Medical Director Mary S. Calderone. The microforms room at the library can be thought of as a time machine.
Dr. Calderone served as PPFA's Medical Director from 1953 until 1964, when she became the first Executive Director of the newly-launched SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States). Calderone played a key role in promoting Planned Parenthood's goals and agenda, through political savvy and public relations skills.
Come back with me, if you will, to 1960. The spool is on the microfilm reader. I have my list of questions, and Dr. Calderone's words glow on the screen before me. What did she have to say about the things we would ask her if we could?*
On the legal status of abortion at the time (c. 1960)
Dr. Calderone: In 46 states legal abortion is permitted to preserve the life of the mother; three states allow, in addition, preservation of the health of the mother.
So when this article was published, 1960, it was possible to get a legal abortion.
On the typical criteria for a legal abortion.
Dr. Calderone: [T]herapeutic abortions are for the most part being done on the word of psychiatrists that the unwilling mother will otherwise commit suicide.
On the medical risks of pregnancy and therapeutic abortions be for
Dr. Calderone: [M]edically speaking, that is, from the point of view of diseases of the various systems, cardiac, genitourinary, and so on, it is hardly ever necessary today to consider the life of a mother as threatened by a pregnancy.
Even today, it's often presented as "fact" that 5,000 to 10,000 women died every year in the United States from criminal abortions in the days before legalization.
On abortion mortality before legaliation.
Dr. Calderone: In 1957 there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortion of any kind.
In the 1955 Planned Parenthood conference on abortion, Dr. Milton Helpern, Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, presented some information about abortion mortality trends.
On the conference findings about abortion mortality trends.
Dr. Calderone: In New York City in 1921 there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15.
Yet abortion remained illegal in New York City.
On how abortion deaths were being reduced without legalization.
Dr. Calderone: [F]irst, chemotherapy and antibiotics have come in, benefitting all surgical procedures as well as abortion. Second, and even more important, the [1955 Planned Parenthood Conference on Induced Abortion] estimated that 90 per cent of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians.
On the character and qualifications of illegal abortion practitioners.
Dr. Calderone: Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians, trained as such; and many of them are in good standing in their communities. They must do a pretty good job if the death rate is as low as it is.
Related Links at RealChoice:
- 1970: The Transitional Period
A timeline of interesting abortion-related events from the period when the US underwent a paradigm shift regarding abortion.
Practice Before Legalization
Who were the pre-legalization abortionists? How did they operate?
Abortion Conference, 1955
A quiet conference by Planned Parenthood Federation of America yields some fascinating information
An in-depth maternal mortality study shows how absurd abortion advocates' claims of 5,000 - 10,000 abortion deaths per year are.
An in-depth maternal mortality study shows how absurd abortion advocates' claims are.
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