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A Glimpse Into Abortion's Past

Dateline: 2/26/00

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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?*

So when this article was published, 1960, it was possible to get a legal abortion.

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.

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.

Yet abortion remained illegal in New York City.

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*Dr. Calderone's "answers," although edited to fit the Q&A format, are otherwise verbatim from "Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem," published in the July, 1960 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (v. 50 no. 7), pages 948 - 954. If you want a copy to read for yourself, contact the reference desk of your local public or university library, and the librarian can assist you in getting it from microfilm or through Interlibrary Loan.

Related Links at RealChoice:

1950 - 1970: The Transitional Period
A timeline of interesting abortion-related events from the period when the US underwent a paradigm shift regarding abortion.

Abortion Practice Before Legalization
Who were the pre-legalization abortionists? How did they operate?

PPFA Abortion Conference, 1955
A quiet conference by Planned Parenthood Federation of America yields some fascinating information

What California Found
An in-depth maternal mortality study shows how absurd abortion advocates' claims of 5,000 - 10,000 abortion deaths per year are.

What Minnesota Found
An in-depth maternal mortality study shows how absurd abortion advocates' claims are.

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