What California Found
How credible were the claims of 5,000 to 10,000 abortion deaths a year?

Dateline: 12/11/99

Last week we looked at pre-legalization maternal mortality figures for Minnesota and Tennessee. Their Maternal Mortality Studies were very much in keeping with NCHS estimates of maternal deaths from abortion, and a far cry from Frederick Taussig's repudiated estimates of 5,000 to 10,000 maternal deaths a year.

But, you might say, Minnesota and Tennessee are not real hot-n-happenin' states! They aren't where the trends are! What about someplace like, say, California? Okay, let's look at maternal mortality studies in California.

From August 1957 through December, 1965, the five District Maternal Study Committees in California counted a total of 223 abortion deaths (criminal, spontaneous, and undetermined). Leon Parrish Fox, in his report on these results, noted that "the number of deaths per year from all abortions has averaged about 30 without much variation during the [study]." With California accounting for 323,944 of 1,330,414 reported abortions in 1993 (24%), we can estimate that California likewise accounted for roughly 24% of criminal abortions before legalization.

If Frederick Taussig's numbers of 5,000 to 10,000 maternal deaths from criminal abortion alone were correct, California should have been counting 1200 to 2400 maternal deaths from criminal abortions alone per year. With law enforcement, hospital administrators, physicians, and coroners all keeping a weather eye out for abortion injuries and deaths, is it really credible to claim that 98% to 99% of criminal abortion deaths went utterlly undetected?

If we start with California's numbers, however, we get a different story. If California had a proportionate number of criminal abortions, we'd have been seeing 125 deaths from all abortions annually in the United States during the period 1957 to 1965. When you consider that the official toll fell from 260 in 1957 to 90 (total legal, criminal, spontaneous, and undetermined) in 1972, 125 deaths per year in that time period seems pretty accurate. It certainly is a better estimate than Taussig's wild guess.



Source: Leon Parrish Fox, "Abortion Deaths in California," AJOG, July 1, 1967

Related Links at About.com
Abortion Practice Before Legalization
Abortion Mortality
Analytical Tools
Changing Face of Abortion in the 20th Century
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
Pre-Legalization
Who To Thank For Public Health Miracles

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