The Washington Post’s Fact Checker denounced Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen for claiming that thousands of women died every year due to lack of abortion access before the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade.
In an analysis posted Wednesday, the Fact Checker noted that Planned Parenthood justified the claim by pointing to an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement from 2014 that claimed as many as 5,000 annual deaths occurred for women who sought illegal abortions in the United States before Roe.
However, as the Fact Checker pointed out, “this report contained no mortality rates or an explanation of the 5,000-death estimate, nor did any of the other material sent by [an ACOG spokeswoman.]”
The Fact Checker went on to quote Mary Steichen Calderone, a former Planned Parenthood official who while serving as medical director in 1959 wrote that abortion “is no longer a dangerous procedure.”
“This applies not just to therapeutic abortions as performed in hospitals but also to so-called illegal abortions as done by physicians,” wrote Calderone, as reported by The Washington Post.
“In 1957, there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind. In New York City in 1921, there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15.”
The Fact Checker also quoted from a 1969 Scientific American article authored by two researchers honored by Planned Parenthood in 1973.
“The National Center for Health Statistics listed 235 deaths from abortion in 1965. Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than that figure, but in all likelihood it was under 1,000,” they wrote in 1969.
For repeating the inaccurate statistic, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Planned Parenthood’s leader four Pinocchios, a rating indicating a major falsehood.
There has been an increased push for state-level abortion restrictions over the past few months, especially legislation that largely bans the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
On the same day that The Washington Post fact-checked Planned Parenthood, Louisiana’s legislature passed one of these heartbeat abortion bans, with Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards expected to sign.
In Alabama, Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill earlier this month making abortion a felony, except when the life of the mother is threatened.
“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," Gov. Ivey stated.
"No matter one’s personal view on abortion, we can all recognize that, at least for the short term, this bill may similarly be unenforceable."
The efforts have been driven in large part as a way to set up a legal challenge to Roe, with pro-life activists and politicians hoping that a conservative majority Supreme Court will overturn it.