Analysis

Historical inaccuracies abound in new Planned Parenthood video on Supreme Court and abortion

Planned Parenthood

Last week, Planned Parenthood released a video titled, What’s the Deal With Abortions and the Supreme Court?in response to the pending Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision regarding Mississippi’s restriction on abortions after 15 weeks gestation.

In what is likely an attempt to stir up its target audience with heated emotions, the video presented several misleading claims to make people feel comfortable with abortion… and uneasy about pro-lifers. 

Historical Inaccuracies (0:00 – 0:24)

The video purports that there was a time in history when a “person’s decision to end a pregnancy was respected as their own,” asserting that abortion methods were sold in drug stores and advertised in newspapers without “the shame and stigma we see today.” 

“That all changed in the 19th century when the male-led medical establishment edged out caregiving women and took over childbirth,” the video claimed. “Abortions were soon illegal and often dangerous.” 

Daniel Gump, author of Criminal Abortion Laws Before the Fourteenth Amendment: A Timeline and Visual Review of Jurisprudence and Historical Milestones,” refuted this point in a statement provided to Live Action News. 

“Physicians would shun and mock anyone in their ranks who would perform abortions. This went on from at least the early 1800s. Their newsletters would have a ‘wall of shame’ section, where they would say ‘good riddance’ to anyone who was arrested for performing abortions,” Gump wrote. 

The author explained that, from the Colonial times onward, abortions past the point of quickening were always felonies in the United States. One of the problems with prosecuting abortionists during this time, however, is that it could be difficult to tell if an act was an induced abortion or infanticide during a later pregnancy.

“It was easier to dispose of fetal remains earlier, so the underground abortion industry was often able to escape prosecution unless someone informed authorities, or the woman was injured,” Gump wrote. “Ann Lohman (Madam Restell) was a notorious abortionist in NYC who was finally convicted in the mid-1800s. Numerous other cases saw convictions of abortionists, as well. No woman was ever convicted for self-inductions, as the abortionist was always the target of prosecution.”

Page 70 of Gump’s book further explains the Madam Restell case: 

On January 3, 1848, the New York Supreme Court ruled in People v. Lohman, regarding the abortionist Ann Lohman (alias Madam Restell), who procured an abortion on Maria Bodine, resulting in the death of her unborn child.  The defense took exception to the procedures of a lower court that led to the conviction.  The New York Supreme Court ruled that any procedural errors only affected the proving of her ‘intent to destroy the child’ (a felony of manslaughter) but that there was still sufficient evidence to convict her on a misdemeanor for intending to procure a miscarriage.

“The claims that abortions weren’t banned until the late 1800s are completely false,” Gump emphasized in his statement to Live Action News. “The laws referenced in this case were enacted in 1828, among them the nation’s first-ever general fetal homicide law.” 

READ: Fact checking the fact checkers: Yes, Planned Parenthood is an abortion business

Legalizing Abortion Did Not Make It Safe (0:24 – 0:42)

Another assertion from the video is that abortions were dangerous until the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision declared abortion a “protected right.” First, it is important to note that pro-lifers do not want women to be harmed by abortion. If it is true that abortion is an unjust act of violence against an innocent human, however, that would not justify keeping it legal to supposedly make it safer to have one. 

In addition, the legal status of abortion appears to have no relevance to whether abortion is safe. Former Planned Parenthood Director Mary S. Calderone noted in a 1960 article in the American Journal of Public Health, licensed physicians committed most illegal abortions and the fatality rate was low. NARAL founder Dr. Bernard Nathanson also admitted years ago that his organization fabricated the statistics on the number of women who died from illegal abortions before Roe. 

The legalization of abortion did not suddenly protect women from injury or death. If anything, it emboldened dangerous back-alley abortionists to conduct their operations in plain sight, as Roe removed any fear they might have had of prosecution. 

Public Opinion About Abortion (0:59 – 1:00)

Planned Parenthood’s video claimed that 80% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal, but people’s views on abortion tend to be more complex than the video conveys. As Live Action News reported, a recent Marist poll found that 71% of Americans support significant restrictions on abortion, with many believing it should only be available during the first trimester or in cases of rape or incest. In that survey, 73% of Americans also said they “oppose” or “strongly oppose” using tax dollars to support abortion abroad, including 59% who self-identify as pro-choice. 

Regarding Roe, 61% of respondents said they want to see it overturned, with 44% saying that individual states should determine the legality of abortion and 17% saying they want abortion to be made illegal.

Opposing Abortion Is Not a Matter of Personal Preference (0:45 – 0:53)

Planned Parenthood’s video cited a familiar argument, claiming that ever since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling, protestors and politicians have “used their personal beliefs to make it harder and harder for many of us to get the health care we need.”

Pro-lifers are not arguing that women should not have access to health care by opposing an action that results in the deaths of preborn children. In addition, categorizing an act of violence as a matter of personal preference is a tragic misunderstanding of why pro-life people oppose abortion.

If pro-lifers are right, and abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human, then it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up against it. 

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