Planned Parenthood debunked: No, thousands of women didn’t die yearly from abortion before Roe

Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen

Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen is repeating the lie that thousands of women died every year prior to the legalization of abortion. Wen was in Dallas, speaking at the annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, when local media station WFAA asked her about the state of abortion in the nation. “I am deeply concerned about the future of Roe v. Wade,” Wen told WFAA. “We face a real situation where Roe could be overturned. And, we know what will happen which is that, women will die. Thousands of women died every year prior pre-Roe.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Wen is not being truthful.

Dr. Wen’s repetition of these false numbers is nothing short of fear mongering. As a physician, Wen should be aware that the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s dramatically decreased not only illegal abortion-related deaths but maternal mortality rates overall. Wen, who has admitted that abortion is at the “core” of what Planned Parenthood does, very cunningly played this fabricated card to frighten lawmakers and the public so she can protect the one “service” responsible for padding the pockets of Planned Parenthood’s leadership team.


The claim that thousands of women died before Roe was invented in the years leading up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, when pro-abortion men, set on manipulating the public, began the push for decriminalizing abortion. They were the founders of NARAL — Larry Lader, an autobiographer of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and former abortionist Bernard Nathanson — along with NOW president Betty Friedan. Nathanson later renounced his pro-abortion stance and worked to expose the lies he and his colleagues told, later revealing how they completely fabricated the numbers in an attempt to sway public opinion at a time when society and especially women opposed unfettered legalization.

And people like Planned Parenthood’s president are still repeating these wholly false numbers.

Here’s the truth: Live Action News has documented thoroughly numerous times how multiple abortion insiders — such as Planned Parenthood’s medical director Mary Calderone and Planned Parenthood’s former “special affiliate” the Guttmacher Institute (named after former American Eugenics Society VP and former Planned Parenthood president Alan F. Guttmacher) and others — say the number of women who died from illegal abortion prior to Roe was hundreds or less.

Reports on the facts listed below can be viewed here.

    • 1950: over 300 deaths (Source: Guttmacher Institute)
    • 1957: 260 deaths (Source: Planned Parenthood Medical Director, Mary S. Calderone)
    • 1964: 264 deaths (Source: Department of Health Education and Welfare)
    • 1964: 247 deaths (Source: Statistician Dr. Christopher Tietze)
    • 1965: just under 200 deaths (Source: Guttmacher Institute)
    • 1965: 193 deaths (Source: Planned Parenthood)
    • 1966: 189 deaths (Source: National Center for Health Statistics, reported by CDC)
    • 1972: 39 deaths (Source: Centers for Disease Control CDC)
    • 1973: 19 deaths (Source: Centers for Disease Control CDC)

Planned Parenthood’s own published report (image below) contradicts Dr. Wen’s false claim. But, despite Nathanson’s admission and the fact that Wen’s number is clearly not factual, the abortion-friendly media failed to challenge the new Planned Parenthood president.

READ: Get the facts: Thousands of women weren’t dying from abortion before Roe v. Wade

Image: Planned Parenthood on illegal abortion deaths prior to Roe

Planned Parenthood on illegal abortion deaths prior to Roe

The legalization of abortion did not miraculously make abortions safe. CDC statistics reveal that in 1972, the year before Roe, while there were 39 deaths from illegal abortion, there were also 24 deaths in the handful of states where abortion had been legalized. Then, in 1973, the year the Supreme Court forced abortion on the nation, the CDC reports 19 deaths from illegal abortions and 25 deaths from legal abortion.

In other words, the year SCOTUS ruled on abortion, more women died from legal abortions than illegal ones.

Illegal Abortion Deaths 1930 to 1979 updated (Graph credit: Live Action News)

Despite claims of being for women, Wen conveniently failed to mention how women continue to die from legal abortion. Many of their names can be seen at the end of the video below. While Wen tricks the media into focusing on pre-Roe abortion deaths, she ignores Planned Parenthood’s own involvement in post-Roe legal abortion deaths — like those of Planned Parenthood patients Cree-Erwin Sheppard and Tonya Reaves. The painful 911 call from Cree’s mother when she discovered her daughter’s lifeless body is absolutely heartwrenching.

Listen as Cree’s brother describes his family’s agony over her death from a legal, first trimester abortion at Planned Parenthood in Michigan:

If WFAA and reporter Jason Whitely have any journalistic integrity, they will immediately call Planned Parenthood out for Wen’s lie and publish a correction.

Planned Parenthood, which commits over 330,000 abortions annually, remains the largest abortion corporation in the nation, receiving half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds every year.

Editor’s Note: Statistics updated 7/2/19.

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