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Planned Parenthood’s “Thousands of Women Died” Lie Earns Pants on Fire Maximum of Four Pinocchios


Matthew Clark

May 30, 2019

8 min read

Pro Life



Planned Parenthood has once again been exposed in a lie.

This time peddling the pernicious propaganda that “thousands of women died” each year from back alley abortions before Roe v. Wade.

The argument is a slight-of-hand by Planned Parenthood seeking to shift any focus on saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies each year to the blatantly false allegation that ending abortion would lead to the deaths of thousands of women each year. They back this false claim with, you guessed it, made-up statistics. Now even the mainstream media isn’t buying it – with the Washington Post fact checker giving it a maximum pants on fire score of four Pinocchios.

Planned Parenthood is dedicated in its campaign to push extreme, late-term, taxpayer-funded abortion across the country, and it’s not above distorting the facts to do it. We often call it the “abortion distortion.”

The abortion giant presents falsehoods as facts. For example, for years (and still to this day) Planned Parenthood hid behind its “3%” lie – that abortion only made up 3% of its services. We showed you that wasn’t true. And several years ago the Washington Post fact checker finally agreed.

As I’ve detailed numerous times, Planned Parenthood unbundles its services in deceptive ways so as to make abortions seem like a small portion of its services. If it gives a woman a pregnancy test, an std screening, a few contraceptives, and performs an abortion, it counts that as 4 or 5 other services and 1 abortion. You get the idea.  As I’ve explained:

Planned Parenthood’s claim that only 3 percent of its business is abortion is no different than if a car dealership claimed that it wasn’t really in the business of selling cars because the number of new car sales was only a fraction of its total services provided (financing cars, repairing cars, providing manufacture recommended maintenance for cars, cleaning car[s], and so forth). Of course no one would believe such an outrageous claim. Sure, a car dealership does all of those things, but its purpose is to sell cars.

The abortion industry is no different. The abortion industry, led by Planned Parenthood, is about committing abortion. Sure they provide some other services, but when your only self-sustaining revenue source is one thing and you are responsible for 40 percent of that one thing in the entire nation, that is what you are about. Planned Parenthood is about abortion.

Now Planned Parenthood has been caught in a new – and even more deceptive – lie.

But Planned Parenthood and its abortion allies present these lies with such fervor, such vehemence, that it scares anyone who doesn’t know any better into thinking that they’re rights – and even their very lives – are somehow in jeopardy if they don’t support a pro-abortion ideology.

And leading by example, all the way from the top of its abortion empire, current Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen has continually stated that “thousands of women died every year” before Roe v. Wade due to unsafe, illegal abortions.

Just days ago, Wen told MSNBC:

“We’re not going to go back in time to a time before Roe when thousands of women died every year because they didn’t have access to essential health care.”

Not long before that interview, Wen took to Twitter to attack new pro-life laws in this country with more fearmongering, and stating her “thousands died” figure, warning it could “happen again”:

“Before Roe v. Wade, thousands of women died every year — and because of extreme attacks on safe, legal abortion care, this could happen again right here in America.”

Thousands of women dying tragically, and needlessly, every year is certainly a scary statistic. It would surely have people up in arms. The problem is, it’s not actually true. It’s just made up out of whole cloth.

In fact, the evidence shows the mortality numbers steadily declined as medical procedures evolved, long before Roe v. Wade.  

In a recent Washington Post fact check article, Wen’s claim of thousands of deaths every year was investigated, and the statistic was found to have no evidence behind it. According to the article:

Erica Sackin, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, directed us to a 2014 policy statement issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): “It is estimated that before 1973, 1.2 million U.S. women resorted to illegal abortion each year and that unsafe abortions caused as many as 5,000 annual deaths.”

There is no citation in the statement for the estimate of “as many as 5,000 annual deaths,” even though many of the other sentences are carefully documented. None of the citations around this sentence supports the figure, and there is no explanation about how it was calculated.

The article went on to cite additional findings by a leading researcher that make it seem very unlikely that the number of deaths from illegal abortions could have even breached 1,000, let alone 5,000.

“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 truth is the number of deaths from illegal abortions dropped drastically over the decades. Wen and Planned Parenthood just don’t want you to know that. Instead they want you to be afraid, and they will resort to patent falsehoods to convince the American public that abortion is sacrosanct and must be protected at all costs – or thousands will die.

The reality is thousands are dying each day BECAUSE of abortion – innocent babies – and Planned Parenthood is profiting hand over fist as a result. Planned Parenthood is profiting from death while fearmongering with fake death statistics.

As a result, just like with the 3% lie, the Washington Post fact checker gave Planned Parenthood’s “thousands of women died” lie four Pinocchios (the worst rating one can get).

The WaPo fact checker’s conclusion is particularly brutal:

Wen is a doctor, and the ACOG is made up of doctors. They should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics. Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, there is no evidence that in the years immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s decision, thousands of women died every year in the United States from illegal abortions. . . .

These numbers were debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood. There’s no reason to use them today.


Yet, the reality is Planned Parenthood knows this lie doesn’t hold up, but it just doesn’t care. Its own spokesperson, Erica Sackin, released a statement basically saying we know our numbers are fuzzy, but we demand legal, taxpayer funded abortion anyway.

According to Planned Parenthood’s statement:

“While stigma, fear, and poor tracking mean we can never know the exact number who suffered before Roe v Wade was decided, what we do know is that even one woman’s death from abortion before it was legal is one too many. Abortion is health care, and it is one of the safest medical procedures there is -- there is no reason anyone’s health or life should be endangered by politicians bent on keeping people from accessing this basic health care. Yet far too many politicians seem determined to take us back to the days before Roe was decided -- where abortion was virtually inaccessible and all those who could become pregnant paid the price.”

More misinformation. More fearmongering. More abortion distortion.

In fact, we’ve detailed in briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court the numerous times each year that ambulances come to take women away from Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics – women injured from botched abortions.

Abortion is not healthcare. It’s taking an innocent life – something Planned Parenthood doesn’t want anyone to admit. That’s why it’s desperately fighting the new wave of “heartbeat” legislation sweeping the country. States are outlawing abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detectable. Every one of these laws is a major victory in our fight to defend the defenseless. And every one takes a brick out of Planned Parenthood’s stronghold.

We’re continuing our fight to defund Planned Parenthood, stopping the flood of tax dollars that have allowed it to grow so powerful. The Department of Health and Human Services released a rule blocking millions of tax dollars from being sent to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood is suing to maintain its taxpayer support.

We filed formal public comments supporting the HHS rule and have filed amicus briefs in two of these cases at the trial court level. We will continue to fight in support of the rule defunding millions from Planned Parenthood even if, as is likely, the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The facts are simple. Planned Parenthood intentionally lies. Planned Parenthood intentionally kills babies. And it doesn’t deserve a dime of your tax dollars.

We need you in the fight with us. Sign our petition to stop the abortion distortion and defund Planned Parenthood.

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