The repeated claim by the president of Planned Parenthood that “thousands” of women died before the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling because they lacked access to safe abortion is a “big lie” that was spread by activists a half century ago, according to a co-founder of the leading pro-abortion group NARAL.
In a 1990 interview with WND Vice President David Kupelian, Bernard Nathanson, M.D., who once was head of the nation’s largest abortion clinic, observed that “repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public.”
He said that he and other abortion activists prior to the Roe decision “constantly fed to the media” the figure of 10,000 women dying annually from illegal abortions. The actual figure, he said, was about 200 to 250 annually.
“These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law,” said Nathanson, who died in 2011.
Last week, nevertheless, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said: “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.”
In his Washington Post fact-check column, Glenn Kessler rated Wen’s claim with “Four Pinocchios,” writing that “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.”
He said abortion advocates “hurt their cause” with such unproven claims.
Wen made the same claims in prior months in a radio interview and on Twitter, Fox News reported.
‘We simply fabricated the results’
Influenced by the development of ultrasound in the 1970s, Nathanson changed his views on abortion and became a leading pro-life advocate. He called abortion “the most atrocious holocaust in the history of the United States.” His 1984 film “The Silent Scream” featured the ultrasound video of a baby aborted at 12 weeks. His second film, “Eclipse of Reason,” exposed late-term abortions.
Nathanson explained to Kupelian in the 1990 interview that he and other abortion activists “persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal, enlightened, sophisticated one.”
“Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls,” he said.
“We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60 percent of Americans were in favor of permissive abortion,” Nathanson explained. “This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority.”
He said the activists “aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S.”
“The actual figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1 million,” he said.
Nathanson said another myth “fed to the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally.”
“In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1,500 percent since legalization,” he said in 1990.
Planned Parenthood: ‘We can never know’
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America reacted to Kessler’s column.
“Even the Washington Post is admitting what we’ve been saying for decades,” she said.
Planned Parenthood responded to the Post by claiming “stigma, fear, and poor tracking mean we can never know the exact number who suffered before Roe vs. Wade was decided.”
“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 hell-bent on keeping people from accessing this basic health care,” Erica Sackin, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, told the Post in a statement.
“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.”