Backstreet abortion

Pro-abortion campaigners have always claimed that legal abortion is necessary to stop thousands of dangerous back-street abortions going on and many women dying as a result.

This argument, accompanied by alarming statistics, has been used all over the world to persuade politicians to change the law on abortion but there is little evidence to suggest that backstreet abortion is the massive problem some campaigners claim it to be. For example:

  • Dr Bernard Nathanson, joint founder of NARAL in the US (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) admitted when he changed his mind about abortion that the drive to legalise abortion was based on lies. He said: "We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the US. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000." (Bernard Nathanson, Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist)
  • In Portugal in 1982, it was claimed that 2000 women were dying from illegal abortion every year. However, only 2099 women of childbearing age had died from all causes, according to the then most recent available statistics. Either Portuguese women never die of illness or accident, or the 2000-a-year figure was false. (The Abortion Threat to Northern Ireland Intensified, p. 11)
  • Dr Malcolm Potts, a pro-abortion campaigner and the former director of the international abortion provider International Planned Parenthood Federation, wrote: "Those who want the law to be liberalized will stress the hazards of illegal abortion and claim that hundreds, or thousands, or women die unnecessarily each year, when the actual number is far lower." (Abortion (CUP, 1977) p. 529)

Legal abortion does not stop backstreet abortion. Between 1968 and 1988, there have been 986 recorded abortions performed illegally and 293 prosecutions in the UK. So much for 'controlling' illegal abortion. (House of Commons Hansard, col. 276, 17 January 1990)

The fact that abortion happens is not a reason for making it legal. Murder, rape and domestic violence occur on a daily basis and cannot be entirely prevented, but no one suggests legalising these crimes or allowing them to take place in a hygienic environment.