Did Roe Make Abortion Safe?

Did Roe make abortion safe? Weren’t there like 10,000 deaths a year from illegal abortions before Roe? Weren’t abortions before Roe done using coat hangers and in back alleys?


The abortion industry created the myth that thousands of women were dying every year from illegal abortions before 1973. But former abortionist Bernard Nathanson, founder of NARAL, admitted, “I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”[i]

In 1972, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 39 women died from illegal NumbersMythabortion and 24 died from legal abortion. While every death is a tragedy, this is a far cry from thousands of women per year. In fact, according to Mary Calderon, former director of Planned Parenthood, an estimated 90% of all illegal abortions were performed by licensed physicians in good standing.[ii] According to the CDC, “for 1972–2000, a total of 470 abortion-related deaths were reported in the 2001 abortion MMWR Surveillance Summary.”[iii] (To view the relevant table, click here.) All Roe did was move the “abortion” sign from the back of the doctor’s office to the front.

The truth is that there is nothing safe about legal abortion. Even though abortion is illegal (until this year) in Ireland, the country consistently boasts one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the UN, UNICEF, and WHO (#1 in 2005, #3 in 2008). The 1989 ban on abortion in Chile was correlated to a near complete reduction in abortion-related maternal mortality. In 2008, Chile had the second lowest maternal mortality rate in the Americas. And despite having the world’s most liberal abortion laws, the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation and lags behind 30 developed countries for mothers’ well-being.[iv]


[i] Bernard Nathanson, M.D. Aborting America (Doubleday, 1979), 193.

[ii] Mary Steichen Calderone.  Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health: July 1960, Vol. 50, No. 7, pp. 948-954. http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.50.7.948.