WASHINGTON – More than 400 women have died from legal abortions since 1973, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that also shows the number of abortions fell by 5 percent in 2009.
The CDC reported Nov. 21 there were 403 deaths related to legal abortions through 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and the number of abortions in 2009 fell from 825,564 to 784,507, marking the biggest one-year decrease in at least a decade.
The Supreme Court legalized abortion effectively for any reason throughout pregnancy Jan. 22, 1973. The deaths related to legal abortions dwarfed those from illegal abortions during the same time period. A total of 56 women died from illegal abortions, according to the CDC.
The new report also showed 12 women died from legal abortions in 2008. That total doubled the number of deaths from legal abortion reported in 2007 and was the most since 1989, when 12 also were reported.
There likely were more deaths from abortions in both 2008 and during the years since the practice was legalized.
For one thing, the CDC statistics, which are based on reports from state health departments, do not include figures from some states. California and New Hampshire have not reported such information since 1998, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). At least one other state typically does not provide statistics to the CDC, the NRLC reported.
In addition, both abortion clinics and families of women who die have interests in keeping the cause of such deaths unknown.
The much larger number of reported deaths from legal abortions in contrast to illegal ones runs counter to the arguments of abortion rights organizations, which contend the procedure needs to be legal in order to be safe and reduce mortality among women who want abortions.
The Guttmacher Institute, which compiles its data directly from abortion clinics instead of the states, has reported about 1.2 million abortions annually in recent years.
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, applauded the five percent decrease in abortions in 2009 but said, “At the same time, we have to ask why the abortion-related deaths of 12 women are buried in the very last table of the [CDC] report and unremarked on in the news. The news from this report is that abortion harms women, as well as their babies.”
The Associated Press attributed the decrease in abortions to more people using contraceptives and to the economy possibly making women more careful not to get pregnant, but World News Service pointed to the undeniable growth in the pro-life movement and to surveys which show public opinion on abortion is changing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.)