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Debunking the "Back Alley Abortion" Argument: How the Abortion Industry Multiplies Maternal Death Rates

Have you ever heard this argument for the legalization of abortion? If abortion isn't legal, thousands and thousands of women will die or be seriously maimed in "back alley abortions".

Let me thoroughly debunk the "back alley abortion" claim for you.

First off, what was a "back alley abortion"? Was the abortion performed in a "back alley"? No, a pregnant woman would just enter a doctor's office through the backdoor or alley.

Second, you will be shocked at the number of deaths that resulted from "back alley abortions" prior to Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion in 1973. And not because the number is high.

Lastly, what is the maternal death rate caused by abortion today? Abortion is safe now that abortion is legal, right? No.

In the end, notice how many fewer women died from abortion when it was illegal and actually rare. Compare that to how many woman die or are seriously maimed by the abortion industry now that abortion is legal and common.

And remember, at least one child dies in every abortion.

How Many Women Died as a Result of "Back Alley Abortions" pre-1973?

You will be shocked at how low the number is ...

Deaths from illegally induced abortion declined between 1940 and 1972 in part because of the introduction of antibiotics to manage sepsis.[1a] Septic shock occurs when a woman suffers an infection during the abortion procedure. Even to this day, however, septic shock is one of the major abortion complications.[1b]

In 1972 (the year before abortion was federally legalized), a total of 24 women died from causes known to be associated with legal abortions, and 39 died as a result of known illegal abortions (CDC).

That's a total of 63 women dying within a year following their abortion. Be sure to note this number for future comparison. Hint: I'm about to show you that current numbers dwarf this number.

However you look at it, that's less than 100 deaths per year.

Even the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, admits that less than 200 women died each year from illegal abortions as early as 1965. Less than 200 mothers died, despite their estimate that 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions occurred per year.

Take note for future reference: based on the above estimates, only 0.1% to 0.016% of women died as a result of illegal "back alley abortions" in the decade prior to Roe v. Wade.

Data Reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Seriously Underestimates Abortion Deaths and Abortion Mortality

Check out all the data below from the CDC. These numbers are presented as the true numbers, when they are only crude estimates. Since reporting isn't mandatory in most places, however, very few of the deaths from abortion are actually reported to the CDC. Entire states do not report to the CDC.

To be fair, it is also true that the maternal deaths due to abortion were seriously under-reported prior to the legalization abortion. Doing such would be admitting to a crime.

The rates are so under-reported that the CDC presents aborting a child as being ten times safer for the mother than giving birth. That's ludicrous, and here's why ...

There was a large population-based study conducted in Finland recently. Finland's maternal mortality rate is among the world's best, far better than the United State's. A recent Finnish study showed that post-pregnancy maternal death rates within one year were nearly 4 times greater among women who had an induced abortion (100.5 per 100,000) compared to women who carried to term (26.7 per 100,000).[9]

Here is the data on reported deaths resulting from abortion as presented by the CDC:

  • "In 1972-1979, there were 0.3 fatal hemorrhages per 100,000 abortions, which resulted in 24 deaths from botched abortions."[2]
  • "Legal-abortion mortality between 1979 and 1985 was 0.6 death per 100,000 procedures, more than 10 times lower than the 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 1979 and 1986."[1]
  • "In 2013, the most recent year for which data were available, four women were identified to have died as a result of complications from legal induced abortion."[3]
  • "In 2014, six women died as a result of complications from induced abortion. Between 1973-2014, 437 women died due to abortion complications." (CDC)
  • "In 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, six women were identified to have died as a result of complications from legal induced abortion."[4]
  • "In 2015, 638,169 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 188 abortions per 1,000 live births."[4]

Why the CDC "Reported" Number of Maternal Deaths due to Abortion is Way Off

The CDC just presents "reported" data. Notice, the CDC doesn't even attempt to describe the data as the "true" or "actual" numbers of maternal deaths due to abortion. 

Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, provides the following explanation for why the CDC's maternal death rates are wrong: [5]

You need to know that the data reported by abortion clinics to state health departments and ultimately to the CDC significantly under-represents abortion morbidity and mortality for several reasons: 1) abortion reporting is not required by federal law and many states do not report abortion-related deaths to the CDC; 2) deaths due to medical and surgical treatments are reported under the complication of the procedure (e.g., infection) rather than the treatment (e.g., induced abortion); 3) most women leave abortion clinics within hours of the procedure and go to hospital emergency rooms if there are complications that may result in death; 4) suicide deaths are rarely, if ever, linked back to abortion in state reporting of death rates; 5) an abortion experience can lead to physical and/or psychological disturbances that increase the likelihood of dying years after the abortion, and these indirect abortion-related deaths are not captured at all.

The CDC collects cause of death in part from death certificates. Unfortunately, U.S. physicians fail to report recent or current pregnancies on a minimum of 50% of death certificates.[6]

So, How Many Women Die from Botched Abortions in the US? 

First, here are the estimates for women who die from abortions in the US, not merely the reported numbers.

Using national U.S. data spanning the years from 1988 to 1997, the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reported the relative risk of mortality was 14.7 per 100,000 at 13-15 weeks of gestation, 29.5 at 16-20 weeks, and 76.6 at or after 21 weeks.[7] 

Let's take these numbers and compare them to the numbers of abortions reported to the CDC in 2015: [8]:

Table 1: Total US Maternal Deaths due to Abortion 

As you can see from the above table, an estimated 20 mothers died from complications arising from an abortion in 2015. That's more than triple the number actually reported to the CDC.

Further, look at that huge number on the last row. That's the estimated number of mothers who die in the year following an abortion. It's based on a study conducted in Finland which leads the world in maternal health. Therefore, 641 is actually a conservative figure! 

In a large Finnish population-based study led by Gissler, post-pregnancy death rates within one year were reported to be nearly 4 times greater among women who had an induced abortion (100.5 per 100,000) compared to women who carried to term (26.7 per 100,000).[9] 

The total number of estimated maternal deaths within a year of an abortion in 2015 was 20 plus 641, or 661. 

950% Increase in Maternal Deaths Since Legalizing Abortion

So, let's compare 2015 to 1972, the year before abortion was legalized. 
  • 1972: 63 women dying within a year following their abortion
  • 2015: 661 estimated women dying within a year following their abortion
That's a 950% increase in deaths from the terrible days of "back alley abortions." 63 to 661 is a massive increase. 

Conclusion: "Back Alley Abortions" Resulted in Far Fewer Total Maternal Deaths than Today's Abortion Industry

"Back Alley Abortions" actually resulted in far fewer maternal deaths than today's "safe, and legal" abortion industry.

Want further proof that Safe Abortion is a Myth? 

For more articles on this topic, check out the following:
But there's more, unfortunately ...

What About Women's Mortality in the Years Following an Abortion? 

Here is a sampling of figures on this issue. 

In a record-based study by Reardon and colleagues, U.S. women who aborted, when compared to women who delivered, were 62% more likely to die over an 8 year period from any cause after adjustments were made for age.[11] 

Gissler and colleagues, those responsible for the Finnish study above, performed another study. Again, they found that maternal mortality was significantly lower after a birth (28.2 per 100,000) than after an induced abortion (83.1 per 100,000).[12]

A Danish Study found similar negative effects on maternal mortality over the 25 years following an abortion or multiple abortions.[13] Increased risks of death were 45%, 114% and 191% for 1, 2 and 3 abortions, respectively, compared with no abortions after controlling for other reproductive outcomes and last pregnancy age. 


[1a] "Induced termination of pregnancy before and after Roe v Wade. Trends in the mortality and morbidity of women", Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association, JAMA, 1992 Dec 9: 268(22): 3231-9.
[1b] Sajadi-Ernazarova, Karima R., Christopher L. Martinez, Drexel University College of Medicine, Available from:
[2] Grimes DA, Kafrissen ME, O'Reilly KR, and Binkin NJ, "Fatal hemorrhage from legal abortion in the United States", Surg Gynecol Obstet, 1983 Nov; 157(5): 461-6.
[3] Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2014, MMWR Surveill Summ 2017; Nov 24; 66 (24): 1-48. 
[4] Abortion Surveillance - United States, 2015, MMWR Surveill Summ 2018; 67 (No. SS-13).
[5] Coleman, P. A, "Serious misrepresentation of the relative safety of induced abortion compared to childbirth published in a leading medical journal." Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
[6] Horon, I., "Under-reporting of maternal deaths on death certificates and the magnitude of the problem of maternal mortality", American Journal of Public Health, 2005: 95, 479.
[7] Bartlett, L. A. et al., "Risk Factors for Legal Induced Abortion-Related Mortality in the United States", Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2004:103(4), 729–37.
[8] Calculations required for Table 1: 
  • In 2015, 638,169 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. 
  • 11,946 (abortions at 13 weeks according to CDC Table 9) = 10.87% of the 109,860 abortions occurring between 9-13 weeks of gestation according to CDC Table 9
  • 109,860 abortions is also the number provided CDC Table 7 for the total number of occuring at 9-13 weeks of gestation, so 11,946 is consistent throughout
  • Multiplier: CDC Table 7 shows 428,042 total abortions in 2015. To get to the actual total of 638,169 (see above), assuming percentage breakdowns remain constant, requires a multiplier of 1.49, which is simply 638,169 divided by 428,042.
  • Total maternal deaths at 13-15 weeks gestation = (14.7/100,000)*[11,946 (abortions at 13 weeks according to CDC Table 9) + 15,146 (abortions at 14-15 weeks according to CDC Table 7)] = 3.98. Applying the multiplier of 1.49, total maternal deaths becomes 5.93. 
  • Total maternal deaths at 16-20 weeks gestation = (29.5/100,000)*[9,030 (abortions at 16-17 weeks according to CDC Table 7) + 8,410 (abortions at 18-20 weeks according to CDC Table 7)] = 5.14. Applying the multiplier of 1.49, total maternal deaths becomes 7.66.
  • Total maternal deaths at 16-20 weeks gestation = (76.6/100,000)*[5,597 (abortions at 21-40 weeks according to CDC Table 7)] = 4.29. Applying the multiplier of 1.49, total maternal deaths becomes 6.39.
  • Total maternal deaths up to one year post-pregnancy = (100.5/100,000)*[638,169 (total abortions at all gestational ages according to CDC)] = 641.36
[9] Gissler, M., Kauppila R, Merilainen J, Toukomaa H, & Hemminki E., "Pregnancy associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994: Definition problems and benefits of record linkage", Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 1997: 76, 651-657.
[10] Calhoun, Byron, "The Maternal Mortality Myth in the Context of Legalized Abortion", The Linacre Quarterly 80 (3) 2013, 264–276.
[11] Reardon, D. C., Ney, P. G., Scheuren, F. J., Cougle, J. R., Coleman, P. K., & Strahan, T., "Deaths associated with pregnancy outcome: a record linkage study of low income women", Southern Medical Journal, 2002: 95(8), 834-841.
[12] Gissler, M., Berg, C., Bouvier-Colle, M., Buekins, P., "Pregnancy-associated mortality after birth, spontaneous abortion, or induced abortion in Finland, 1987-2000", American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004: 190, 422-427.
[13] Priscilla K. Coleman, David C. Reardon, Byron C. Calhoun, "Reproductive history patterns and long-term mortality rates: a Danish, population-based record linkage study," European Journal of Public Health, Volume 23, Issue 4, August 2013, 569–574.

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  1. The possessive form of the name United States is formed just as is the possessive form of any other proper name that ends in the letter 's'. An apostrophe and 's' is appended to the name thus: United States's.

    1. Thanks for your comment, albeit weird: (a) I didn't include such a possessive form in the article; (b) the Chicago Manual of Style and other guides provide the possession form as .

  2. Amazing post!! this is very informative thanks for share it with us Abortion clinics in DC up to 24 weeks

  3. ^^^BEWARE!!^^^ (but take note)
    THIS IS AN ABORTION PROVIDER, not a women's health clinic. Looks like they're trying to get backlinks. Should I delete? What do you think?