News and Commentary

Four Pinocchios: Washington Post Hits Planned Parenthood President Over Major Lie

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood’s new president Leana Wen was smacked with four Pinocchiosthe worst possible rating — from a Washington Post fact check over the abortion leader’s repeated false claim concerning abortion in the days before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

Wen has falsely claimed time and again during her tenure that “thousands” of women died from illegal abortions before the Roe decision.

“We face a real situation where Roe could be overturned. And we know what will happen, which is that women will die. Thousands of women died every year pre-Roe,” the president told WFAA of Dallas in early March.

In April, she repeated: “Before Roe v. Wade, thousands of women died every year — and because of extreme attacks on safe, legal abortion care, this could happen again right here in America. #WeWontGoBack.”

“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,” Wen told cohosts on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

But the claim is false. As highlighted by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the number of deaths from illegal abortions in the United States pre-Roe (1972) was 39 — miles away from the executive’s “thousands” claim. Moreover, in that same year, the number of deaths from legal abortion was 24.

As noted by LifeNews, the statistic Wen is apparently citing was based upon data before vital medical advances and admittedly inflated:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) similarly has claimed up to 5,000 women died annually from unsafe abortions prior to 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its infamous abortion case.

But the Washington Post called this “shoddy” data. Its fact checker did not find research to back up these claims. Instead, it found what pro-life advocates have been saying for years: that few women died from abortions in the decade prior to Roe, and a rise in the use of antibiotics appears to be the biggest factor in the drop in maternal deaths, not legalized abortions.

“Wen is a doctor, and the ACOG is made up of doctors. They should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics,” Kessler chided Wen. “Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, 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.”

“Wen’s repeated use of this number reminds us of the shoddy data used by human trafficking opponents,” he continued. “Unsafe abortion is certainly a serious issue, especially in countries with inadequate medical facilities. But advocates hurt their cause when they use figures that do not withstand scrutiny.”

“These numbers were debunked in 1969 — 50 years ago — by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood,” Kessler added. “There’s no reason to use them today.”

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