Answering the coat-hanger back-alley objection
Do the alleged dangers of illegal abortion, justify, intentionally killing an innocent human being?
Hello friends. Welcome to the case for life podcast, where we equip you to make a case for the pro life you persuasively. I’m Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute. Be sure to visit us online at our social media sites or at prolifetraining. com. We want to equip you with the best resources for making your case in the public square. One of the things that’s going to come up again and again, especially in an election year, is that pro lifers hate women and want them to die. And that argument is going to take a couple of different forms. The first form is what I call the post Dobbs form, and it goes like this. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, states are going to pass laws against abortion, and they’re going to punish women who have miscarriages or need ectopic pregnancy surgery. This is nothing but an outright lie, but it resonates with a lot of people, even in red States. We saw this in Montana. We saw this in Kentucky. We saw this, uh, elsewhere, Michigan, for example, we see it in blue States, red States and battleground States. People are moved by this idea That women are going to die or suffer if we pass laws protecting the unborn. Now, we know factually this is a bunch of garbage. There is not one state law in the book that says, even in pro life states, that if a woman needs a life saving ectopic pregnancy surgery, she can’t get it. Nor is there a law that says if she suffers a miscarriage, we’re going to prosecute her for murder. This is pure Hyper lying. That’s all it is. I don’t know a better term for it, but it resonates with the public and you as a pro lifer need to know how to assuage the fears of people who are convinced that you hate women and just want them to die. The second kind of lie or fear you’re going to get, argument, goes along the lines of what happens long term if we restrict abortion. And here you’re going to get the popular street level, what about back alley abortions? What about women who can’t get safe, legal abortions? What are they gonna do? Well, the argument goes, they’re gonna go to dudes with rusty coat hangers in the back alleys of America. And they’re going to end up getting dangerous, illegal abortions that are going to harm them and will either kill them or maim them or otherwise. Caused them to suffer great harm because pro lifers passed laws restricting abortion. What typically happens, and you need to be very careful here, What typically happens is the pro life advocate, upon hearing that argument, Goes immediately to statistics. And he or she will respond by saying, Well, millions or thousands of women didn’t die every year from illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. So why should we think it’s going to happen now? Now, there’s, there’s truth to that. It is true that five to 10, 000 women a year did not die from illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. And we’ll prove that in just a minute using pro abortion sources. But the first thing you want to do is make sure you show a little empathy and show that, hey, You, you, you are not happy with any woman who dies from an abortion, legal or illegal, you consider that a tragedy. You want to show a little heart, in other words. And you also want to show that the argument assumes the unborn are not human. You want to point out that unless you assume the unborn aren’t human, what this argument is essentially saying is that because some people will die attempting to intentionally kill others, We ought to make it safe and legal for them to do it. But I think you can see that this is a very silly argument. Why should the law be faulted for making it more risky for one human to intentionally take the life of another completely innocent one? We don’t legalize assault and battery so it can be safe for those that want to participate in that activity. We restrict it, we protect the victim, and the same would apply here. Even pro abortion philosopher Marianne Warren recognizes. that murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it. In other words, if abortion does indeed wrongly kill an innocent human being, you can’t argue for the legality of intentionally killing innocent human beings simply because it will be safer for the perpetrators. She’s right about that. And in the same way, we want to point out That the real issue here is the status of the unborn. The back alley argument does not work without assuming in advance that the unborn aren’t human. But that’s the very debate we’re having on abortion. Are the unborn human? So this argument is fallacious philosophically to begin with. Now, once you establish that you consider any abortion legal or illegal, if it results in the death of a human being, a woman, you consider that a tragedy, now you can point out that it assumes the unborn aren’t human, and only then do you want to go to statistics. And you do want to go to statistics, but you want to use the right statistics. What you want to do is point out that even pro abortion Defenders have acknowledged that this claim of 5 to 10, 000 deaths a year prior to Roe v. Wade was bogus. And I’m going to give you four sources right now that make that point. Source number one, Dr. Mary Calderon, Planned Parenthood’s own statistician and medical director during the 1960s. She wasn’t a statistician actually, she was just the medical director. But in the 1960s Journal of American Public Health article, Calderon, again, medical representative for Planned Parenthood said this, the death rate from illegal abortion is so low that it’s not even worth commenting on now realize she. saying this in 1960, when allegedly, if we are to believe some of our politicians, five to 10, 000 women a year were dying from illegal abortion. And here’s Calderon, Planned Parenthood’s own medical director, saying no, that’s completely bogus. But she even went further. She pointed out why it was a bogus claim. Number one, The widespread introduction of penicillin in the late 1940s early 1950s made all surgical procedures safer. People were no longer dying from post op infections the way they were prior to the time of the introduction of penicillin. Then she pointed out a second reason. Most illegal abortions, in fact, she said 90%, she actually quantified in exact numbers, she said 90 percent of all illegal abortions are not being done by guys with rusty coat hangers in the back alleys of America, she said. They’re being done by physicians in good standing in their communities who are simply skirting the law. So not only did you have a lack of post op infection, the people who were doing these illegal abortions were physicians in good standing in their community. And that’s why Calderon said the death rate from illegal abortion was very, very low. She went on to argue some other things, but the two main things you want to remember is penicillin. And it was doctors in good standing who were doing these illegal abortions, not, not Rodrigo in the back alley with a rusty coat hanger. The second pro abortion source I want to cite is Dr. Christopher Tietz. Dr. Tietz was Planned Parenthood’s own statistician in the 1960s. And Dr. Christopher Tietz, in a New York Times editorial, which I have, says very candidly, that the claim of 000 deaths a year from illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade was quote, listen to his words, unmitigated nonsense, unquote. Those are his words, not a pro lifer’s words. That’s the statement of a Planned Parenthood statistician. But I want to go further. If we look at Daniel Callahan’s book, Abortion Law, Morality, and Choice, Callahan, who for years was head of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank, Callahan is not pro life. In fact, he defends abortion, but he made the point that you cannot mathematically justify the claim of five to 10, 000 deaths a year from illegal abortion. And the reason is, He says that roughly 45, 000 women of childbearing age die annually from all causes to claim that one source was taking five to 10, 000 women a year. stretches credulity to the breaking point. And he says, you can’t get there. Now his own estimate is that maybe 500 to a thousand women died from illegal abortion. Okay. I think that’s a plausible claim. And I think we, we can admit that’s probably the case. Now some pro lifers will push back and say, well, wait a minute. The CDC says only 39 women died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year prior to Roe v. Wade. Okay, can we admit that there probably was some underreporting? Not to the tune of 000 deaths a year, but I could see it being higher than 39. 500 to 1, 000 sounds at least plausible. At least we’re getting closer to a realistic number. And again, every one of those deaths is a tragedy. We don’t have to deny that. A fourth source that I want to point out is Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who wrote the book, Aborting America. Now, it’s true Dr. Nathanson eventually changed his view and became pro life. But while he was still performing abortions, he admitted to the New York Times, first, that he had presided over 60, 000 deaths as an abortionist. But then he also admitted that the claim of 5 deaths a year from illegal abortion was a number that he and Lawrence Lader, his co founder of NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, That he and Larry made that number up out of thin air and sold it to a sympathetic press and feminist groups who widely embraced it as fact, when in fact it was pure fiction they pulled out of a bag. It had no basis at all. So these are the things you want to point out when it comes to illegal abortion. You do want to respond factually, but you also want to be careful to show you have heart. You don’t want any woman to die from an abortion, legal or illegal. And you want to make sure that people understand that the whole argument assumes the unborn aren’t human, because otherwise we’re arguing that because some people will die attempting to kill others. We ought to make it safe and legal for them to do it. The only way you can argue that way is if your moral compass is very, very broken. Look forward to seeing you next time. Again, please visit us on our social media sites for answers to this question and others that will come up in conversation. And I look forward to seeing you next time.