By Dave Andrusko
Look out whenever a newspaper tells you they are going to “fact check” or “dismantle myths.” If you read about topics you are conversant with, it’s clear that most of the time they are creating, not dispelling, myths and distortions. NOWHERE is this truer than with abortion and abortion-related topics.
For example, here’s how the Washington Post describes its “Five Myths” series.
“A feature from The Post’s Outlook section that dismantles myths, clarifies common misconceptions and makes you think again about what you thought you already knew.”
Rickie Solinger is a pro-abortion historian. I once reviewed for First Things magazine a collection of essays she edited.
Worth noting in Abortion Wars: A Half Century of Struggle, 1950-2000 is (as I wrote) that she “admits in her introduction that despite the myth that prior to Roe v. Wade abortionists were ‘dirty and dangerous back-alley butchers,’ pro-choicers have long known that there actually were ‘astonishingly high rates of technical proficiency.’”
I mention that because it should be kept in mind when we look back at Solinger’s “Five myths about abortion” written for the Post. All five are bunk, but time and space allows me to address only a couple.
My favorite, because it is so egregiously dishonest, is “Roe led to a huge increase in the number of abortions.” That’s a myth, according to Solinger, because “according to the [pro-abortion] Guttmacher Institute, at least 1 million illegal abortions were performed in the United States each year before Roe. Today, the number of abortions performed annually is still about 1 million.” Thus “Roe didn’t mark the beginning of an abortion era — it legalized an already widespread practice.”
Two things. First, we and many others have dismantled the myth of a million illegal abortions prior to Roe v. Wade umpteen times. It is part of the pro-abortionists’ grotesquely dishonest campaign that they also weaved in bogus allegations about the number of maternal deaths to knit together the myth that the number of abortions didn’t change after Roe: they just moved out of the [dangerous] category of illegal abortions into the [safe] category of legal abortions.
More specifically, the million back-alley abortions annually argument had a discernible point of origin. It grew out of a 1955 conference convened by PPFA. Here’s the operative sentences that come out the book that was published three years later
“a plausible estimate of the frequency of induced abortion in the United States could be as low as 200,000 and as high as 1.2 million per year. . . . There is no objective basis for the selection of a particular figure between these two estimates as an approximation of the actual frequency.”
So, go with the 1.2 million when you could just as easily argue the number was 200,000 (or even fewer, by the way).
Second, let’s pretend Solinger’s numbers (via Guttmacher Institute) are accurate. Let’s try this for a comparison. It was 60 degrees outside one year ago today and 60 degrees today. Would we/could we infer that because there was no difference in these two isolated numbers that there hadn’t been changes along the way? Of course not; it’s called summer, fall, and winter.
Likewise (again accepting for the sake of discussion Solinger’s erroneous figures) that ignores that abortions have been as high as 1.6 million (1980). Are we supposed to pretend those abortions didn’t happen? Or that protective pro-life legislation—the very same laws that the Solingers and Guttmacher Institutes incessantly whine “limit access”—haven’t reduced the number of abortions that otherwise would have occurred?
In short if it weren’t for those protective laws “the number of abortions performed annually” wouldn’t be about the same as 1973. THEY’D BE MUCH HIGHER!
The other “myth” that Solinger supposedly dismantles is #1: “Laws against abortion have always been based on concern about unborn life.” To reach this conclusion she repeats uncritically the argument formalized by historian John Mohr:
“Abortion was generally legal in the United States until the mid-19th century. At that time, physicians eager to professionalize obstetrics pressed state legislatures to outlaw midwifery and abortion while granting doctors sole authority over pregnancy and childbearing. State anti-abortion statutes were primarily justified on the grounds that women needed to be saved from uneducated folk practitioners, infections, future infertility and other physical risks.”
Every syllable of this argument is bogus, as many, many have illustrated, most recently in “Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History,” written by Villanova Law School Professor Joseph W. Dellapenna. (For reviews of this important book by Susan Wills, see www.nrlc.org/news/2006/NRL01/HTML/MythsPage17.html and nrlc.cc/17e5Bp2.)
And that doesn’t even account for the scholarly research into the legacy of Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer, who led the “Physicians Crusade” to enact protective statutes. That would surely include, “Champion of Women and the Unborn: Horatio Robinson Storer, M.D,” written by Frederick N. Dyer.
As Wills explained in her reviews of Dellapenna’s book, physicians did not oppose abortion for the selfish, unprincipled reasons ascribed to them by the likes of James Mohr and Rickie Solinger:
“Physicians opposed abortion because science had begun to unlock the mysteries of conception and fetal development. The citizens who lobbied most vocally for stricter laws against abortion were in fact the early feminists. Lawyers, journalists, and clergy also are on record as supporting stricter laws against abortion.”
We’ve written this about, say, a gabillion times, but our opponents just make stuff up. They enlist prestigious organizations in whose reflected prestige they bask, and then haughtily dismiss those, like Dellapenna and Dyer, who have carefully set the historical record straight.
Solinger and her ilk would be ashamed, if they were capable of being ashamed.