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Now-fired Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen attends the Rolling Stone's Women Shaping The Future Brunch at the Altman Building on March 20, 2019 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

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May 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Washington Post’s Fact Checker awarded Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen its highest standard rating for falsehoods for Wen’s repeated claims that “thousands of women died every year” from illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade.

Wen gets “Four Pinocchios,” the typically left-leaning Post reported, for using decades-old data that was largely uncertain and often estimated to make her claims.


It’s Fact Checker rating scale for normal cases of dubious claims ranges from One to Four Pinocchios, the first three levels ranging from such things as some shading of the facts to significant omissions or exaggerations to mostly false. There are arbitrary ratings for truth, flip-flopping and a Bottomless Pinocchio for serial award winners of Three or Four Pinocchios.

The criteria for Four Pinocchios simply states, “Whoppers.”

Upon the Post inquiring with Planned Parenthood about Wen’s claim, the abortion giant referred the newspaper to a 2014 policy statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that contained a similar unsubstantiated claim, and ACOG subsequently referred the news outlet to data that was likewise “fuzzy.”

“Wen is a doctor, and the ACOG is made up of doctors,” the Post’s principal fact checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote. “They should know better than to peddle statistics based on data that predates the advent of antibiotics.”

“Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates,” he continued, “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 is the former Baltimore Health Commissioner and George Washington University physician who succeeded Cecile Richards at the helm of the nation’s largest abortion business in November 2018.

She made the claim that thousands of women die each year from abortion before Roe v. Wade three times recently – in March, April and May of this year.


“We face a real situation where Roe could be overturned,” Wen stated in an interview with Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA on March 6. “And we know what will happen, which is that women will die. Thousands of women died every year pre-Roe.”

On April 24, she tweeted, “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.”

Then in a May 22 MSNBC interview, Wen stated, “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.”

The 2014 ACOG policy statement that Planned Parenthood had referred the Fact Checker to said, “It is estimated that before 1973, 1.2 million U.S. women resorted to illegal abortion each year and that unsafe abortions caused as many as 5,000 annual deaths.”

There is no citation in the statement for the estimate, and no explanation for how it was calculated, even though other data is documented.

An ACOG spokeswoman referred the Fact Checker to a 1958 report that estimated the number of abortions annually in the United States to be between 200,000 and 1,200,000, hence the ACOG abortion figure estimate of 1.2 million, but had no mortality rates or explanation for the 5,000-death estimate. Subsequent information sent from ACOG to the Fact Checker was also absent any explanation for the figure.

Planned Parenthood sent along a 1936 study conducted by a gynecologist and noted abortion advocate that had an even higher annual mortality estimate of 8,000-10,000 that was “not a very rigorous calculation, based on a mix of theory and data from the United States and Germany.”

That same gynecologist had given an estimate of 15,000 five years earlier in another paper and then adjusted it down to 5,000 in 1942.

Individuals associated in various ways with Planned Parenthood had conducted the bulk of the various other historical studies cited in the report. These sources would be expected to be sympathetic to abortion advocacy.

Overall, the results indicated that the introduction of antibiotics and updated medical procedures began to make abortion less risky to the mother, and these along with other factors, including fewer pregnancies due to updated contraception methods, indicated a steep drop in deaths from abortion from the 1930s going forward.

Where there were 2,677 deaths from abortion in 1933, as one study estimated, there were 888 in 1945.

“Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure,” the researcher for one of the reports wrote in 1959. “This applies not just to therapeutic abortions as performed in hospitals but also to so-called illegal abortions as done by physicians.

That researcher was Mary Steichen Calderone, a medical director for Planned Parenthood at the time.

“In 1957, there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind,” she went on. “In New York City in 1921, there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15.”

Numbers come with the question of possible misreporting of deaths due to the stigma of abortion, but that was said to have receded in the 1960s as abortion came more to the forefront of the culture.

While abortion deaths may have been estimated in the thousands in the 1930s, another researcher said in 1969, and even if that were “approximately correct at the time,” the number by 1965 was likely under 1,000. The National Center for Health Statistics had listed 235 deaths from abortion that year.

That researcher, Christopher Tietze, and his wife, Sarah Lewit, were given Planned Parenthood’s highest honor in 1973, the Margaret Sanger Award, for their research, which included “identifying the effects of abortion policy on maternal health.”

By 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade was decided, the CDC had begun compiling data on abortion mortality. According to its figures, the number of deaths in the United States from legal abortions was 24 and from illegal abortions 39.

Stanley Henshaw, who from 1979 to 2013 researched abortion stats for the Guttmacher Institute, which supports Planned Parenthood’s mission, told the Fact Checker the figure of 5,000-10,000 deaths was reasonable for the 1930s. The officially recorded number of deaths from illegal induced abortion in the 1960s was below 300 per year, he said, and even taking unreported abortion deaths into account, “it is unlikely that the actual number was over 1,000.”

In its summation, the Fact Checker denounced Wen’s use of sloppy data, saying it only undercuts her cause.


“Wen’s repeated use of this number reminds us of the shoddy data used by human trafficking opponents,” the Post’s Kessler stated. “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,” he added, “50 years ago – by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood. There’s no reason to use them today.”

Thus, the Fact Checker report concluded, “Four Pinocchios.”