Dr. John Willke on legal and illegal abortion deaths

One article on illegal abortion said the following:

In a telephone interview, [Pro-life activist Dr. John] Willke said “nobody has the slightest idea” how many illegal abortions took place before 1973.

He said, however, the number of abortion-related deaths was more concrete because “a perforated uterus – which is evident on autopsy – a massive infection, a hemorrhage . . . (make it) pretty obvious what has happened.”

Willke said that in the 1950s, an average of 250 women a year were reported to have died in the United States due to illegal abortions. But by 1966, while abortion was still illegal everywhere, the annual number of reported deaths had dropped to 128. In 1972, the year before Roe vs. Wade, 39 abortion-related deaths were reported.

After 1973, when the ban ended in all states, “illegal abortion presumably disappeared,” Willke said. “If, in fact, the elimination of illegal abortion eliminated back alleys, there should have been a perceptible drop in the number of women dying. That didn’t happen. The line didn’t even blip from 1967 to 1973 and 1974. . . . It just kept going down at the same slow rate. There was no evidence of a decline in mortality from legalization.”

Kiley Armstrong “Abortion in the `bad old days’ // Era wasn’t that awful, foes of operation contend” Chicago Sun-Times April 16, 1989

To learn more about illegal abortion deaths before Roe versus Wade, go here


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About Sarah

Sarah Terzo is a freelance writer and journalist who works for Live Action. She is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Consistent Life.
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