Coat Hangers Never Happened

JCWillke   |   July 01, 2000

Some time ago I read a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal. It was awful. I sent a counter letter and happily, the paper published it as the lead letter.

Here it is:

“In her letter, Ellen Schneider speaks of “women so desperate they would allow coat hangers to be inserted into themselves by back-alley doctors….which often resulted in loss of life for the mother.” Such a wild statement requires a factual answer.

“As President of the National Right to Life Committee during the decade of the 80s, as a world traveler and author of books in 28 languages, I’ve been lecturing in this field for three decades. During this time, in front of audiences too numerous to mention, I have frequently asked that anyone in the audience who can document a coat hanger abortion to please come to me with that information. In 30 years, I have not had a single person bring me details of such a case. It is my firm conviction that the entire concept of using a coat hanger is a totally fallacious construct of pro-abortion supporters. Illegal abortions certainly occurred. Contrary to popular opinion, however, only a very few of them were fatal. If any readers know of a confirmed coat hanger incident, please write me.

“Prior to legalization of abortion, pro-abortion supporters commonly claimed that there were one million illegal abortions, resulting in 5,000 – 10,000 women dying each year. This claim was made yet one year before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Official government statistics that have stood the test of time, however, report only a total of 39 women dying in the entire United States from illegal abortions during the year 1972. In that same year, 25 more women died from legal abortions. It is obvious that the frequently told stories of zillions of women dying, of hospital beds overflowing, etc., are completely without factual foundation.

“Let’s look at the late 1950s. Those were the supposed bad old days. All abortions were illegal, and illegal abortionists were alleged to be busy. But in the July 1960 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, there was an article by Dr. Mary Calderone, founder of the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) and medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in which she stated, “ninety percent of illegal abortions are being done by physicians. Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they’re still physicians, trained as such…they must do a pretty good job if the death rate is as low as it is. Abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main, no longer dangerous because it is being done well by physicians.”

“Let’s hope Ms. Schneider gets her facts straight the next time she writes.”

End of my letter.

Several months have passed since this letter to the editor was published in the Wall Street Journal. I requested that readers write me to confirm any stories of coat hanger abortions they know of. To date I have not received a single letter.

I rest my case.

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