A recent letter writer outlined once again the supposed horrors of illegal abortion before that crime was decriminalized. What's fascinating about all these accounts of the "bad old days" is the tenuous nature of the evidence they present.
What are the facts? In the early '60s, Dr. Mary Calderone, medical director for Planned Parenthood, admitted that 90 percent of illegal abortions were performed by physicians under sterile conditions. According to the federal government, in 1966, the last year before the legalization of abortion on demand in any state, there were 120 maternal deaths from abortion, both criminal and therapeutic, and there were only 39 in 1972, the year before abortion on demand became legal in all states.
The subsequent decline in this rate occurred on a steady curve unaffected by 1973's Roe vs. Wade decision -- a function of improved antibiotics and emergency room medical technology, not of decriminalization.