The president of Planned Parenthood has repeatedly spread a false claim about "thousands" of women who died due to a lack of safe abortion access before the Roe v. Wade decision, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
"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," said Dr. Leana Wen on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" last week.
Wen made the same claims in prior months in a radio interview and on Twitter.
In a fact-check piece, Glenn Kessler rated the claim with "Four Pinocchios," writing that Wen's statements were "derived from data that is decades old."
"Even given the fuzzy nature of the data and estimates, 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," Kessler wrote, adding that abortion advocates "hurt their cause" with such unproven claims.
He added that the information was "debunked in 1969 -- 50 years ago -- by a statistician celebrated by Planned Parenthood," and that the claim relies on statistics from before antibiotics were being used, when fatal complications were far more likely.
Pro-life advocates say this vindicated them, many of whom have claimed Planned Parenthood from its inception uses lies to deceive women and teens, using them as a commodity to make profits.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said: "Even the Washington Post is admitting what we've been saying for decades."
Planned Parenthood responded to the Post by arguing "stigma, fear, and poor tracking mean we can never know the exact number who suffered before Roe vs. Wade was decided."
"Abortion is health care, and it is one of the safest medical procedures there is -- there is no reason anyone’s health or life should be endangered by politicians hell-bent on keeping people from accessing this basic health care," Erica Sackin, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, told Post in a statement. "Yet far too many politicians seem determined to take us back to the days before Roe was decided -- where abortion was virtually inaccessible and all those who could become pregnant paid the price.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit last week in a bid to block Alabama’s strictest-in-the-nation abortion ban, touching off a legal battle that could eventually land before the Supreme Court.