January 22, 2020, marks the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states. As the somber day approaches, new analysis from National Right to Life estimates that 61,628,584 babies’ lives have ended through legal abortion in those 47 years. This number represents close to 62 million people, each unique and unrepeatable. Instead of being welcomed into birth or adoptive families, these lives were snuffed out through the violence of abortion. The staggering scale of abortion in our nation is a reminder of why we must keep fighting until every human Life is protected under the law and in our culture.
The updated figures from National Right to Life take into account both data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and data from the Guttmacher Institute, the de facto research arm of abortion business Planned Parenthood (although the group has formally separated, strong ties remain). The reason for using both sources of data is to correct the CDC’s admitted undercounting. Whereas the Guttmacher Institute collects numbers directly from abortion businesses, the CDC relies on numbers from the states. In many states, such reporting is voluntary, and some states, including California and New Hampshire, have not submitted data to the CDC in more than a decade.
National Right to Life’s education director, Randall K. O’Bannon explained, “Because of these different methods of data collection, GI has consistently obtained higher counts than the CDC. CDC researchers have admitted it probably undercounts the total number of abortions because reporting laws vary from state to state and some abortionists probably do not report or under-report the abortions they perform.”
The number of abortions committed since Roe v. Wade does not comprise the total number of legal abortions in the United States, because states like California and New York had already legalized elective abortion before Roe. Scholars estimate at least one million abortions were committed in states like these during the 1960s and 1970s.
Despite the astonishing number of abortions, there is a note of hope in the analysis. In Texas and most other states, the number of abortions and the abortion rate has declined significantly in the past three decades. National Right to Life notes, “After reaching a high of over 1.6 million in 1990, the number of abortions annually performed in the U.S. has dropped back to levels not seen since the late 1970s.” The reasons for the decline are many, including the expansion of the Pro-Life movement and the life-saving efforts in legislation and culture.
Sadly, the carnage wrought by the unjust Roe v. Wade decision began with a case in Texas. Leading up to the historic Supreme Court ruling, abortion activists were looking for a case to use to push their agenda through the courts. An ambitious, anti-Life activist and attorney in Texas, Sarah Weddington, exploited the difficult situation of 21-year-old Norma McCorvey, who became the infamous Jane Roe in the Roe v. Wade case.
What many people have never been told is that McCorvey’s child at the center of the case was not killed in abortion. The litigation continued past McCorvey’s pregnancy, and her daughter was born and placed into an adoptive family. McCorvey, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 69, is remembered by Pro-Lifers not for her role as a vulnerable young woman preyed upon by the abortion industry but for her decades of Pro-Life advocacy after she realized what she had been part of and the damage that Roe v. Wade had done to babies and their mothers.
Speaking about the weight of her guilt in 2000, McCorvey said, “In retrospect, I was exploited by two self-interested attorneys. Worse, the courts, without looking into my true circumstances and taking the time to decide the real impact abortion would have upon women, I feel used me to justify legalization of terminating of the lives of over 35 million babies. Although on an intellectual level I know I was exploited, the responsibility I feel for this tragedy is overwhelming.” McCorvey spent the remainder of her life working to protect the most vulnerable and undo the damage in which she was unwittingly made a part.
Now, since Roe v. Wade, the number of innocent lives has climbed to almost twice as many as in 2000. Reflecting on the numbers, O’Bannon said, “Abortion has taken a terrible toll on America. We’ve now lost more than 61 million of our sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors and we are a much poorer nation for it.”