Dr. John C. Wilke

 There is a worn-out argument that has been used over the years against protecting unborn babies. They say there have always been abortions, and there will always be abortions. If you forbid the legal and “safe” abortions, you will merely return to illegal and “unsafe” abortions. If and when the pro-life movement moves closer to its goals, we will hear this argument voiced louder and longer.

It seems logical enough on the surface. However, there are no documented studies to prove this claim. That doesn’t seem to matter to pro-abortion spokes people nor to a biased media. What is needed is the actual experience in the field. What has happened in a major nation when abortion has been forbidden? Have illegal abortions increased? Have more women died or more women been injured? Well, guess what. We have had a proving ground in a major nation, which is there for all to see. The nation is Poland.


Poland, along with the rest of the Iron Curtain, Eastern Europe countries, was occupied for 44 years by Russia. Russia legalized state-paid abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. What are the official figures of the numbers of abortions performed annually during those years in Poland? In 1960, it was 150,400 – in 1965, 168,600 – in 1970, 148,200 – in 1975, 138,600 – in 1985, 135,500. By 1990 with the advent of the Solidarity independence movement and the influence of Pope John Paul II, the number of abortions had declined to 59,417. This was a spontaneous movement.

During 1993, in their freely elected new parliament, legislation was enacted that restricted abortion to life of the mother, rape or incest. Let’s look at the number of abortions since that time. In 1993, the total number was 777 – in 1996, it was 559 – by 1998, it was 253.

There had been loud predictions that if the total number of abortions was sharply reduced, the total number of “spontaneous” miscarriages would skyrocket. It was predicted that illegal abortionists would begin an abortion with instruments, and then, when she started to bleed, she would go to the hospital to have her “miscarriage” cleaned up and terminated. If this were true, the total number of miscarriages reported in Poland would have sharply risen. Let’s look at the numbers. In 1990, when there were still 60,000 induced abortions, there were 59,454 miscarriages. By 1997, with 500 abortions, the total number of miscarriages was 44,185. This is not the increase that pro-abortion people predicted. Rather, it is a 25% decrease.

Another measure of whether or not illegal abortions were being substituted for legal ones would be the total number of women who died. In Poland, this is listed as a single figure due to “pregnancy, childbirth and confinement.” Let’s look at these numbers. In 1990, when there were still 60,000 abortions, 70 women died. By 1996, with 559 abortions, 21 women died.

Another possible relevant figure would be the number of neonatal deaths, the deaths of infants per 1,000 live births. If there were attempted abortions, then there would be more premature births and more infants dying. Again, let’s look at the figures. In 1970, 37 babies died per 1,000 live births. In 1980, it was 25 – in 1990, it was 19 – in 1998, it was 9.6. One other statistic is possibly of some interest. I have noted that in 1998 the total number of induced abortions in Poland was 253. What were the reasons given for these? To save the “life and health” of the woman – 199; for “fetal impairment” – 45; for rape or incest – 9.

In summary, then, here we have a large nation that, for four decades, had abortion-on-request, paid for by the state. Certainly, the practice of abortion in Poland had become deeply ingrained. Then came independence and a law that took the total number of abortions down to 0.004% of what they had been, and this contrary to all predictions by government agencies, the medi the UN and Planned Parenthood. To perhaps everyone’s surprise, there have been 25% fewer miscarriages and 30% fewer women dying compared with what it had been while abortion was legal. In the latest annual report, 21 women died from pregnancy-related problems, with none listed as dying from illegal abortions.

These are firm statistics. The facts above have been annually reported and heatedly discussed by the Polish parliament, its ministries of health, labour, social welfare and education, as well as by mass media, non-governmental organizations and anyone else interested in the problem. If abortions are again forbidden, will illegal abortions, with all of their alleged tragic consequences, take their place? Certainly in Poland the answer is in – it is a resounding no. In fact, the women in Poland are clearly healthier now, from a gynecologic and obstetric standpoint, that they were when abortions were legal.

Is the Polish experience one that would be mimicked in other countries? Of all the former Iron Curtain countries, it has become the most rapidly westernized. Its only difference from many other Western nations is that it is more Catholic. But it has the same biased media and radical feminism as in the West. In balance, it would seem to be a good prototype of what can and will happen if and when other western nations once again protect their pre-born children from abortion by law.

Reprinted from Life Issues Connector, April 2000.

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