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California Senator Diane Feinstein Falsely Claims 1.2 Million Women Died from Illegal Abortions

  • Amanda Casanova

    Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and…

  • 2018 Sep 06

This week, during the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh hearings, California Senator Dianne Feinstein said that she has sentenced women to jail for illegal abortions.

Feinstein is not a judge or attorney, but she says she was an appointee of Governor Edmund Gerald Brown in the 1960s and helped set terms and parole requirements for women in California, according to

“And so I sentenced women who had committed abortions to state prison and granted them paroles, and so came to see both sides— the terrible side and the human and vulnerable side,” she said.

This isn’t the first time Feinstein has claimed to make those types of sentences. In January 2017, she said, “As you know, the constitution protects woman’s right to access to health care. I’m old enough to remember what it was like before. 

“When I was a student at Stanford and thereafter and the early 1960s, I actually sentenced women in California convicted of felony abortion to state prison for a maximum sentences of up to 10 years and they still went back to it because the need was so great.”

According to, Feinstein is neither a judge nor attorney.

Ed Whelan, with the National Review, said Feinstein did serve on the California Parole Board in the 1960s, however, no women were ever prosecuted for obtaining abortions in California prior to Roe v. Wade. According to research from the senior legal counsel for American United for Life, there have only been two persecutions of women for abortions. One was in 1911 and the other was in 1922.

According to USA Today, Feinstein also incorrectly cited a study’s findings on illegal abortion procedures.

She said that in the 1950s and 1960s, illegal abortion deaths totaled between 200,000 and 1.2 million.

The Guttmacher Institute’s 2003 report, however, said between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions took place, but only 300 resulted in deaths in 1950 and 200 in 1965.

Feinstein’s spokeswoman said she did not intend to make the error.

“She meant to cite just the number of illegal procedures, not deaths,” the spokeswoman said.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff