There is so much misinformation out there about abortion. And it’s long past time to debunk some of those right-wing abortion myths.
I really wonder if perhaps the true take-away from the legalization of abortion isn’t a permanent ideological divide in this country. I mean, most people feel very strongly on one side or the other, and often it seems that no amount of discussion is going to persuade them to the opposing viewpoint.
My intention in writing this piece is not to convince you to believe as I do – that a woman has a right to choose – but instead to point out some actual facts and debunk some of the more common myths. Truthfully, I think that even if you are staunchly pro-choice you will find a lot of this surprising. I’ve tried to use the most persuasive arguments (myths) that I hear from the pro-lifers and then show what the research and facts say about them.
Perhaps the real legacy of Roe v Wade is not so much about a divisive court ruling, as it is about simple safety. Safety is the biggest difference between pre-Roe and post-Roe.
- Myth: Abortion is a dangerous procedure that can be detrimental to a woman’s health.
This is actually blatantly false. The facts and research clearly show that following the legalization of abortion, both here and worldwide, mortality rates and injury rates from abortion services drops drastically. Before Roe v Wade one of the leading causes of death for women of child bearing age was complications due to abortion. Today this is virtually non-existent.
Thousands of women’s lives in the United States have been saved since the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973. And those lives were saved because of one reason…they had access to proper legal abortion care. The American Medical Association said that the reduction of deaths due to abortion complications is a direct result of the legalization of abortion.
According to the American Journal of Public Health, Doctors and Midwives agree that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures with less than .05% risk of complications.
- Myth: Abortion causes breast cancer.
“Exhaustive reviews by panels convened by the U.S. and British governments have concluded that there is no association between abortion and breast cancer. There is also no indication that abortion is a risk factor for other cancers.”
- Myth: Abortion causes long term psychological damage.
Actually, all of the research says this is not true. The American Psychological Association has been doing intense studies on this since the early 1980s. The mental health experts have concluded that abortion does not pose a threat to a woman’s mental health.
- Myth: Since Roe v Wade, the abortion rate has skyrocketed and the legalization has caused an unprecedented number of abortions.
Abortions did not begin when they became a legal right 43 years ago, and abortions will not end if they become illegal tomorrow. A big point that pro-lifers like to make is that there have been approximately 50 million abortions in this country since Roe. This is actually true. Most years since 1973, there have been somewhere around 1.2 million abortions.
The thing that is left out of that argument is that prior to the legalization there was virtually an equal number of abortions performed. In the 1950s and 1960s, abortion numbers ranged all the way up to 1.2 million per year.
Another interesting fact is that since the 1980s abortion rates have been steadily dropping in this country.
- Myth: There really aren’t that many ‘accidental pregnancies’ when it comes to abortions.
Actually, more than half of pregnancies among American women are unintended; and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. And, 22% of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. Certainly, with numbers like these they can’t all be irresponsible.
- Myth: The legalization of abortion allows and encourages women to have abortions much later than they ever did before Roe v Wade.
The data shows us that after abortion became legal women actually had their abortions earlier, which is good because when performed in the first trimester abortions have been shown to have virtually no risks. In 1973 only 36% of abortions were done within the first 8 weeks. Today 62% are done within the first 8 weeks and 88.4% of all legal abortions are performed within the first trimester according to the CDC. (Only 1.3% occur after 20 weeks.)
- Myth: Only irresponsible women who don’t take birth control end up pregnant and need abortions.
Well, not according to the Guttmacher Institute. Their research shows that 54% of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.
Only 8% of women who have abortions have never used a method of birth control; non-use is greatest among those who are young, poor, black, Hispanic or less educated.
- Myth: Highly restrictive laws will ensure lower abortion rates.
This might be one of the most deceptive lies that is fully believed by the pro-life side. This one is in fact totally false. When we look at abortion rates world-wide we can see this clearly.
The truth is that abortions are extremely common in places where it is illegal. And where abortion is illegal it is also unsafe. Nearly half of all abortions done worldwide are unsafe and almost all of those are done illegally. And, to make this even worse, places where abortion is illegal suffer the highest maternal mortality rates.
In Africa, for example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age. And in Latin America it’s 32 per 1,000—both regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. In Western Europe where abortion is generally permitted broadly, the rate is only 12 per 1,000.
So Conservatives continue pushing to make government so big that it can literally scrutinize every pregnancy in the state, monitor every doctor appointment, and control the inside of every woman’s body. And yet at the same time they are claiming to be the small government party. It has become abundantly clear that they want to take away the choice of legal abortion. But the hypocrisy is overwhelming when you realize that they are systematically defunding and taking away most of the services that help women who can’t afford the babies they give birth to.