Often times anti-choicers will use misinformation and biased sources to turn people onto their way of thinking. I wanted to take this opportunity to debunk a number of popular anti-choice myths using statistics and studies from non-biased sources.
Myth: Pro-choice really just means pro-abortion
Fact: Pro-choice activists fight for much more than just abortion rights. The basis of the pro-choice argument is that individual women should be able to make choices about their own bodies. In addition to abortion rights, we push for comprehensive sex education, easier and cheaper/free access to birth control, and the right of pregnant women to give birth the way they choose.
Myth: The fetus can feel pain
Fact: According to the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, fetuses under 24 weeks do not have the capacity to feel pain. According to the RCOG
In reviewing the neuroanatomical and physiological evidence in the fetus, it was apparent that connections from the periphery to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.
The majority of abortions are done long before this. The roughly 1% of abortions performed after the 24th week are generally wanted pregnancies that are being terminated due to serious health problems or complications.
Myth: Adoption is an alternative to abortion
Fact: While adoption is an alternative to being a parent, abortion is the only alternative to being pregnant. There are multiple reasons a woman may not want to be pregnant for 9 months including mental health issues, rape, incest, physical or mental disabilities, health problems, monetary issues, and lack of healthcare.
Myth: Abortion causes breast cancer
Fact: According to the American Cancer Society research has shown no cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.
The largest, and probably the most reliable study on this topic was done during the 1990s in Denmark, a country with very detailed medical records on all its citizens. In that study, all Danish women born between 1935 and 1978 (a total of 1.5 million women) were linked with the National Registry of Induced Abortions and with the Danish Cancer Registry. So all information about their abortions and their breast cancer came from registries, was very complete, and was not influenced by recall bias.
After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provides good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Myth: If abortion is illegal, abortion rates will drop
Fact: According to this study done by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute, there is no connection between the legality of abortion and the number of abortions preformed. There is, however, a connection between the legality of abortion and the safety of the women seeking them. As is there a connection between the number of abortions performed and the availability of contraception.
Myth: Women who get abortions suffer from Post-Abortion Syndrome
Fact: Many anti-choice groups say women will suffer from depression after having an abortion, or as they call it, post-abortion syndrome. According to the Guttmacher Institute there is no proof that abortion is directly related to depression or trauma.
Nancy Adler, professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, testified that “severe negative reactions are rare and are in line with those following other normal life stresses.” While acknowledging that there were flaws in much of the research, she testified nonetheless that the weight of the evidence persuasively showed that “abortion is usually psychologically benign.” Echoing Koop’s point about the public health implications, Adler said that given the millions of women who had had abortions, “if severe reaction were common, there would be an epidemic of women seeking treatment. There is no evidence of such an epidemic.”
Myth: Women who have abortions are selfish and just don’t want to be inconvenienced by having kids
Fact: According to the Guttmacher Institute 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents.
Myth: Abortion is unsafe / causes infertility
Fact: Abortion is actually safer than continued pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization. Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.
- American Cancer Society
- UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Guttmacher Institute
- World Health Organization