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Rankin writes: "Despite how incredibly common abortion is, it remains mired in stigma and misinformation. Much of what we may think we know about this subject is actually outright lies."

 (photo: Robin Beckham/Alamy)
(photo: Robin Beckham/Alamy)

The Seven Most Common Lies About Abortion

By Lauren Rankin, Rolling Stone

09 March 14


Debunking anti-choice misinformation about women's health.

hances are, you know someone who has had an abortion. Statistically, it's a near-certainty: In the U.S., one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45. But despite how incredibly common abortion is, it remains mired in stigma and misinformation. Much of what we may think we know about this subject is actually outright lies told by abortion opponents to dissuade women out of seeking safe and legal abortion care.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), which are fake clinics run by opponents of abortion, are well-known for lying to clients in order to convince them not to seek abortion care. But the lies told within the walls of CPCs aren't just contained there; they are part and parcel of the anti-abortion movement in the U.S. For a movement that so fervently claims that "truth is on our side," they seem perfectly willing to proliferate blatant lies about abortion. Here are a select few of the most common and pervasive of those lies.

1. "Abortion Causes Breast Cancer."

This lie about abortion is one of the most widely circulated. It's commonly cited by abortion opponents and CPC employees as a means of scaring patients out of choosing abortion. Unfortunately for them, the link between abortion and breast cancer simply isn't corroborated by any current, reliable medical evidence. In 2003, the National Cancer Institute conducted a workshop with more than 100 of the world's leading experts on pregnancy and breast cancer risk, and they found that "induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk." This was corroborated by a 2009 study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which demonstrated that recent, rigorous, methodologically-sound studies display "no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer."

2. "Abortion causes infertility."

This lie is a staple of CPCs to try and dissuade women from undergoing abortions. Just like the lie about abortion and breast cancer, this fear-mongering doesn't have any legitimate medical basis, either. According to the Mayo Clinic, "abortion isn't thought to cause fertility issues or complications in subsequent pregnancies." What's more, the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, found that abortions performed in the first trimester "pose virtually no long-term risk" of infertility.

3. "Most women regret having an abortion."

Statistically speaking, some women will regret having an abortion. But the fact is, the vast majority don't cite regret as their main emotion after an abortion; it's relief. A recent study at the University of California, San Francisco found that 90 percent of women who were able to obtain an abortion reported that they were relieved and those who did cite negative emotions after their abortion didn't indicate that they felt they had made the wrong choice. In that study, 80 percent of women who experienced mostly negative emotions still felt that abortion was the right choice for them. This anti-abortion talking point is deceitful and reductive, and it doesn't allow for women to share their nuanced, personal abortion experiences.

4. "Once a woman sees an image of the fetus from an ultrasound, she won't want to have an abortion."

The logic behind this anti-abortion lie has helped fuel the wave of paternalistic and invasive forced ultrasound legislation in much of the U.S. Even though 23 states currently regulate the provision of ultrasound by abortion providers in some way, viewing an ultrasound doesn't stop women from having an abortion. Not even close. According to a recent study featured in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal, of the 40 percent of women who chose to view their ultrasound, 98.4 percent still went through with their abortion. Mandated ultrasounds aren't just onerous and intrusive; they're also incredibly ineffective at preventing abortion.

5. "Abortion is psychologically damaging to women."

Abortion opponents frequently tout the official-sounding "Post-Abortion Syndrome" (sometimes called "Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome") as proof that those who undergo an abortion procedure will suffer emotionally and psychologically. The trouble is, there's no such thing as "Post-Abortion Syndrome." It's a myth. It isn't recognized by either the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association. It is not a medical term because it is not a medical reality. The American Psychological Association's Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion decisively states that there is "no evidence that having a single abortion causes mental health problems."

6. "TRAP laws are really about making abortion safer for women."

Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws have become incredibly popular legislatively in the last three years, with copycat legislation springing up in states from Texas to Ohio. Examples include requiring abortion clinics to be Ambulatory Surgical Centers, requiring that all abortions performed past a certain point be done in a hospital, or requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. On the surface, these sound like benevolent requirements, but in practice, they are completely medically unnecessary and serve only to shutter otherwise functional abortion providers, which is the entire point. While abortion opponents claim that these laws simply make abortion care safer for patients, in reality they do no such thing. TRAP laws are designed to impose onerous and completely unnecessary requirements on abortion providers in order to achieve one goal: close down abortion clinics. So far, they've been remarkably successful. Since TRAP laws surfaced in 2010, more than 50 safe abortion clinics have closed. For a movement that claims it wants to prevent the next Kermit Gosnell from performing illegal and unsafe abortions, TRAP laws all but ensure that safe clinics disappear and unsafe, illegal ones abound.

7. "Abortion endangers women's health and lives."

Anti-abortion protesters and CPC employees often say that abortion hurts women, that it harms them, that it is unsafe and even "deadly." Except that, of course, it's not. It's not deadly when it's safe and legal. How safe is abortion? According the Guttmacher Institute, the risk of death with abortion is 10 times lower than the risk of death from childbirth. Having an abortion is far safer than having a baby. What's more, the Guttmacher Institute also notes that first trimester abortion is among "the safest medical procedures" and carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications that could require hospital care, and the risk of death for an abortion at or before eight weeks is literally one in a million. The real risk of death comes when abortion is unsafe: In 2008, 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortion were reported worldwide.

The danger to women's health and lives isn't safe, legal, accessible abortion. It's those who are trying to end it. your social media marketing partner


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-26 # 2014-03-09 11:50
Maybe ! Maybe not !

The real inconsistency lies at the core of determining life. The "abortionists" say that life is at an end in a hospital if the patient on life support has no brain wave activity.

Those same "abortionists" deny that the fetus is a living human - ignoring the fact that the fetus has as much brain activity as an adult human.

Not only illogical - but immoral !
+22 # EternalTruth 2014-03-09 12:28
What's this have to do with the article? The point of the article is that anti-women, anti-choice nuts like you are constantly lying in an attempt to reach their desired ends. Fetus brain activity is not mentioned.
+20 # jsluka 2014-03-09 15:00
Sir or Ma'am - A foetus does not have any consciousness whatsoever. It is a developing human being, not a developed one. "Brain activity" is meaningless at this stage of development - it is simply the electronic action of synapses firing as they develop, grow, and mature towards the stage when the brain is fully developed and the foetus is viable for birth.
+10 # VMWH 2014-03-09 17:23
Antiabortionist s with a few exceptions also support post natal abortion via the death penalty as a punishment for crime. Perhaps wisdom would suggest that we call executions "Post natal Abortions" instead of executions.
+10 # Carbonman1950 2014-03-09 21:46
Moafu - I assume that you don't know that making abortion illegal doesn't actually reduce the number of abortions. (Only widely available low cost or free contraception does that.) Making abortion illegal merely increases the number of women who die in childbirth and from illegal abortions.

Of course you shouldn't take my word for that. Here's the report []
I'm sure you can track down the actual study of 197 countries.
+26 # abstract668 2014-03-09 12:26
Excellent piece addressing the lies about abortion. Most of us who have had abortions were very relieved and grateful that we could have abortions safe and legally. Many of us went on to have wonderful children at a time and in circumstances when being a parent was a good choice for us.

I give thanks every day that I was able to obtain a safe and legal abortion at age 16, with the help and support of caring adults and my Catholic priest. I am now the mother of two wonderful young men, who I had when I was married to a caring man. His tragic death when the boys were young left me a single mother, but by then I was fully equipped with the supportive community, faith, life skills, and career that allowed them to grow into healthy and productive adults.

The alternative for my 16 year old self was suicide.

Anti-abortion lies come from the same people who believe that the world was made in 6 days, and humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

God bless those who put their lives on the line to bring this medical procedure to women who need it! As has been said by one wiser than me, if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. That sacrament resulted in the creation of my two dear sons. A blessing!
+20 # ericlipps 2014-03-09 12:48
Maybe ! Maybe not !

The real inconsistency lies at the core of determining life. The "abortionists" say that life is at an end in a hospital if the patient on life support has no brain wave activity.

Those same "abortionists" deny that the fetus is a living human - ignoring the fact that the fetus has as much brain activity as an adult human.

Wrong on both counts.

First, most "abortionists" don't touch the issue of when life ends, or when it might be appropriate to end the life of an adult.

Second, fetuses do not show "as much brain activity as an adult human" (even a "pro-lifer") until well into pregnancy--real ly, not until the third trimester, when abortions are rare and typically performed only under conditions of medical emergency. (There is some activity before then, but not as much as you imply; you seem to want people to think the fetus is a fully conscious entity from the moment sperm meets egg.)
+1 # bmiluski 2014-03-10 14:10
No moafu is a troll and will post anything to get troll points. Best to just ignore him. Those kind need your posts to refuel.
+15 # Regina 2014-03-09 13:51
There's more to the abortion issue: political psychoceramists (crackpots!) also try to criminalize miscarriages -- which in medical terminology are "spontaneous abortions"! -- and require women who undergo them to report to police!!! Unfortunately, these nut-cases get into legislatures instead of sanatoriums.
-4 # minnie72 2014-03-09 15:13
It is the certitude of the claims made in this article that is disturbing to me. The writer is guilty of the what she accuses the Pregnancy Care Centers. The question of when life begins will never be fully resolved since science, social mores, and religion are only part of the issue. Every woman is unique in the way she feels about and views a fetus. While studies are interesting, they can never address the deeply personal intuition of when this separate life begins. Instead of the either/or black/white postures of both camps, it would be a step toward spiritual maturation to compromise, show patience and respect, and to try to dialogue about facts and claims. A good place to begin is to quit calling one another pejorative names.
-1 # Rain17 2014-03-09 15:14
I have some slight disagreement with the pro-choice movement when it comes to points #4 and #5. An abortion is a major life decision facing a woman that does involve terminating a pregnancy. I think it's perfectly reasonable--and even expected--that some women are going to experience grief issues or regret. I don't buy the argument that most women can go to the abortion clinic, terminate their pregnancy, and then go on their way as if nothing happened.
+8 # ishmael 2014-03-09 15:35
Yes, you just can't trust scientific research, can you? Uninformed personal opinion is so much more reliable.
-1 # Rain17 2014-03-09 15:43
I don't know why it's controversial to say that some women might have regret or grief after getting any abortion.
+12 # Skippydelic 2014-03-09 16:46
Yes, SOME women MIGHT experience grief/regret.

The problem with the anti-abortionis ts is that they're claiming that grief/regret is UNIVERSAL!

BIG difference...
+5 # EternalTruth 2014-03-09 22:41
"I don't buy the argument that most women can go to the abortion clinic, terminate their pregnancy, and then go on their way as if nothing happened."

I don't buy that argument either. Fortunately neither the author nor anyone in the comments is making that argument. So, what is your point?
+4 # biopalgal 2014-03-10 08:05
I am a woman who had a safe & legal abortion @ 17. I NEVER experienced GRIEF nor REGRET. I did and have experienced tremendous gratitude that I live in a PRO-CHOICE country. Believe it, or not SOME women aspire to be ANYTHING but "mothers". Any "grief or remorse" after having an abortion comes from someone else telling them "it's how you are supposed to react"!
+3 # EternalTruth 2014-03-10 12:13
"Any "grief or remorse" after having an abortion comes from someone else telling them "it's how you are supposed to react"!"

I'm sure that's true in many cases, but it's surely not the universal truth which you posit. I'm sure there are lots of women who experience a host of different emotions for a host of different reasons following abortions.

For the record, I am staunchly pro-choice, and I'm very happy that you were able to safely and legally get an abortion in order to lead the life you choose. I wish that choice for everyone. Frankly, I think people have WAY too many children, and generally do so for selfish, thoughtless reasons. I agree that without all the shaming and moralizing surrounding abortion, it would be a far less emotionally burdensome decision, allowing more people to comfortably make the best decision for their lives.
0 # sean1303 2014-03-11 17:05
The SOCIAL stigma that hateful people keep attached to abortion is the main reason for any distress caused to women who choose to have an abortion.

The hate leveled at them, not regret about the abortion, is what causes the emotional trauma. So, stop it!

But this would require overcoming the huge hypocrisy that continues to ignore the fact that a robust sex education system and plentiful birth control is the most effective means to reduce abortion.
+14 # Rain17 2014-03-09 15:34
What has always bothered me about pro-life activists is that they are almost always the same people who want to impose draconian cuts to welfare, food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, Head Start, and other social programs. They could care less about these children once they enter the world.

But what the real issue regarding banning abortion is humiliation and punishment. It has never been about "protecting the unborn". And I'll argue that "control" has never been the issue either. More fundamentally it's about shaming, humiliating, and punishing women, especially those who are of lower income.

Most right-wing ideology, at least when it comes to issues facing the poor, centers around humiliation and shame. It's about "shaming people" who are already down on their luck and don't need any more humiliation. It's also about punishment since, in their worldview, anyone in that position suffers from moral weakness.
+2 # biopalgal 2014-03-10 08:07
BRAVO! You took the words right out of my mouth!
+6 # jimallyn 2014-03-09 16:30
I am opposed to abortion. But I am also opposed to lying about abortion. I will share this article with my friends.
+4 # bmiluski 2014-03-10 14:14
If given the choice, I don't know if I could go through with an abortion. But GOD DAMN IT....I want the choice.
0 # merr7242 2014-03-16 22:23
All of those supposed lies can be fixed if we get teapublican'ts out of office.

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