The Seven Most Common Lies About Abortion

Most of what we know about abortion comes from anti-abortion propaganda found in crisis pregnancy centers, sidewalk counselors, and spoon-fed politicians’ speeches. Their lies serve to create a culture of fear and stigma around abortion, when in reality abortion is one of the most common and safest medical procedures. Click through for more details:

  1. “Abortion causes breast cancer.” Not according to the National Cancer Institute and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
  2. “Abortion causes infertility.” The Mayo Clinic and Guttmacher Institute disagree.
  3. “Ultrasounds convince women not to have abortions.” Of the 40% who chose to view their ultrasound, 98.4% continued with their decision to have an abortion.
  4. “Abortion damages your mental health.” Neither the American Psychological Association, nor the American Psychiatric Association agree.
  5. “Increased clinic restrictions make abortion safer.” Most restrictions passed have little to do with client safety - larger parking lots, hospital admitting privileges, etc. - and only serve to drive historically safe clinics out of business.
  6. “Abortion is dangerous.” It’s one of the safest procedures in existence.

“The large number of recently enacted abortion restrictions has dramatically reshaped the landscape for women seeking an abortion. In 2000, 13 states had four or five types of abortion restrictions in effect and so were considered hostile to abortion rights. In that year, no state had more than five types of abortion restrictions in effect. By 2010, 22 states were considered hostile to abortion rights; five of these had six or more restrictions, enough to be considered extremely hostile to abortion rights. By 2014, 27 states had enough restrictions to be considered hostile; 18 of these can now be considered extremely hostile. The entire South is now considered hostile to abortion rights, and much of the South, along with much of the Midwest, is extremely hostile to abortion rights.

Source: Guttmacher

New Infographic: Contraception Is Highly Effective

By preventing unintended pregnancies, contraception provides significant health, social and economic benefits for women. But as this infographic documents, correct and consistent contraceptive use is critical.

The two-thirds of U.S. women at risk of unintended pregnancy who use contraception consistently and correctly throughout the course of any given year account for only 5% of all unintended pregnancies. The 19% of women at risk who use contraception inconsistently account for 43% of unintended pregnancies, while the 16% of women at risk who use no contraceptive method at all for a month or more during the year account for 52%.

These simple statistics demonstrate how effective contraceptive use can be. They also categorically refute claims by anti-contraception activists that access to contraception somehow leads to more unintended pregnancies and subsequent abortions.

In fact, most women having abortions were either not using any contraception or were using a method inconsistently. In 2000, the most recent year for which data are available, almost one-half (46%) of abortion patients were not using a contraceptive method in the month they got pregnant. Among the 54% of abortion patients who were using some form of contraception, the overwhelming majority acknowledged that their use was inconsistent, for example, because they had missed a pill or had not used a condom every time. The population of women obtaining abortions does not include the large majority of consistent contraceptive users, since they did not experience an unintended pregnancy and therefore never had a need for abortion services.

The contraceptive method used is also a factor. Users of highly effective methods, such as the pill and the IUD, are underrepresented among women who have abortions, compared with the general population. Meanwhile, users of less-effective methods, such as condoms and withdrawal, are overrepresented among abortion patients. But use ofany method is far more effective than using no method at all: Couples who do not practice contraception have approximately an 85% chance of having an unintended pregnancy within a year.

All of this is why debates around contraception should focus on ways to empower the one-third of sexually active women who want to avoid an unintended pregnancy but are not using a contraceptive method consistently and correctly. Among other steps, this includes

We encourage you to share this graphic with your friends, family and colleagues to help ensure that our national debate is guided by facts, not misinformation. And be sure to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Additional resources:

The Guttmacher Institute today released a nationally representative study, the first of its kind, finding that most women seeking abortions had experienced at least one “disruptive event” in the year prior to their abortion. Such “social shocks,” as study author Ann Moore called them, include moving multiple times, being unemployed, separating from a partner, falling behind on rent or a mortgage or having a partner incarcerated, among others. Physical or sexual abuse is another kind of “disruptive event,” one that seven percent of women obtaining abortions reported. “Women with abusive partners are substantially over-represented among abortion patients,” the study concluded. Perhaps surprising to some, more than half of the women surveyed reported using a contraceptive method in the month before they become pregnant.

The study comes as a needed reality check after Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s ridiculous remarks about the likelihood of pregnancy after “legitimate rape.” As this study and others suggest, rape and sexual coercion play a role in a significant number of pregnancies. The link found in the Guttmacher study between intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy in particular calls out for further examination, said Moore. “There are direct ways that violent partners, and nonviolent partners, can interfere with a women’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy. There’s also a relation between the instability that comes with being in a violent relationship.” Two years ago, Lynn Harris reported on a crop of studies that identified a phenomenon researchers called “reproductive coercion” among teens in abusive relationships, “in which abusive partners subject young women already at risk of violence to the additional health risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.” Birth control sabotage also showed up in the Guttmacher study released today, with six respondents of forty-nine saying their partners had undermined their efforts to prevent pregnancy, for example by tampering with contraceptives. Researcher Elizabeth Miller has called for more study into whether “pregnancy ambivalence”—the term researchers use to describe sexually active women who don’t want to get pregnant but aren’t trying to prevent it—is really “male-partner influence on women’s reproductive health and autonomy.”

Akin’s comments have provoked a number of thoughtful responses about how often women are obligated to justify their rapes, abortions and other personal, private life events. Whether a rape victim appears “legitimate” can often determine whether the rape is prosecuted, and whether the jury convicts the defendant. Whether a woman seeking an abortion is doing so for a “legitimate” reason—her health is in danger, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest—can determine whether she can legally or practically access the abortion at all.

Drawing attention to women who experience reproductive coercion or seek an abortion as a result of a rape might, on the surface, suggest that we’re trying to find an “excuse” for an abortion—a “legitimate” reason—that, might, just might, placate conservatives. As Maya Dusenbery wrote on Feministing, “You don’t know anything about other people’s lives. The point is to show that we can’t categorize abortions into these different types, because every single woman’s reason for getting an abortion is absolutely unique” (emphasis in the original).

(via Does It Matter Why Women Have Abortions? | The Nation)
Margaret Talbot: What’s Behind the Declining Abortion Rate?

Last week’s report about the declining abortion rate was potentially good news for everyone, especially, one would think, for right-to-life groups. Most of them, though, weren’t cheering.

What’s probably behind the decline:

  • Increased use of long-acting, highly effective methods of contraception, such as the implant and IUD
  • Making effective contraception more accessible through public funding
  • An overall decrease in the birth rate - people are choosing not to get pregnant in the first place

What anti-choicers wish was behind the decline (but isn’t):

  • Restricting access to safe, legal abortion
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Calls 'Choice' An Empty Concept For Poor Women
WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the concept of "choice" is an ephemeral one for low-income women who live in states that pass laws limiting access to abortion, as they may

“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the concept of “choice” is an ephemeral one for low-income women who live in states that pass laws limiting access to abortion, as they may not be able to afford to travel to a state with less onerous restrictions.

The lack of reproductive freedom is a remaining barrier to gender parity, the justice said at a Duke Law event Wednesday evening. Advocacy organizations and groups that fund abortions have pushed the idea that being “pro-choice” includes fighting to end the decades-old Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from going toward Medicaid coverage for abortion except in limited circumstances. One in four women on Medicaid who would have abortions if the Hyde Amendment didn’t exist instead carry an unwanted pregnancy to term because of the prohibitive cost of the procedure, the Guttmacher Institute notes.

The justice alluded to this new reality as Mississippi’s last clinic fights to remain open and providers battle restrictions that could close all but nine or 10 clinics in Texas:

“There’s a sorry situation in the United States, which is essentially that poor women don’t have choice. Women of means do. They will, always. Let’s assume Roe v. Wade were overruled and we were going back to each state for itself, well, any woman who could travel from her home state to a state that provides access to abortion, and those states never go back to old ways … So if you can afford a plane ticket, a train ticket or even a bus ticket you can control your own destiny but if you’re locked into your native state then maybe you can’t. That we have one law for women of means and another for poor women is not a satisfactory situation.”

Read the full piece here

More Ruth Bader Ginsburg posts on Profeminist

Though wide disparities still exist, especially among Hispanic and black teens, there was a decline among all ethnic groups. During this time period, more 18-19-year olds (who have the highest rate of teen pregnancy) reported having sex, yet they still had fewer pregnancies. This is probably because of better and more effective use of birth control.

“The decline in the teen pregnancy rate is great news,” says lead author Kathryn Kost. “Other reports had already demonstrated sustained declines in births among teens in the past few years; but now we know that this is due to the fact that fewer teens are becoming pregnant in the first place. It appears that efforts to ensure teens can access the information and contraceptive services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies are paying off.”

You can read the full report, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, at the Guttmacher Institute.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Antiabortion activists often claim that most abortion clinics are located in predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods. However, this claim—offered as supposed proof that abortion providers “target” minority women—is false.”


Get the truth about people who get abortions!

  • By age 45, about half of American [people with uteri] will have an unintended pregnancy.
  • And nearly 1 in 3 will have an abortion.
  • 36% are white, 30% are black, 25% are Hispanic, and 9% are of another race.
  • 58% are in their 20s.
  • 73% are religiously affiliated.
  • 6 in 10 already have a child.
  • 88% have their abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • 69% are economically disadvantaged.
  • 45% are never-married, 29% are living together, 15% are married, and 11% are previously married.
More State Abortion Restrictions Were Enacted in 2011–2013 Than in the Entire Previous Decade

Reproductive health and rights were once again the subject of extensive debate in state capitols in 2013. Over the course of the year, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. Half of these new provisions, 70 in 22 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services.

- Nationally, 51% of all U.S. births in 2010 were paid for by public insurance through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Indian Health Service.

- Public insurance programs paid for 68% of the 1.5 million unplanned births that year, compared with 38% of planned births.

- Two million births were publicly funded in 2010; of those, about half—one million—were unplanned. 

- A publicly funded birth in 2010 cost an average of $12,770 in prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care and 12 months of infant care; when 60 months of care are included, the cost per birth increases to $20,716.

- Government expenditures on the births, abortions and miscarriages resulting from unintended pregnancies nationwide totaled $21.0 billion in 2010; that amounts to 51% of the $40.8 billion spent for all publicly funded pregnancies that year.

- To put these figures in perspective, in 2010, the federal and state governments together spent an average of $336 on unintended pregnancies for every woman aged 15–44 in the country.

- In the absence of the current U.S. publicly funded family planning effort, the public costs of unintended pregnancies in 2010 might have been 75% higher.

- The total gross potential savings from averting all unintended pregnancies in 2010 would have been $15.5 billion. This is less than the total public cost of all unintended pregnancies, because even if all women had been able to time their pregnancies as they wanted, some of the resulting births still would have been publicly funded. These potential savings do not account for the public investment in family planning services and other interventions that might be required to achieve them.

(From Guttmacher Institute)

In Pakistan, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended

During the past decade, unmet need for family planning has remained high in Pakistan and increases in contraceptive use have been low. A new study, “Induced Abortions and Unintended Pregnancies in Pakistan,” by Zeba Sathar of the Population Council and Susheela Singh of the Guttmacher Institute, found that in 2012, of the approximately nine million pregnancies that occurred in Pakistan, 4.2 million were unintended. Of these unintended pregnancies, 54% resulted in induced abortions and 34% in unplanned births. Click here for more information.

Additional resources:

Fact sheet in Urdu

Infographic in Urdu

According to the Guttmacher Institute, one in three women in America will have had an abortion by the age of 45. This issue knows no educational, ethnic, or class boundaries. Nearly half of the pregnancies in American women are unintended, and four in 10 of them end in abortion. And every woman is different. Every circumstance is complex.
—  Rev. Tamara Lebak, Associate Minister, All Souls Unitarian Church