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.

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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)

Abortion Facts MasterPost

Anything that’s underlined is a link, including the spiffy x’s, so click and thou shalt be informed!

Who Gets Abortions? 

  • 18% of abortions are obtained by teenagers, 33% are obtained from people ages 20-24, 24% are obtained by people 25-29. 
  • 61% of abortions are obtained by people who already have one or more children. 
  • Only 8% of people obtaining an abortion have never used birth control [x]. 
  • 37% of people obtaining abortions are Protestant, while 28% are Catholic. 
  • It’s not just women who have abortions. [x]

What are the abortion procedures available? 

  • First Trimester: medical abortion pill (9wks), manual vacuum aspiration (12wks), and aspiration (16wks)
  • Second Trimester: Dilation and Cutterage (16weeks), Dilation and Evacuation (16weeks), Induction Abortion (note: it’s a pretty rare procedure). 
  • Third Trimester: Induction Abortion, Dilation and Extraction
  • Details about abortion procedures [x]
  • Third Trimester abortions are illegal unless the health of the mother is in danger. 

Dangers and Effects of Abortion

Link Between Accessible Contraceptives, Accessible Abortion, and Abortion Rates. 

  • Contraceptive use results in lower abortion rates. [x]
  • The US has some of the highest abortion rates among advanced industrial countries, but also has the most stringent anti-abortion laws. [x] [x]
  • Accessible birth control drastically cuts abortion rates. [x]
  • No seriously, it’s a no-brainer. Accessible birth control reduces abortion. [x]
  • Abortion rates remain the same, regardless of whether its legal or not. [x] [x]
  • Funding health clinics that provide contraceptive services such as Planned Parenthood prevent about 800,000 abortions yearly
  • Abortion rates are higher in countries that ban abortion. [x]
  • Even when they do not have access to safe abortions, people will still attempt including this 13 y/o who self-aborted with a lead pencil

Sex Education in America

  • Myths about Abstinence-Only Education debunked. [x]
  • Education about contraceptives is linked with a decrease in teens engaging in risky sexual behavior. [x]
  • 88% of those who take purity pledges have sex before marriage. [x]
  • Federal survey of Abstinence-Only Education found that 80% of the curricula gave false, misleading information about contraceptives, abortion, and medical science. [x]
  • Teen pregnancies highest in states with abstinence-only education. [x]
  • Abstinence-Only Education versus Comprehensive Sex Education
  • Comprehensive Sex Ed can lower teen pregnancies [x]
  • There is strong evidence citing that CSE can actually delay sex for teens and lead them to having more responsible sexual relationships, while there is not evidence that AOE does not delay sexual activity. [x]
  • More information covering statistics concerning teen sexual behavior and sex education and laws

Poverty and Abortion

  • Abortions have increased for people in poor economic conditions [x].
  • People who carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line after two years. [x]
  • 42% of people obtaining abortions have incomes below the federal poverty line. [x]
  • Unintended pregnancies are concentrated among poor people lacking accessible birth control. [x]
  • Kermit Gosnell targeted lower-class and poor people who would have not been able to afford an abortion. [x]

Race and Abortion

  • No, abortion is not a modern form of slavery. [x] [x]
  • There are high rates of unintended pregnancy by PoC, due to lack of accessible healthcare [x].
  • Abortion clinics are not targeting black neighborhoods [x]. 
  • The disparities in abortion rates of PoC reflect wider, socio-economic disparities in America. [x] [x] [x]
  • But hey, since you’re so concerned here are some legit issues concerning institutionalized racism and white privilege in America such as healthcare discriminationincarceration ratesthe war on drugslack of representation, and all this other crap

Trans* Issues and Abortion

Statistics Concerning Adoption and Foster Care

  • Every year, 20,000-25,000 leave foster care; not because they were adopted, but because they simply aged out of the system. [x]
  • The demand for foster care is so high in Canada that they are accepting sex offenders as foster parents
  • Adoption is a pro-choice option. [x]
  • Children who age out of foster care are at high risk for homelessness, arrests, incarcerations, early childbearing, and sexual/physical victimization. [x]
  • Emotional costs of adoption. [x]
  • Resources for adoption. 
  • More statistics on adoption

Other Important Tidbits

I’ll be sure to keep updating this with relevant material!
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

dinosaurs-in-flower-crowns asked:

First of all, I love your blog! It's reeeally helpful. Sorry if this question has been asked before, but what are the chances of not being able to get pregnant after getting an abortion?

Abortion does not affect future fertility.

Come, say it with me now:

Abortion does not affect future fertility.

Abortion does not affect future fertility.

Abortion does not affect future fertility.

There is so much terrible information out there that shouldn’t even be called information - they’re just straight up lies.  If you ever need good information about abortion, stop by The Guttmacher Institute.  They are the gold standard when it comes to unbiased and straightforward research and data.  Here is a quote from them:

“Several reviews of the available scientific literature affirm that vacuum aspiration — the modern method most commonly used during first-trimester abortions — poses virtually no long-term risks of fugure fertility-related problems, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion or congenital malformation.  Although the evidence is less extensive, the literature also suggests that repeat abortion, in and of itself, poses little or no risk.”

Here is a link to a PDF that everyone should read in their free time.  If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, skip to the section entitled The Long Term Safety of Abortion.

1. Myth: Women regret their abortions.

Concern trolling is one of anti-choicers’ favorite methods for attempting to shut down arguments in favor of reproductive rights. The fallacious suggestion is that women who have elective abortions suffer painful psychological consequences ranging from depression to anxiety to guilt to social isolation (aka the Won’t someone think of the women? argument). But in study after study, when women who have had abortions are allowed to speak for themselves (and really, they should know better than anyone), the opposite turns out to be true.

2. Myth: Abortions are unsafe.

The myth that abortion is a dangerous procedure proliferates in anti-choice circles, and is propagated by the same. It’s a fairly pernicious lie that is intended to make women considering an abortion literally fear for their lives. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a 2012 study assessing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Guttmacher Institute found that actually giving birth is far likelier to kill a woman than having an abortion. In the words of researchers, “risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.” First-trimester abortions have a complication rate of less than .05 percent, making it one of the safest procedures available. Having a colonoscopy puts one’s life more at risk than an abortion by a factor of 40 times. Time magazine noted last year that the CDC reported, “.67 deaths per 100,000 abortions” between 2003 and 2009, a year in which eight women died as a result of the procedure.

3. Myth: Abortion causes breast cancer.

Although this claim has been thoroughly disproven by a little thing called science, anti-choicers continue to use it to prop up their reasons for opposing safe, legal abortion. In most cases, they ignore the glut of research by well-respected medical groups (including studies by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School) in favor of studies that fail to properly employ the scientific method in order to arrive at the conclusion they prefer. (For a great, detailed explanation of the many fronts on which one of their most referenced studies fails, check out this Joyce Arthur piece on the RH Reality Check blog.)

4. Myth: Abortion, particularly multiple abortions, can cause infertility.

This is, apparently, a belief that grew out of some now-dated ideas once rooted in truth. A 2010 Jezebel article investigating infertility and abortion found that procedural changes in how abortions are performed explain why the connection no longer exists. More specifically, while abortions up until the late 1960s used D&C (or dilation and curettage) to terminate pregnancies, by the early 1970s, vacuum aspiration became — and today remains — the predominate abortion method. The reduction in scarring and other complications that resulted from this shift helped eliminate infertility as a risk of abortion.

5. Myth: Abortions are happening more than ever.

Women are having fewer legal abortions than they’ve had in 25 years. The number of legal abortions performed across the United States each year has been dwindling since the 1980s, and is currently down 12 percent from as recently as 2010. The Atlantic attributes this decline to a number of possible reasons: expanded access to birth control and sexual health resources and information; a precipitous drop in the teen pregnancy rates; millennial attitudes toward abortion (one study finds a surprising 42 percent against); and the astonishing number of recent anti-abortion measures put in place.

6. Myth: Outlawing abortion means women will stop getting abortions.

According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, “[e]stimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year.” Because these abortions were primarily conducted in secrecy through underground channels, they were impossible to regulate, and the back alley abortion industry often employed methods that sound horrific to modern ears. (A gynecologist who practiced in the late 1940s and early ‘50s and often saw women hospitalized after experiencing complications from illegal abortions, paints a vivid and disturbing picture of procedures using coat hangers, “darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.”) The human cost of these abortions, undergone by desperate women, was nothing short of tragic.

7. Myth: Abortion is racist.

It seems odd that conservatives express such outrage and concern about racism and its effects on fetuses of color, since they oppose pretty much every policy that might actually help African-American babies living outside the womb. In any case, much of this oft-repeated claim is rooted in the words of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood who was possibly a racist and definitely into eugenics. (Read her words for yourself and decide. The point is moot in relation to where I’m going here.)

Read the full article

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.

- 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)
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.

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