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.)