It can happen at the most inopportune moment: in the middle of a delightful conversation at a party, at a restaurant with new friends, while you’re lunching with co-workers, during a family meal. Someone makes a wild generalization about women who get abortions, and you’re shocked. You try to remain civilized but it’s difficult. To make matters worse, you’re not sure how to reply.
Here are a few facts to help you refute some of the common myths about abortion.
Myth 1: Even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion would still be legal.
Fact: Some states have abortion bans [PDF] on the books that predate Roe or have been put in place in case the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade. If Roe is overturned those bans would immediately become enforceable.
Myth 2: American women are able to have legal abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy in all 50 states.
Fact: That wasn’t true when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973 and it’s not true now. In Roe, the court ruled that women have a right to abortion during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy and the state cannot restrict the procedure. In the third trimester, which encompasses the period after the point of fetal viability, the state may prohibit abortion as long as it is still permitted if the life or health of the mother is at risk. However, in the 2007 case Gonzales v. Carhart, the Court upheld a federal ban on second-trimester abortions even though the law did not contain an exception [PDF] in cases when the women’s health is in danger, thus signaling their willingness to further restrict abortion access.
Myth 3: Women who have abortions are selfish and self-centered.
Fact: The decision to have an abortion is rarely simple. Most women are very cognizant of the demands of parenthood and want to have a family only when the time is right. They are concerned about their ability to provide a stable environment for themselves and their children.
Myth 4: Abortions cause pain for the fetus.
Fact: Many physicians and medical researchers believe that fetuses don’t begin to feel pain until some time during the third trimester–after 99 percent of all abortions have been performed.
Myth 5: Abortions are readily available across the country.
Fact: There are no abortion providers in 88 percent of all U.S. counties. In non-metropolitan areas, the figure rises to 97 percent. As a result, many women must travel long distances to reach the nearest abortion provider.
Myth 6: Abortion is a very dangerous procedure.
Fact: Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women. The risk of death associated with abortion is low and the risk of major complications is less than 1 percent. In fact, giving birth is more dangerous than an abortion.
Myth 7: Abortion providers are in it to make a lot of money.
Fact: Abortion providers generally charge less for their services than physicians in other specialties. In addition, many of them continue their work in spite of regular threats to their lives and safety.
Myth 8: If a woman doesn’t want to have a child, she should use contraception or abstain.
Fact: There is no contraceptive that is 100 percent effective. Even total abstinence fails when a women is raped. Over half (54 percent) of the women seeking abortions had tried to prevent the pregnancy during the month in which they became pregnant. Of the 46 percent who had not used contraceptives, many believed they were at a low risk for pregnancy or had concerns about contraceptive methods.
Myth 9: Women have multiple abortions rather than using birth control.
Fact: Most women who have abortions (52 percent) have had no previous abortions, and 26 percent have had only one previous abortion. Considering that most women are fertile for more than 30 years, and that birth control is not perfect, the likelihood of having one or two unintended pregnancies is very high.
Myth 10: Many women who have had abortions are traumatized and suffer from “post-abortion stress syndrome.”
Fact: There is no scientific evidence, or the observable reality of 33 years of legal abortion in the United States, to support the idea that having an abortion is any more dangerous to a woman’s long-term mental health than delivering and parenting a child she did not intend to have or placing a baby for adoption.
These are just a few of the myths about abortion, there are so many more. Please share the myths you hear most often and how you answer them, if you do. Let’s educate each other.