The Next 10 Myths About Abortion

Last week, I posted the 10 Worst Myths About Abortion. Since I couldn’t cover all of the many bad myths, here are the next 10:

Myth 11: Making abortion illegal will stop abortion.

Fact: Of the approximately 42 million abortions that occur annually worldwide, almost half are unsafe and/or illegal. Making abortion illegal will not stop women from having abortions; it will only make abortions more dangerous.

Myth 12: Abortion causes breast cancer.

Fact: A 2003 review of existing human and animal studies conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

Myth 13: Pregnancy as a result of either rape or incest is extremely rare.

Fact: The callousness of this statement always shocks me, and it’s no consolation to the girl or woman who finds herself pregnant as a result of rape or incest. If a rapist does not use protection (and the victim isn’t using contraception), the chance of a pregnancy is the same as any instance of unprotected sex. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 4.7 percent of rapes will result in pregnancy.  In addition, women who are repeatedly raped–such as victims of ongoing incest–are more likely to become pregnant. Internationally, rape is often used as a weapon of war, with some militias setting up rape camps designed to impregnate women as a way of humiliating and stigmatizing them.

Myth 14: Emergency contraception causes abortions.

Fact: Emergency contraception prevents ovulation and is not effective once the fertilized egg has been implanted on the uterine wall. It will not cause an abortion but can prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

Myth 15: Having an abortion can cause infertility.

Fact: A safe, uncomplicated abortion should not affect a woman’s ability to have children in the future.

Myth 16. Pro-choice activists promote abortion.

Fact: Pro-choice activists and organizations support comprehensive sex education, access to contraception, condom use and other means to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Anti-choice activists and organizations are generally opposed to providing people with the means to control their reproductive lives.

Myth 17. Adoption is an alternative to abortion.

Fact: The alternative to abortion is giving birth. Adoption is an alternative to keeping and rearing a child. Adoption should be about finding loving homes for children, not creating children to be adopted. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that a child will be adopted. In the U.S. alone, there are currently 114,000 children in foster care who are eligible for adoption.

Myth 18. More contraception leads to more unintended pregnancies and more abortion.

Fact: Belgium and the Netherlands, where contraception is widely used, have the world’s lowest abortion rates. The highest abortion rates are in countries with a limited number of contraceptive methods.

Myth 19: It is impossible to be personally opposed to abortion and be pro-choice.

Fact: Pro-choice simply means that you believe abortion should be a choice for women. Whether you would choose it for yourself is irrelevant.

Myth 20: All religions believe abortion is a sin.

Fact: Not all religions believe abortion is wrong. In fact, the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, Conservative and Reform Judaism believe the decision must be a woman’s.

I’m sure there are still more myths out there; let me know what I missed!


  1. Thanks for taking my suggestion about the ‘abortion causes breast cancer’ myth. Now how about you expand your scope of religion to the many outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition? A brief Google search of ‘abortion’ with major world religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism brings up a plethora of information about where each stands on the issue of abortion philosophically and in practice. Interestingly, all three tend toward a pro-choice practice, a point that would have strengthened your argument.

  2. Something that you might want to address is the wide variety of myths surrounding how an abortion is done – namely, the ones which basically say that a nearly fully viable infant is killed and dismembered inside the womb and pulled out piece by piece.

    A “demonstration” of this is given in this video (starts automatically if you go to the page): http:// www . abortioninstruments . com/

    (Warning: EXTREMELY graphic, and most definitely Not Safe For Work/School/the easily Squeamish)

    The entire video is pointlessly bloody, with a level of gore to make that of all the Saw movies combined jealous, and I’m fairly certain this entire thing was acted out.

    If you scroll down underneath it, it shows “instruments of abortions” – most of which can be described as “handheld torture devices”. All of them are basically different ways to mutilate the fetus inside the womb and/or its skull for an abortion. I’m not even sure many of these instruments were ever real at all, let alone used as a widespread instrument of abortion.

    If you click on “Abortion Photos” near the top, it will lead you to pages of pictures of bloodied limbs of “unborn babies”, usually next to other objects (like crayon/pencil tips, coins, postage stamps, and even a baseball in one case) to show you the size, with the week/stage of pregnancy the abortion of that baby was performed underneath. Many of these are rather obviously false by virtue of the fact the fetus would not have been developed enough to have these limbs in the earlier stages. One picture shows the preborn infant’s hands with “defensive wounds”. I wish I were joking.

    “Abortion videos” give you two more videos of a similar nature to the first one, and underneath it a slideshow of the abortion pictures, and then the same list of “Abortion Instruments” as before.

    This entire website is creepy as hell and disturbs me to no end, and I doubt very little of it, if any of it at all, is based on truth.

    …actually, you guys might want to consider a whole post devoted to debunking. This site is disturbing enough to warrant it. (I’m sorry, I’ve been able to look at real dissected human bodies used in medical school calmly, up close and live, since I was 7, and even I’m disturbed by this, so I can’t imagine how most other people would be able to handle it).

    • The fetus has limbs at a very early stage. Those photos, although disturbing, are not inaccurate. I am a nurse and have seen early miscarriages.

    • Stephanie says:

      Being someone who has delivered a baby @20 weeks gestation, I can safely say the baby in this video looked like it was atleast 18wks gestation. I know women get abortions for all reasons at all stages but I can't help but think this one might have been done for medical reasons since the mother was so far along. I found one thing kind of off though, the size comparison pictures are of MUCH younger fetuses than the one in the video. Not to mention…do these groups go digging through clinic refuse to find these parts and photograph them? If so, that's pretty freaking sick. Oh..and the fact the DR. was holding up each piece to make sure the viewer got a goooood look. Unprofessional to say the least.

  3. Feminist Review – thank you. I didn’t find overwhelming evidence of pro-choice leanings in Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism. I guess I was looking in different places than you were. You are right about the difference between the philosophical position and the attitude toward the people who make the choice. This is what I found:

    Islam generally permits abortion if continuing the pregnancy would put the mother’s life in real danger. There are differing opinions on whether any other reasons for abortion other than that are permitted, it depends on the religious scholar.

    Classical Hindu texts express opposition to abortion except where it is necessary to save the mother’s life.

    There doesn’t seem to be one single Buddhist position on abortion, however, traditional Buddhism rejects abortion because it involves the deliberate destroying of a life. While in some circumstances, although the action may be wrong, the moral harm done will be reduced by the intentions involved.

  4. Carolyn MacAdam says:

    Carol, thanks for enumerating these misconceptions. As a person who has always been pro-choice, I find that we are fighting the same battles repeatedly. In Michigan, we have a "Pregnancy Prevention" bill stuck in the State Senate Health Com. My Senator responded to me that an undue burden would be placed upon the insurance companies if they had to cover all these prescriptions. Needless to say, he is anti-choice. I wish we would quit allowing the moniker "Pro Life".

    • Iliana Echo says:

      I have a different perspective on the term. I am pro-choice; I am also pro-life. I do not support the criminalization of abortion; I do support the expansion of birth control and sex education (to minimize the number of unwanted pregnancies) and welfare (so no one has to abort a pregnancy they would otherwise keep but can’t afford, and to save the lives of the already born who will suffer and yes, die, without aid). I am also, unlike many “pro-life” activists, anti-war and anti-death penalty.

  5. M.Cheff says:

    On a recent TV show, a teenager commented on how many more teenage pregnancies there are now. She claimed it was directly related to teaching nothing but abstinence, Many never have even heard of the pill much less abortion. Myth: That todays “kids” are smarter than we were.

  6. What about women who have abortions are careless? I’ve seen a married woman get an abortion after using condoms. She was married and was trying to be safe. They couldn’t financially provide for a child and were sickened by the thought of another child growing up in foster care. Abortion isn’t always for the irresponsible who thought pulling out would suffice.

  7. Excellent post. As someone who is pro-choice but would not consider abortion for myself, number 19 hits home. I’ve had that discussion with people who just didn’t get it so many times. All of these are excellent points though, especially the one about rape and incest. Sex is still sex. No matter who did it, the chances or getting pregnant are still the same for a normal, healthy female of reproductive age.

  8. Thanks for also addressing what it means to be Pro-Choice. I have a friend who had an unplanned pregnancy. She and the father had previously discussed their views on abortion, and he assumed that meant she would have one. When she refused, he acted like he’d been duped. Of course we know unplanned pregnancies are all the woman’s fault. After all he did use a condom… *rolls eyes*

  9. That picture… was it taken infront of robarts library?!

  10. I believe it is — the photo came from Flickr and didn’t have any other identification.

  11. Another myth: All terminated pregnancies are unwanted.

    I don’t know the statistics, but many wanted, planned pregnancies are terminated when the parents find out the baby has an untreatable medical condition or the mother’s health is at risk. After losing my first baby shortly after her birth due to unforeseen medical complications, I became involved with pregnancy and infant loss support groups and have encountered a number of families who chose to terminate very wanted pregnancies for medical reasons. I wish those cases were acknowledged more in abortion debates. I am pregnant again right now, and while I hope to never need an abortion (as a lesbian, I am not likely to have an unwanted pregnancy), I want to know I have that choice if my partner and I were to find out our baby had an untreatable medical condition or my life was at risk. And, of course, I want all women to have the choice to terminate pregnancies they don’t feel prepared to carry to term, whatever their reasons. Pregnancy and birth are intense, life-changing experiences which no woman should be forced to go through if she doesn’t want to.

  12. Interesting article, but I think 13 and 14 are misleading. The title of 13 is “Pregnancy as a result of either rape or incest is extremely rare” and you say that 4.7 percent of rapes result in pregnancy. However, in terms of total pregnancies, the percent caused by rape IS extremely small.
    14 may not be true, depending on one’s definition of abortion. While emergency contraception is not effective on a fertilized egg implanted in the uterine wall, it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall.

    • The point of #13 is that it’s not rare when you look at rapes and incest by themselves. 15-20% of US women will be raped in their lifetime (wiki, rape in the us).

      Abortion as a medical term has definition, so it doesn’t depend on your definition. EC isn’t a medical abortion.

  13. Interesting article, and necessary, too, in these times of ignorance.

    You’re wrong about one thing, however. Emergency contraception does NOT prevent ovulation. Emergency contraception, which includes the ‘morning after pill’ is designed to prevent implantation, which, as you know, occurs post-fertilization. It’s regular oral contraceptives that prevent ovulation.

  14. Great article, I particularly can relate with number 19. For the sake of women everywhere, abortion should not and cannot be made illegal again. We spent decades working for the right to abortion why turn back the clock and let the women who have abortions now, safely for the most part, be forced to do it at home with a coat hanger.

    As for abortions as a result of rape or incest, who cares about “how little the number is” aren’t those women women all the same or has the clock already been turned back.

    Also, on the subject of the morning after pill, it isn’t known exactly how it works: it either stops the egg from implanting or stops the sperm and the egg from meeting.

    Again, thank you, great article.

  15. A major obstacle to early abortions is the biologically ignorant viewpoint that a fertilized human egg, cleaving egg, blastula, grastula and Embryo with no functioning Brain is a “human baby”.

    No Human Being, certainly including the Dark Ages Dogma Pope, knows IF or AT WHAT DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE a “soul” is present! THAT IS A FACT!

  16. On the last day of the 2010 Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature passed HB 1143 – sweeping anti-choice legislation that restricts women’s access to reproductive health care and drastically chips away at Roe v. Wade.

    House Republicans rammed through a measure to require women seeking an abortion to pay for an ultrasound and hear a doctor give a description of the fetus. The cost of an ultrasound exam can vary between $200 and $1,000.

    The bill also restricts businesses that receive tax credits from providing their employees with health insurance that covers abortion, even if they don’t use federal or state subsidies to purchase their plans. This goes far beyond the Hyde Amendment by prohibiting abortion from being covered in private health insurance plans.

    This attack on women’s health care by anti-choice Republicans passed both chambers despite never being vetted through a single committee, and never allowing for public comment. Help us urge Governor Crist to veto HB 1143, which interferes with private health care decisions and restricts private health insurance from offering abortion coverage.

    HB 1143 currently awaits the Governor’s decision.

    Women will not stand for legislation that takes away our rights and leaves us worse off than we are today.

    Tell Governor Crist to veto HB 1143.

  17. Rebecca G Pontikes says:

    You forgot my personal favorite:

    Banning abortion is not about controlling women–it’s about saving children.

    Go to these groups’ websites. Basically, they see pregnancy as the punishment women get for having had sex. In their view, women who either use contraceptives or get abortions are getting out of God’s “punishment” and that is not allowed.

    Don’t be fooled by the warm, fuzzy, PR pieces. This is all about controlling women by not letting women control when, how, and with whom they get pregnant. These religious zealots don’t believe women are fully human.

  18. PioneerGrrrl says:

    If they actually cared about children/human life, the groups would be supporting affordable and accessible health care, a living wage, day care, public transit, disability rights/special education…etc.

    These would successfully do so much more to really advance a culture of life throughout American society than banning legal abortion ever would.

  19. Adoptivemom says:

    Thank you for #17. As a pro-choice mom who adopted two kids from foster care, I get really ticked off when anti-choicers start talking about adoption being the alternative to abortion. How many foster kids have they adopted? Esp. considering many of the kids waiting for homes were pre-natally affected by drugs and alcohol and will need a lifetime of care and services. I love my kids with all my heart and am so thankful they are here and mine, but I have no problem counseling pregnant women in situations similar to their birthmom to consider terminating their pregnancies.

  20. What about this one: Women who have abortions are whore and sluts. Many people believe that only "dirty" girls get abortions so that they can sleep around and "not pay the price". Well I had an abortion once, and I was on a long-term committed relationship. And I know many married women who have abortions. Are they whores and sluts for sleeping with their husbands?

    • Of course, the anti-choicers are not in favor of life – they make that crystal clear from their politics which do not include spending for welfare for low-income parents and children, or education, or job training programs. The reality is that they are afraid of and opposed to women’s sexuality, which they think is sinful and wrong. They are also afraid of women having any financial or political power, which can happen when women do something other than spend their lives barefoot and pregnant. They think that a stay-at-home mom/Republican political wife who has no opinions and whose only “job” is to gaze adoringly at her husband is the only acceptable type of woman. That’s what this is really about. These hypocrites should be honest and admit that they could not care less about what happens to a clump of cells, a fetus, a baby, or a child.

  21. I agree with the person who said that we need to debunk the myths surrounding how abortions are performed, and what they look like. We need to get REAL, CERTIFIED pictures of FIRST TRIMESTER abortions in circulation, because very few are available right now. We need to make pictures and diagrams of the equipment used during abortions – dilators, curettes and manual vacuum aspirators – available.

  22. The City Hippie says:

    I love this so much. I am pro choice and this blog said everything and more. We have the right to decide. Thank you so much for this 🙂 Now I have even more points I can make the next time I get into a debate with someone!

  23. I would like to respond to your fact answer to myth 17. You are correct. Birth is the alternative to abortion. But if someone is making the decision between abortion and giving birth and placing for adoption, the child has already been created. And while there are thousands of children in foster care waiting to be adopted, these are almost exclusively older children. There is actually a long waiting list of those wanting to adopt a baby.


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