Reminder: Abortion Is 14 Times Safer Than Childbirth

This week the world was stunned by the announcement that the much-lauded, seemingly apolitical and altruistic Susan G. Komen for the Cure cut off funding for breast cancer screenings for poor women at Planned Parenthood health centers. Even though Komen is now backing off the decision, the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the far reach of the anti-choice far right into every corner of American society.

Komen’s story that the decision wasn’t a political one was a hard sell, especially after it was reported that Karen Handel, the senior vice president of public policy, retweeted (and later deleted), “Just like pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river.” Sure, it’s not political.

Anti-choice zealots have been gunning for Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care providers for years now. They’ve created obstacles to women’s reproductive health care by misconstruing, misinterpreting, misrepresenting and misusing facts to try to convince women that they don’t know what’s good for them.

Some of their favorite “facts” are that abortions threaten women’s physical and mental health–despite years of peer-reviewed studies overwhelmingly showing abortions to be safe.

Now, an unbiased scientific study once again shows definitively that abortion is much safer than childbirth. It is 14 times less likely to lead to death.

I don’t expect anti-choice zealots to suddenly change their tune about the supposed dangers of abortion. I’ve been reading studies demonstrating that legal abortion is safer than childbirth since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Over that time, legal abortion has only become safer. The authors of this study, Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond and Dr. David A. Grimes, found that:

The relative safety of abortion has increased substantially since the first decade after nationwide legalization, when child birth-related mortality was approximately seven times the mortality related to abortion.

These statistics and scientific facts don’t jibe with what the anti-choice forces want to believe. So they manufactured some “facts” of their own and proceeded to get legislators and policymakers to believe them–or at least pretend to believe them–and enact laws to protect women from themselves.

Anti-choicers have succeeded in getting laws passed in 22 states that require women seeking abortions to receive information about the procedure’s “risks.” Such information is often misleading, inaccurate and designed to frighten women away from terminating their pregnancies. A pamphlet mandated in Texas, “A Woman’s Right to Know,”  lists over 30 potential complications of medical abortion–but only six potential complications of vaginal delivery and eight of cesarean delivery.

The pamphlet also raises the specter of breast cancer. The anti-choice crowd has been trying to sell the idea that abortions raises breast-cancer risk for a long time, although any link between the two has been refuted in study after study. The American Cancer Society states that, “At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.” (Perhaps the Komen organization could focus its efforts on debunking this mythology instead of undermining Planned Parenthood.)

Raymond and Grimes’ report concludes:

Laws that compel exposure of women to such biased material thwart informed choice and contravene the ethical principle of autonomy. Moreover, they put clinicians in the untenable position of having to be complicit in misleading their patients. Since the early 1970s, the public health evidence has been clear and incontrovertible: induced abortion is safer than childbirth.

It is unconscionable that our health care providers should have to misrepresent medical facts to women seeking abortions because of a vocal anti-choice minority. When will Americans acknowledge that, in the words of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts”?

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Not the singer/songwriter Carole King. Been a feminist for as long as I can remember and committed to reproductive rights even longer.