Dismantling Seven Abortion Myths—With Reproaction’s Shireen Shakouri

People take part in a march for abortion rights from Pershing Square to City Hall in Los Angeles, April 15, 2023. (Apu Gomes / AFP via Getty Images)

From old myths to new claims that abortion threatens endangered species through toilet water, anti-abortion disinformation is on the rise.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade being overturned, Reproaction and other abortion advocacy groups seek to fight disinformation propagated by anti-abortion advocates. NARAL Pro-Choice America reported that “from February to March of 2023 alone, articles containing disinformation rose by 99 percent.”

The word “disinformation” is used intentionally, Shireen Rose Shakouri, Deputy Director of Reproaction, noted.

“Disinformation is active, purposeful and intentional to deceive and mislead,” Shakouri said. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing regarding medication abortion access.” 

A big spreader of this disinformation? Students For Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group which specifically targets young high school and college-aged students.

Below, we debunk seven myths promoted by Students For Life, with help from Shakouri and Reproaction.

Students For Life: The abortion medication mifepristone is untested and unregulated. 

According to Reproaction, “The FDA approved the drug in 2000 after three phases of clinical trials that began in 1983—a longer process than the agency’s average review time of 6-10 months.”

Students For Life: Abortion medication, when flushed down the toilet, is harmful to “endangered or threatened species.”

These claims have no scientific basis.

In April, Students for Life, sent a citizen petition to the FDA claiming that mifepristone might be dangerous to “endangered or threatened species or designated critical habitats.” Shakouri pointed out that Students For Life is intentionally targeting mifepristone, and that these medications “flushed down the toilet cause this untold, untested environmental damage. As if thousands and thousands of other prescriptions aren’t flushed through our urine everyday.” 

Students For Life: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone has a right to life. 

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights never extends its declaration to include embryos, yet forced birth violates at least a dozen of the thirty articles outlined, including the right to “equal protection of the law,” “life, liberty, and security of person,” and “medical care.”

The U.N. is also committed to reproductive rights, which “allow women to be in control of their own bodies and decide if, when, with whom and how often to bear children.”

Students For Life: “Abortion is causing a population crisis,”—a “dangerously low” population crisis. 

According to the Harvard International Review, “The number of humans existing on Earth has never been as high as it is now. In 1800, Earth had approximately 1 billion inhabitants, which rose to… approximately 7.5 billion today. In the last five decades, Earth has experienced an extreme population boom.” 

Students For Life: In-clinic abortion is dangerous, with “at least 100 women… transported to a hospital as a result of abortion in 2019,” and medication abortion is even more dangerous. 

Students For Life continues to cite a 2019 study paired with a statistic of “Planned Parenthood [committing] at least 347,000 abortions every year.” When placed together, 100 out of 347,000 is a 0.03 percent complication rate. That’s a far lower rate of complication than childbirth: Johns Hopkins reports that “approximately 8 percent of all pregnancies involve complications that, if left untreated, may harm the mother or the baby.”

The real danger from clinics? “The rise of anti-abortion clinics,” Shakouri said. And how anti-abortion advocates “started with creating centers that looked like real abortion clinics to deceive people.”

Students For Life: The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates against abortions. 

Students for Life intentionally cites anti-abortion scientific studies and organizations, including the “American College of Pediatricians,” a conservative group which opposes both abortion and LGBTQ rights. Different from the more widely known, more reputable “American Academy of Pediatrics” (which was founded in 1930), the “American College of Pediatricians” is known for corruption including leaking 10,000 confidential files on transgender patients.

“We are seeing this rise in fake science through journals that probably, on their face, look more or less believable,” said Shakouri. “A layperson does not have the understanding that The American College of Pediatricians is different than the American Academy of Pediatrics.” 

Students For Life: “Birth control does not prevent abortions… nine out of 100 women still get pregnant even though they’re on birth control.”

Students For Life is eager to intentionally mislead, both by using “birth control” as an umbrella term for several different forms of contraceptives and using the statistics from the improper and irregular use of only the birth control pill. In actuality, the NHS reports that “fewer than one in 100 women” using a contraceptive implant or IUD will get pregnant within a year, and when used correctly, “the pill has the potential to be 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.” 


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Eliza Powers is an English major at Pomona College.