10 abortion myths you shouldn’t believe

Misinformation is a major barrier in changing attitudes towards abortion. But safe2choose is busting some popular myths around abortion because we care about woman’s reproductive rights.

By Kylie Kiunguyu

Myth 1: All abortions are voluntary or planned.

Fact: The term abortion is actually a medical term used to describe the end of a pregnancy, regardless of how it happens.

What many people think of when abortion is being discussed is elective or voluntary abortion, which is performed at the woman’s request for nonmedical reasons. However, few abortions fit into this criterion. These are some exceptions:

  • Termination of pregnancy is an all-encompassing phrase for abortions performed because the fetus has a significantly higher chance of a physical or psychological impairment or increased chances of terminal illness or death.
  • Therapeutic abortion is performed for the sake of the pregnant woman, i.e. to prevent harm to her physical and or mental health. In many countries, the former is more prioritized than the latter.
  • Spontaneous abortion or miscarriages are non-induced fetal demise. It occurs in 20-30% of pregnancies in the first trimester.

Myth 2: You cannot have an abortion past the first trimester.

Fact: Abortion after the first trimester is possible. Late-term abortions can happen even towards the tail end of the second trimester, i.e. during or after the 21st to 24th week of gestation [1]. According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 1% of abortions occur after 21 weeks, which is still well within the second trimester. The reasons for delayed abortions are often logistical, including late discovery, difficulty finding providers, difficulty raising funds for the procedure, travel and other associated costs, and so on.

Myth 3: Women use abortion as contraception.

Fact: Abortions are not accessible or sustainable enough to be used as a form of contraception.

Studies show that many women who seek abortions cite over one reason for their decision. So, while postponing childbearing is a large part of it, there are several underlying issues that make the postponement necessary.
Reasons aside, factually abortions are not a reliable or sustainable form of contraception. Even in countries where abortion is legal, there are many barriers that keep women from accessing abortion providers and services. Then when women can have abortions, the physical impact, such as in surgical abortions, and general aftercare, and the psychological/emotional aspects mean abortions are not something women can go through often.

Myth 4: Women who seek abortions are irresponsible.

Fact: Unwanted pregnancies are not always avoidable or in a woman’s control.

Many people have the impression that only certain types of women seek abortions, but that is far from the truth. First, contraception is not foolproof–the pill, for example, has a failure rate of 7% [2].

Second, many women are not in a position to consent to sex, even outside instances involving strangers, women experience intimate partner rape, stealthing, and reproductive control (when women’s partners demand or enforce their own reproductive intentions through intimidation, threats, and/or actual violence).

Myth 5: Abortion causes infertility.

Fact: Fertility is unaffected after abortion unless there are complications.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), abortions do not generally affect one’s ability to get pregnant again or increase the risks for complications in future pregnancies [6].

In fact, as part of the aftercare protocol, doctors recommend that women do not have sexual intercourse without contraception in case of a repeat pregnancy so soon after their abortion.
However, rare abortion complications, such as scarring and damage to the uterine lining, could lead to compromised fertility and the likelihood of a miscarriage.

Myth 6: Abortion is linked to mental health problems.

Fact: Although women who have voluntary abortions experience abortion guilt and grief, they otherwise cope relatively well.

Given how common abortion is it would be easy to prove that they impact women’s mental health because as Professor Nancy Adler testified in Congress on behalf of the APA in 1989, “If severe reactions were common, there would be an epidemic of women seeking treatment. There is no evidence of such an epidemic [3]”

Some women report feeling the most psychological instability before the abortion–as they deliberate on their decision or because of other external factors associated with the unwanted pregnancy–afterward they mostly report feeling relief.

Myth 7: Making abortion illegal stops them from happening.

Fact: Illegality only inhibits safe abortions.

The legal status of abortion has less to do with whether they happen and more to do with how they happen. Making abortion illegal only increases the barriers to safe abortion, leaving women even more vulnerable to unsafe abortions. The only way to effectively reduce abortions is by reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy through comprehensive sex education, easy access to contraception, and timely preventative care.

Myth 8: Women cannot access safe abortions in countries with legal or geographical barriers.

Fact: Telemedicine is helping increase access to abortions regardless of location.

Telemedicine for early term abortions combines medical abortion care with videoconferencing or telephone consultations. It is reliable care that has identical outcomes to standard medication abortions conducted by an on-site clinician. safe2choose offers online counseling services through a live-chat option, and this has increased information dissemination in locations where abortion information is otherwise limited.

Myth 9: Only certain types of women get abortions.

Fact: All types of women get abortions.

A common fallacy is that teenagers and poor or marginalized women are the most likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy and therefore seek abortions. The reality is that women of all ages, nationalities, incomes, ethnicity, religions, marital statuses and occupations can experience unplanned pregnancies [4]. Yes, this includes mothers and married women.

In the same way, not all unplanned pregnancies result from sexual abuse; procreation is not the only purpose of consensual sex. All women of reproductive age who are sexually active can therefore experience an unplanned pregnancy.

Myth 10: Women who have abortions do not value motherhood.

Fact: Women who have abortions intently consider their capacity to mother.

When people discuss abortion, they focus on the women’s motivations from an individualistic perspective. But restrictions in access to abortion don’t just harm women, they harm children as well.

For mothers with children, abortion denial further limits their ability to care for their existing children and can significantly worsen their offspring’s socioeconomic future. Research published in the Journal of Paediatrics shows that these existing children have a greater chance of living below the poverty line because of reduced opportunities. These children are also more likely to experience poor maternal bonding [5].
Women who have access to abortions are more likely to have purposeful and planned pregnancies in the future, thus better attending to and providing for their offspring in all aspects.

[1] “Later-Term Abortion: What to Expect.” Healthline, 2019, www.healthline.com/health/late-term-abortion. Accessed January 2021.

[2] “Reproductive Health – Contraception.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm#:~:text=Typical%20use%20failure%20rate%3A%204%25.&text=Combined%20oral%20contraceptives%E2%80%94Also%20called,the%20hormones%20estrogen%20and%20progestin. Accessed January 2021.

[3] Cohen, S.A. “Still True: Abortion Does Not Increase Women’s Risk of Mental Health Problems.” Guttmacher Institute, 2013, www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/pubs/gpr/16/2/gpr160213.pdf. Accessed January 2021.

[4] “Abortion: the myths.” The Women’s, www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/unplanned-pregnancy-information/abortion-the-myths#a_information. Accessed January 2021.

[5] Diana, G, et al. “Effects of Carrying an Unwanted Pregnancy to Term on Women’s Existing Children.” NIH, 2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30389101/. Accessed January 2021.

[6] “Can Abortion Cause Infertility?” Healthline, 2020, www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/can-abortion-cause-infertility. Accessed January 2021.