The Supreme Court issued the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on January 22nd, 1973, effectively legalizing abortion in the United States. Today, the 46th anniversary of the decision, abortion rights are in peril, and myths about abortion are more widespread than ever.
It is 2019, and we live in a country where states require medical providers to lie to women about abortion. From scientifically inaccurate studies to fake health care clinics, women seeking abortions must take on an unreasonable burden to sort fact from fiction.
“For decades, the anti-choice movement has used junk science as a way to advance their out-of-touch agenda,” said Amanda Thayer, communications director at NARAL Pro-Choice America.
These falsities have real consequences and make their way into legislation and rulings restricting abortion, creating barriers for women seeking reproductive care. With the future of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights at risk, stopping the spread of false information is critical.
We spoke to Thayer about the biggest myths about abortion—and debunked the lies. Because one in four women will have an abortion by age 45, and they deserve the truth.
Myth: Having an abortion increases your risk of breast cancer.
Despite numerous studies showing that there is no association between abortions and breast cancer, multiple states require women to read pamphlets that falsely link the two before allowing them to receive an abortion.
“This flat-out lie is especially dangerous because it intentionally tries to mislead women and prevent them from trying to access essential health care,” Thayer said.
Studies asserting the connection have been debunked, and women who undergo induced abortions have the same risk of developing breast cancer as other women.
Myth: Abortions are funded by Medicaid and taxpayer money.
While the anti-choice movement uses this myth to justify its attempts to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding, the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
Government funding for reproductive clinics is instead used for cervical and breast cancer screenings, pap smears, birth control, and HIV tests.
Myth: Most people who have abortions are high school and college-age women without children.
While the anti-choice movement paints a picture of women who receive abortions as young and irresponsible, the Guttmacher Institute found that adolescents aged 15–19 accounted for just 12% of all abortions in 2014. In fact, the majority of people who have abortions are actually already mothers.
These women “know that their ability to pursue their education, advance in their careers, and provide for their families depends on their ability to make decisions” about their bodies, Thayer said. “So you can see how having reproductive freedom is inextricably linked to women’s ability to achieve equity in society.”
Myth: An abortion causes scar tissue, which will lead to infertility.
There have been no studies that show having a surgical or medical abortion will cause infertility later on in life.
HelloGiggles previously spoke with Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women’s health specialist, who debunked the myth but said women undergoing surgical abortions face the same slight risk that women who have multiple C-sections face.
“With any procedure, there is always a risk involved,” Dr. Wider told HG. “In very rare circumstances, an abortion can cause damage to the cervix or uterus.”
There’s zero risk, however, in the case of medication abortions, in which a woman takes a pill administered by a doctor.
Myth: Abortions are more dangerous than childbirth.
According to a 2012 study comparing the safety of legally induced abortions and childbirth in the United States, legally induced abortion is the safer of the two. According to the study, the risk of death in childbirth is 14 times higher than it is during an abortion, with pregnancy-related complications occurring more often with childbirth than with abortion.
Myth: Restricting access to abortions causes a dip in demand.
Limiting access to abortion does result in fewer abortions—safe ones, that is. Data shows that restricting abortion access results in fewer in-clinic procedures, but more women dying from suicides and unsafe, clandestine abortions.
The Guttmacher Institute found that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortions, and abortion rates decrease when countries make it legal and allow easier access to birth control.
We can look to El Salvador as an example, which outlawed abortion in 1997. This did not result in a decrease in the number of abortions performed in the country, and according to Amnesty International, at least 11% of the women and girls who undergo illegal procedures die. Additionally, 57% of deaths of pregnant girls between the ages of 10 and 19 are the result of suicide.
Myth: Abortions lead to depression and mental health issues.
The anti-choice movement claims that most women regret their abortions and consequently spiral into depression, but research shows the opposite is true.
Being denied an abortion harms a woman’s mental health more than actually having the procedure. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry showed that women who were denied an abortion had higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction, and lower self-esteem than those who were able to undergo the procedure. And although nine states currently require women to undergo counseling before and after an abortion, the study showed that abortions do not cause lasting mental health issues.