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Karen Fratti
March 20, 2018 8:18 am

It’s always shocking to talk with people who are on the fence or totally against abortion and hear all the misinformation they’ve heard about the procedure. It’s not like we didn’t already know this, but a new study shows that abortion is totally safe. In fact, it’s all of the state laws that force providers to lie to women about the non-existent “dangers” of abortion that actually make abortion unsafe. So when you hear pro-choice women talk about how the anti-choice movement hurts women, it’s 100 percent for real.

The study, The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States, was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and looked at the four major abortion methods — medication, aspiration, dilation & evacuation, and induction — and looked at women’s health both before and after the procedure. Ned Calonge, the co-chair of the committee that wrote the study, told NPR that the “main takeaway is that abortions that are provided in the United States are safe and effective.” Pretty plain and simple, right?

Yet all sorts of bad science and misunderstandings about the realities of abortions persist and even dictate policy. For example, 90 percent of them are done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which means that “partial birth” abortions, or the misleading term often assigned to late-term abortions, aren’t being done as often as politicians would have you believe. Abortion doesn’t affect your fertility later on in life, and it doesn’t lead to drug or alcohol abuse. There is also absolutely no evidence that there’s a link between abortion and breast cancer, yet, according the Guttmacher Institute, five states require providers to tell women there’s a risk.

So lying to women about their body and their health is totally legal, which is absurd. A woman can’t really consent to a medical procedure that she’s been misinformed about. 

Eleven states require women to wait at least a day before getting the procedure, which, by the way, is often just the simple act of taking two pills and hanging out on your couch, at home, for a day. All of these TRAP Laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) are based in bad science. Waiting periods can endanger women, too. Hal Lawrence, the CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), said in a statement that this new report should be the definitive proof that waiting periods and extra counseling are unnecessary.

"Those sorts of laws have been totally debunked. Abortion is safer when it's performed earlier in gestation. And so delaying and making people wait and go through hoops of unnecessary, extra procedures does not improve the safety. And actually by having them delay can actually worsen the safety."

Legitimizing the bad science and the misconceptions by turning them into laws is exactly what makes the pro-choice battle so difficult.

Take the law passed in Mississippi last week, which requires the person “performing” an abortion to be an OB-GYN instead of just a physician. Remember: Mississippi only has one abortion clinic, so this law means fewer physicians will be on hand to offer women abortions when they want or need one. It also makes no sense — this new study finds that abortion procedures are totally safe for physicians to perform.

Really, when it comes to a medical abortion — which is just taking two pills — there are studies that show it’s even safe for woman to do via telemedicine, without a doctor or nurse present at all. Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), summed up the situation in Mississippi by tweeting,

"This ruling by the judge in Mississippi is not grounded in evidence-based research and will continue to create barriers for providers who want to care for women and patients seeking abortions."

According to a survey done by Vox in 2016, both men and women grossly underestimate the number of women who get abortions each year — it’s somewhere around 30 percent; people often guess about half of that. They also misunderstand who gets abortions, assuming that educated, wealthier women don’t ever consider it, which is totally wrong. All kinds of women face the choice to terminate a pregnancy in their lifetime. Abortion is also not a “fringe issue” — over 80 percent of people in that Vox poll thought that abortion should be legal, 76 percent wanted the experience to be safe, and 95 percent of them believed the choice should informed with actual facts.

Yet, all of the barriers to abortion are based on random assumptions and lies, which is precisely what makes Roe v. Wade so hard to protect. How can you convince people that the choice to have an abortion is fairly straightforward if all they think of abortion is that it’s something that doesn’t affect them, involves “ripping babies out” of a woman, and causes all sorts of other health issues? The so-called “pro-life” movement, which is working hard with this administration to take away a woman’s right to choose, actually puts the lives of women in danger by making abortion less safe than it has to be. So make sure to keep setting people straight when it comes to abortion. Science is on your side.

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