Since the Dobbs decision was released, there has been a surge of misinformation about abortion and its place in maternal medical care. To help you navigate discussions on the topic and counter the falsehoods, we have consolidated responses to common myths about abortion and whether it is medically necessary. These responses are adapted from experts like the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
Note that AAPLOG is a pro-life association and is different from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) which is not pro-life.
MYTH: Most OBGYNs will agree that abortion is an essential healthcare service.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) claims that “there is a broad medical consensus that abortion is an essential part of reproductive health care.”
FACT: The pro-abortion policies promoted by groups like the ACOG do not align with the views of many in the medical community or the countless Americans across the country that support commonsense protections for women.
ACOG’s positions on abortion are far more extreme than the vast majority of OBGYNs in the country. A 2019 study published by Obstetrics & Gynecology found that less than one in four OBGYNs committed an abortion in the past year, despite a majority reporting seeing patients requesting one. A 2011 study revealed that only 14% of practicing OBGYNs commit abortions, and even Guttmacher Institute reported that “[o]nly 7% of U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists who work in private practice settings provided abortions in 2013 or 2014.”
While claiming to represent OBGYNs, ACOG has actively opposed doctors who disagree with the group’s radical positions. It does not represent the diversity of professional views in the OB/GYN community.
Groups like ACOG treat abortion differently than actual medical care and ignore the wealth of evidence showing significant harms to women from abortion, such as adverse mental health outcomes and an increased risk of preterm birth in future pregnancies.
MYTH: Unrestricted abortion access is necessary for providing lifesaving care for pregnant women.
According to Reuters, experts say, “termination of pregnancy can be necessary to save a woman’s life.”
FACT: Elective abortion is not lifesaving medical care. OBGYNs will still be able to offer lifesaving medical care to pregnant women. No laws on elective abortion will impact that.
OBGYNs can still offer lifesaving medical care for pregnant women regardless of the Roe v. Wade decision or state laws regarding elective abortions. In fact, 93% of practicing OBGYNs do not perform elective abortions but have always been able to offer lifesaving treatment to women.
When medically necessary to treat a life-threatening medical condition, doctors can separate the child from the mother in a way that respects both patients’ lives. Premature delivery is vastly different from elective abortion, where the intent of the latter is to end the life of a human being.
OBGYNs are trained to discern when they need to intervene to save a mother’s life. Any competent OBGYN physician is trained to make this determination well before the threat to the mother’s life progresses to the point where death is imminent.
MYTH: Women with ectopic pregnancies won’t receive the care they need.
FACT: Treatment of an ectopic pregnancy is entirely different than an elective abortion, which purposefully ends the life of an unborn child. State laws banning elective abortions do not prevent treatment of ectopic pregnancies.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants outside the uterus, like in the fallopian tube, which is a hostile environment, and the baby cannot survive. Treatment requires removing the embryo with the intent to save the mother’s life. Unfortunately, in procedures to remove an ectopic pregnancy, the life of the child cannot be saved by current medical technology. While this is very sad, the procedure is not considered an abortion because the death of the child is not directly intended.
This lifesaving treatment is not prevented by any current law restricting or banning abortion. In states where abortion is banned, the laws generally specify that abortion does not include the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.
MYTH: Women experiencing miscarriages won’t receive the care they need.
According to Bloomberg, “Overturning Roe v. Wade Will Make It Harder to Treat Miscarriage.”
FACT: A miscarriage is entirely different than an elective abortion. State laws banning elective abortions do not prohibit miscarriage management.
The difference between a miscarriage and an elective abortion is clear. In a miscarriage, the baby has already died, so any treatment of a miscarriage would not be an abortion.
The confusion conflating miscarriage and elective abortion may be due to terminology. In medical terminology, a miscarriage is called a “spontaneous abortion,” but this is different from “induced abortion” or “elective abortion” which refer to intentionally ending the life of the unborn child. Restrictions on “abortion” are restrictions on induced or elective abortions. There are no laws in any state in the United States which criminalize treatment of spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage.
MYTH: Maternal mortality will increase as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
NBC news suggests, “‘No question’ that U.S. maternal mortality rate will rise post-Roe.”
FACT: The data clearly shows that restricting abortion does not lead to an increase in maternal mortality.
The U.S. has had nearly unfettered access to abortion for nearly fifty years, while maintaining one of the worst maternal mortality rates and preterm birth rates in the developed world. Women deserve real solutions to improve their health and that of their children.
In fact, studies from a diverse range of countries suggest that abortion is actually associated with higher maternal mortality rates and restrictions may lead to improved maternal health:
- Data from Finland found abortion is associated with 49.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 women compared to a rate of only 8.1 per 100,000 for all external causes of death after delivery.
- A study from Mexico found that states with laws restricting abortion had lower maternal mortality rates overall than states with more liberal abortion laws.
- Geographically diverse countries, such as El Salvador, Chile, Poland, and Nicaragua, have not seen their maternal mortality worsen after enacting abortion restrictions.
- In South Africa, maternal mortality actually worsened after abortion was legalized.
MYTH: Placing restrictions on abortion will diminish care for women.
The Texas Tribune reports, “Abortion restrictions threaten care for pregnant patients, providers say.”
FACT: Abortion restrictions often improve safety for women.
Women deserve thorough and quality healthcare, and provisions like ultrasound requirements, hospital admitting privileges, and waiting periods help protect women. For example, ultrasound scans help verify gestational age, which is critical to accurately assessing the risks associated with an abortion. The further along in the pregnancy a woman is, the riskier the abortion procedures become. A woman will not be able to provide accurate informed consent for an abortion if the gestational age of her pregnancy is not certain.
Requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges helps ensure that the patient is not abandoned by abortion providers in instances of complications. It also helps ensure that the physician performing the abortion is, in fact, qualified to do so.
Critics claim that waiting periods are coercion, yet data shows that women are often unsure about having an abortion and many receive little to no counseling beforehand. Getting an abortion is a significant life decision and women should be given adequate time to weigh that decision.
MYTH: Abortion does not have a long-term impact on a woman’s reproductive health.
Planned Parenthood claims that “a safe, uncomplicated, legal abortion does not affect a woman’s ability to have children in the future.”
FACT: Abortions increase a woman’s risk of preterm birth in a future pregnancy.
The Institute of Medicine lists surgical abortion as an immutable risk factor for preterm birth. Women face a 35% increased risk of preterm birth in a future pregnancy after one surgical abortion and an almost 90% increase in preterm birth risk after two abortions. This represents a clear long-term risk to reproductive health.
MYTH: Chemical abortions are a safe and convenient option for women.
The Society of Family Planning suggests that “recent data demonstrate[s] that people can safely and effectively self-manage their abortions with medications.”
FACT: The dangerous push in recent years to dispense abortion pills through the mail or without a doctor’s visit presents a grave threat to women’s health.
Women can now get chemical abortion pills without an in-person visit with a physician or an ultrasound scan for health concerns. This prevents a doctor from being able to determine how far along the pregnancy is or rule out a dangerous ectopic pregnancy. It also prevents adequate screening for coercion or intimate partner violence, both of which are common in women seeking abortions.
Symptoms of a rupturing ectopic pregnancy mimic symptoms from a chemical abortion. If this causes a delay in diagnosis of even a few hours, it can be life threatening.
MYTH: Restricting access to abortion will have a negative impact on women’s mental health.
FACT: Numerous studies show women suffer from worse mental health outcomes after an abortion.
At least 75 studies from 1993 to 2018 examine the link between abortion and mental health. Two-thirds of those studies showed a correlation between abortion and adverse mental health outcomes.
The studies show abortion significantly increases the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior, when compared to women with unintended pregnancies who choose to carry the baby to birth. A study from Finland found that the suicide rate after abortion was seven times higher than when women gave birth.
Contrary to how it is often quoted, the Turnaway study actually showed that 96% of women were glad they had not had an abortion 5 years after being denied one.
MYTH: Restrictions on abortion are an intrusion on the relationship between a doctor and a patient.
American Medical Association claim, “[Dobbs] ruling an egregious allowance of government intrusion into medicine.”
FACT: Most abortion providers have no previous relationship with the patients they see.
Abortion providers often have no previous relationship with their patients and tend to leave the medical care afterwards to other physicians who either have a prior relationship with the patient or who work in her local emergency room.
It is not an intrusion on the doctor/patient relationship to protect the lives of BOTH of patients.
MYTH: Abortion is acceptable when there is a terminal diagnosis in pregnancy.
FACT: A child receiving a terminal diagnosis should be treated with compassionate perinatal palliative care.
It is difficult to receive an adverse diagnosis in pregnancy, but an abortion will not resolve the emotional pain of receiving the diagnosis. Studies have shown that abortion after a prenatal diagnosis leads to more emotional trauma than carrying to term. The child deserves the compassionate response of perinatal palliative care, which will honor the dignity of the child, provide pain management, and help them to live the best and longest life possible. The family should also be provided support services to assist them through this challenging time.
MYTH: Abortion is acceptable when there is a prenatal diagnosis of a genetic condition.
FACT: Such an attitude devalues human beings with disabilities or complex needs.
Claiming it is medically necessary to abort babies with genetic conditions devalues human beings with disabilities or complex medical needs. People with special needs can still lead happy, inclusive lives, and deserve to be given the chance to fulfill their full potential. Targeting them for abortion is ableist and a form of eugenics. Parents should instead be given access to resources to help their children live and to help their entire family.