Blog for Choice Day

Happy 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade! I feel especially attached to the Supreme Court decision (and I never forget which anniversary it is) because I was born in 1973.

I am very excited about the Obama administration already working to repair the damage done to reproductive health and choice by the Bush administration. There has been a lot of speculation about plans to overturn the Global Gag Rule, to freeze the new HHS conscience rule, and to increase funding for evidence based reproductive health care. Since this is being discussed all over the internets already, I am going to focus on some common myths about abortion.

Myth #1: Making abortion illegal (for example, by overturning Roe v. Wade) will decrease abortions.

Fact #1 Abortions do not decrease in countries with restrictive abortion laws. (Guttmacher Institute – Abortion law)

Myth #2 Making abortion illegal (for example, by overturning Roe v. Wade) is “pro-life”

Fact #2 In fact, according to the World Health Organization, “As such, the number of maternal deaths, not abortions, is the most visible consequence of legal restrictions on abortion”. Illegal abortion causes 20 to 50 times as many deaths as legal abortion.

Myth #3 Christians, especially Catholics, do not get abortions or support abortion

Fact #3 Forty-three percent of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% as Catholic. (Guttmacher Institute – who gets abortions)

Myth #4 Women who get abortions wouldn’t get one if they knew what it was like to be a mother (or, if they had an ultrasound and just realized that it is a “real baby” they would change their minds).

Fact #4 60% of women who get abortions already have a child. They know full well what being pregnant means, and what raising a child entails.

Myth #5 Ultrasounds are required to make abortions medically safe

Fact #5 Ultrasound is not required for dating early pregnancies, nor is it medically required for safe abortions. Ultrasound laws are deliberately created to try to discourage abortion, not to make them safer. In fact, the laws are intrusive, require a vaginal ultrasound in many cases, cost more, and lead women to get abortions later due to higher cost.

Myth #6 “Party girls” have abortions as a form of birth control, and don’t want to “take responsibility”.

Fact #6 The reasons most women give for getting abortions indicate their responsibility. 3/4 of women who seek an abortion say their main reason is their feeling of responsibility to others. This is usually their existing children or others they care for. Other reasons include a lack of money to raise a child, work and school.

Myth #7 Most abortions occur late in pregnancy, and it is just like killing a baby.

Fact #7 About 90% of abortions in the United States occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. There is minimal tissue removed, and it is just like having a heavy period. In fact, many women who are not on contraception have early miscarriages in the first trimester and don’t even know they were pregnant.

Myth #8 Legal abortion is dangerous.

Fact #8 Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available. Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and no increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer.

Myth #9 Abortions cause depression and mental health problems for women who have them.

Fact #9 Abortions have repeatedly been shown to not increase risk of depression or mental health problems when compared to unplanned pregnancies that are carried to term.

Myth #10 Only careless women have unintended pregnancies, and very few women get abortions, women I don’t have to care about.

Fact #10 Again from the Guttmacher Institute: About half of American women have experienced an unintended pregnancy, and at current rates more than one-third (35%) will have had an abortion by age 45.

Look around you. If you know more than three women, chances are, someone you know has had an abortion.

I could go on, and I might add more later, but I have to get back to school.

(I didn’t link every fact individually, but they are all covered in the links above.)

Happy anniversary!


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13 responses to “Blog for Choice Day

  1. Thank you for posting the myth/fact list. I am torn on the abortion issue. For context, I’m in my late 20’s, a democrat, an athiest, and have one child (from an unplanned pregnancy).

    I support to the use of the procedure when it’s deemed medically necessary for the health of the mother (and think that the mother’s health should always be the first priority). I also support it when the fetus has an abnormality that would prevent it from coming to term in utero. I also support all forms of birth control, including the ‘morning after pill.’

    However, I don’t support elective termination during a healthy pregnancy. Yet, I worry that reversing the RvW decision would lead to more abortions occurring in unsafe (and unsanitary) conditions as women seek out the procedure from unlicensed providers. I relate it to the use of free needle programs… intravenous drugs are illegal and I don’t support their use, but a junkie is still going to shoot up and I’d rather they use a clean needle to do so.

    I don’t know what type of label to apply to my views. I have spoken to other women that have basically the same philosophy, and one called herself pro-life and the other called herself anti-abortion (except in medically necessary cases).

  2. MomTFH

    Well, I think it comes down to this. Are you against choosing an abortion for yourself, or do you think that women who want abortions should be forced to carry their pregnancy to term against their will or be forced to get an illegal abortion?

    Many, many people would not choose an elective termination for themselves. Or, should I say, many women think they would not, but then do when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, 40% of women choose to terminate.

    I understand the drug use example, but I don’t think it’s a very good one. Women are not criminals or addicts if they want to choose when to be pregnant and bear children. I think everyone would agree that IV drug use is a destructive, dangerous activity. Reproductive choice is not dangerous or destructive. Legal, safe abortion not only saves women’s lives, but it saves their already living children’s lives. The children who are four times more likely to die if their mother dies. Abortion is too often compared to something very dark or sinister, when it is the alternative that is truly sinister.

    I think a much better example is euthanasia. I personally would not want to be hooked up on tubes, brain dead, in an ICU for years. Pull the plug. Pull the tubes. That’s not MY definition of life. I get to make that choice. Or, do I? Look at the Terri Schiavo (sp?) case. I also believe in physician assisted euthanasia. Some people find that horrifying, scary , or unethical. But, it is not that way to everyone, and definite majorities in some states have said euthanasia, including physician assisted euthanasia, should be legal. Some people who personally would choose to have every resuscitation possibility used for themselves or their own loved ones may be able to step back and say that it is not their right to make that very, very difficult decision for other people. I would assume that not everyone who voted for those laws would choose physician assisted euthanasia if faced with a painful terminal illness and loss of quality of life. T

    I think the abortion discussion is too often focused on what individuals would choose for themselves, not on public policy. That’s not what “pro-choice” means. Pro-choice is a political position on health care access. If you think OTHER women should be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, then you can label yourself “pro-life” (which, as I showed above, is a misnomer to say the least) or “anti-abortion” as you see fit. I prefer the term “anti-choice”. If you think every woman gets to make that decision, just as you did, then you are pro-choice.

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  4. Anonymous

    I had never really formed a strong opinion on the abortion issue prior to last year. Truth is, I’d never do it. Or so I think from this vantage point in my life. It’s freaky and I could never do what you’re going to do someday– perform them. Yet I’ve never considered it any of my business when I find out that friends have had one. Truthfully, if they’re happy, I am happy for them. I don’t know anyone that would handle the decision flippantly and figure that they probably did some soul searching first and probably had a least a bit of grief (not that that’s mandatory) along with the relief that they would not have to remain pregnant. I don’t personally know anyone that says, “Yay! Abortions are awesome! Can’t wait to have another!”

    However, I watched a thread develop on a message board about abortion and I realized that it was extremely hypocritical for me to not acknowledge to myself that I am pro-choice. As I grew more and more focused on reproductive issues at the term end of pregnancy (birth), it no longer became ok with me to be sort-of here, sort-of there. There’s a lot to be said for a woman being able to make her own decisions about her health and her body. That’s not just empty rhetoric. Think about what would happen if women were lined up for forced sterilizations or c-sections against their will. Would people freak out? Yes! To be forced to remain pregnant and go through pregnancy and birth against one’s will? Weird. But it’s also weird for me that there is a little growing person in there that will never see the light of day. Every soul has its path.

    I think it’s okay to be torn on the issue. I don’t have to like abortion or go with a friend who’s getting one (although I would). But I just can’t make decisions like this for other people or presume to know where they are coming from. Until I’ve walked a mile in their shoes, I can’t even pretend that I know what they should or shouldn’t do.

    We don’t have to go to rallies to be pro-choice. We just have to respect that people have the right to their own bodily integrity. Anti-abortion folks are so caught up in the idea of a fetus that deserves to live that they fail to acknowledge the mother in whom it lives and without whom it could not live. She matters.

  5. I think the Anonymous commenter has put into words some of my misgivings. I’d (obviously) never choose to have an abortion myself, but I don’t think I could support a friend having one. However, I wouldn’t stop being their friend; just like I haven’t stopped talking with my friends who support the Iraq war; with the thousands of deaths associated with that action.

    I don’t think the analogy of assisted suicide/euthanasia is quite right, either. Yes I do support a patient’s right to end their life humanely and with a doctor’s assistance. However, in both that example and my drug needle example, it is the patient themselves that are making their own decision about their own life. Abortion is sticky, because by choosing to terminate, it isn’t only the mother’s life that she’s making a decision about. The developing fetus in her uterus has no chance of survival outside of the womb.

    Crunchy Chicken brought up an interesting aspect of the abortion discussion today:
    If abortions are illegal, and a women has one performed anyway, how should she be punished for breaking the law? Good question. I don’t have an answer for it. It’s not quite the same as murder because there is no guarantee that the fetus in her uterus would have survived after birth; even less of a guarantee if she hadn’t been receiving medical care (because really, without care, who knows what’s going on in there). It seems weird to levy a fine, because one of the reasons she probably aborted in the first place was because she wasn’t financially solvent enough to raise a child.

    I guess my opinion is that elective termination is wrong and people shouldn’t do it, but it shouldn’t be illegal because the very act of making it illegal would remove any guarantees of safe and sanitary conditions with trained medical personnel for an act that would still continue to happen. And, of course as I said above, if the health of the mother is threatened or there is no chance for the fetus to be carried to term, then an abortion would be perfectly acceptable.

    Of course, I think the best solution is increased education about birth control methods and access to free contraceptives for anyone needing them. Any not just condoms; elective sterilization, IUDs, prescription contraceptives (pill, patch, etc)… If financial concerns are one of the primary reasons for abortion, how many of those women wouldn’t even be put in the situation where they need to make that decision if they could have received an IUD implanted at no cost (those things are expensive!).

    Thanks for the interest discussion. I’d read your reply last night, and have been thinking about it every since.

  6. oops, make that ‘ever since’

  7. This is a really nice, concise list. Great post.

  8. RW

    I’d like to add, to #8, that a first- or second-trimester abortion is less risky for a woman’s health than carrying a baby to term. Can’t remember the source, but maybe you could find the data.

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