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14 Myths about abortion that need to be debunked

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

These untruths about abortion continue to put countless women in danger

Abortion is always a hot topic, but the misinformation being spread by some anti-abortion activists just isn't true. These dangerous lies affect not only the opinions of everyday people, but they may lead to bad and uninformed decisions by women who need abortions for medical reasons. These myths about abortion have to end in order for any woman to make a logical choice about her own health care.

Myth 1. Abortion is dangerous

To be clear, all medical procedures carry some risk. But let's not forget that childbirth is also dangerous — 10 times more deadly than abortion. Abortions are actually safer than Lasik surgery.

Additionally, making abortions illegal does nothing but drive desperate women to unsafe abortions, often carried out by completely untrained people. That's much more dangerous. Unsafe abortions lead to 30 deaths per 100,000 live births and are 16 times more likely in places where abortions are illegal.

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic notes that women who have abortions aren't at increased risk of fertility issues and that most issues they do have are the result of surgical abortions rather than medical abortions (especially if they have more than one). Again, though, the risk is still rare. In fact, fewer than a quarter of 1 percent of abortions lead to serious medical complications. That said, the risks associated with abortion increase the longer a woman is pregnant.

Myth 2: Abortion leads to mental health issues

There are several studies that purport to prove just this, except… they're scientifically bogus. Credible studies done over the last two decades state that abortions don't cause metal health issues and that the most likely determination of a woman's mental health post-abortion is her mental health pre-abortion (assuming the abortion was her purposeful decision rather than the medically necessary abortion of a wanted pregnancy). Not only that, women denied an abortion face more mental health consequences.

Myth 3: Abortion causes (really deadly) breast cancer

At least three studies have proven this to be completely false. It's nothing but an anti-choice scare tactic. "If you get an abortion, you're going to die painfully." You could also get hit by a bus — and your chances of that are equally increased by having an abortion.

Myth 4: Women use abortion as birth control

Are you nuts? It costs more than $1,000 to get an abortion. Even without insurance, that's over double the price of a year's worth of birth control. Condoms, which are slightly less effective, cost even less, even assuming you have sex twice a week.

The reality is, the majority of women who experience unplanned pregnancies and subsequent abortions were using a different primary method of birth control that failed. Sadly, federal law (backed by several state laws) mandates that birth control counseling be separate and distinguishable from abortion counseling, so even women getting proper abortions in a clinical setting don't get additional counseling on preventing it in the future.

More: Graphic Planned Parenthood protest forced me to get real with my daughter

Myth 5: Fetuses experience pain during abortions

There's a reason it takes almost a year for a fetus to be ready to thrive outside the womb. A tiny little blob of chromosomes from two different people has to go through quite a few significant evolutions before it can survive without medical assistance. The whole thing is ridiculously amazing if you want to look it up. But one of those things that has to develop is the brain's connections it needs to feel pain.

The reasoning behind a 20-week abortion ban has to do with misconceptions about feeling pain versus reflexive responses to stimuli. Known as the Lazarus sign, these reflexive responses also happen in 75 percent of patients who are brain dead.

As Dr. Anne Davis says, "You can have an opinion about it, but it doesn't change the information. Science is not going to get the brain to connect faster."

Myth 6: Plan B is the same as an abortion

There are medical (non-surgical) abortions that involve drugs, but Plan B (aka "the morning-after pill") doesn't cause an abortion. It prevents implantation — according to Christian bioethicist and anti-abortionist, Dennis Sullivan. (It's also possible it's not as effective as the commercials would have you believe... just sayin', do your research.)

Myth 7: Lots of women abort healthy babies during the second and third trimester

That's absurd. In many states, third-trimester abortions are illegal (Roe vs. Wade only requires that states be unable to ban third-trimester abortions if the abortion isn't medically necessary). Actually, about 89 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester.* 

Most women who do wait longer either a) were unable to raise the funds and it took time to make the arrangements (especially in teens who are less likely to recognize early they're pregnant and to seek the help of an adult) or b) received later-term abortions after they became medically necessary due to fetal or maternal health issues that didn't become apparent until partway through the second trimester.

* The information at this link is also the source of much of the following unlinked information.

Myth 8: The 20-week abortion ban is safe

No! Many serious fetal and pregnancy issues aren't discovered until after the 20-week mark. If this ban is allowed to be passed, women's lives will be put in danger to protect fetuses medical professionals know aren't viable. This ban takes the power away from the only people qualified to advise a patient of the risks by making it extremely difficult to obtain a medically necessary abortion at the advice of your doctor without jumping through complex and ultimately unnecessary loopholes that jeopardize women's health (and potentially their lives). If legislators who support this vile bill were truly pro-life, they'd be just as concerned about those women as they are about fetuses.

More: Woman's yeast infection shuts down Planned Parenthood protest

Myth 9: People of color are more likely to get abortions

Non-Hispanic white women account for 36 percent (the highest) of all abortions. Non-Hispanic black women follow at 30 percent, with Hispanics (25 percent) and women of other races (9 percent) accounting for the remainder.

Myth 10: People who aren't religious are more likely to get abortions

Sixty-five percent of women who have abortions identify as Christian.

Myth 11: Women wouldn't have abortions if they knew how wonderful being a mom was

Of the women who have abortions, in 2008, 61 percent already had children. This number increased after the 2009 financial crisis to 72 percent (this link also applies to the next stat).

Myth 12: It's dangerous to perform abortions outside a hospital

Actually, laws requiring clinics to make changes to be more hospital-like, to be close to hospitals or for its doctors to have admission privileges at nearby hospitals do little (if anything) to increase patient safety. They're designed to close these hospitals by making it cost-prohibitive to stay open or impossible to provide the services they need to provide.

Hospitals can't just hand out admission privileges, nor are those privileges necessary to handle a medical emergency. Additionally, as previously noted, abortions aren't that dangerous. What is dangerous are women suddenly having no access to safe abortions or other low-cost services — to family planning, to birth control and to other medical screening (such as that for breast or cervical cancer). Ninety-seven percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are unrelated to abortions. Laws enacted to make it impossible for them to keep their doors open ultimately just take away women's access to quality, affordable gynecological care. What they don't do is reduce the number of abortions.

Myth 13: Most women are talked into abortions by doctors, family or friends

A doctor talking someone into an abortion for anything other than a medical reason is a serious ethical breach and could be medical malpractice depending on the circumstances. Additionally, a 2005 study from Guttmacher Institute (backed by a 2013 study from the University of California San Francisco) said that less than 1 percent of women who had abortions reported pressure from friends, family or intimate partners as the reason for their abortion.

More: Ask a Raging Feminist: Why I #StandWithPP

Myth 14: Most Americans think abortion should be illegal

Most Americans (61 percent) think abortions should be legal, even after 20 weeks.

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