# 1

Women can always control whether or not they get pregnant

Fact: Fertility is not always within women’s control. The idea that all women can control their fertility wrongly assumes that:

  • Contraception is always 100% available and foolproof.
  • Women are always in a position to say no to sex.
  • Women should just abstain from sex if they don’t want to get pregnant.

Studies have shown that between half and two-thirds of all women who have an abortion were using contraception at the time they became pregnant. No contraception is guaranteed to be 100% effective all the time, and people may make mistakes and not always use it correctly.  Sex and contraception are two areas where human beings and their relationships can be unpredictable and disorganised. To illustrate, a woman is fertile for 35 years, so trying to avoid pregnancy for most of that time is a major challenge. Similarly, if a person drives a car for 35 years, sooner or later they will most likely have at least one accident. It is also unreasonable and moralizing to judge women for having sex for pleasure, since sex is such an important, basic urge.

Furthermore, sex (or unsafe sex) is not always voluntary. Many women seeking abortion have not been in a position to freely agree to sex, or they may be pressured or forced to have unprotected sex. Men can also use condoms incorrectly.

Often, the best methods of contraception are unavailable or unaffordable. 215 million women in the world have an unmet need for contraception, mostly in developing countries. This myth is especially ironic in light of the fact that the anti-choice movement works to deny contraception to women, including trying to ban it or defund it.

Women may not not always wish to use contraception for a variety of reasons. The circumstances of women’s lives and their health – irregular periods, menopause, drug use, medical conditions, stress – will also affect fertility and contraceptive use. Further, people may get caught up in a moment of spontaneous passion and are not prepared to use birth control, or don’t want to interrupt or end the encounter.  Birth control can be a hassle to use and can reduce sexual pleasure, so people should be forgiven for not using it consistently.

Sources:

www.thewomens.org.au

Population Reference Bureau, Unmet Need for Contraception: Fact Sheet

# 2

Women use abortion as a method of birth control

Fact: Having abortions instead of using birth control is not something women want to do. This myth assumes that women are irresponsible, and that abortion is easier to access than contraception. The decision to have an abortion is not, for most women, a trivial matter. This, combined with the reality that abortion is inaccessible to many women prevents it from being a chosen or viable primary method of birth control.

Most abortions are the result of failed contraception or other factors that made using contraception difficult. Between half and two-thirds of women who get abortions reported using contraception during the month they became pregnant. We know that:

  • No form of contraception is 100% effective, including sterilisation.
  • All modern methods of contraception have some associated risks and side effects.
  • Finding suitable contraception is very difficult for some women, and access is a challenge in some countries.
  • Sexual behaviour is not always consensual or predictable.

Pat Schroeder has an apt response to this myth: “Saying that abortion is used as birth control is like saying why bother eating when you can have an IV in your arm?” Her statement illustrates the point that most women would choose, and do choose, to use contraception rather than undergo a surgical procedure.

Even when legal, abortion can be hard to access in many parts of the world. It requires time and money to get one, as it is often not funded. In the U.S., the average cost of an abortion in 2009 was $451 (USD), while later abortions can cost thousands of dollars. Many women also need to take time off work and travel long distances to find services. A U.S. study found that 31% of women who live in rural areas traveled more than 100 miles to receive abortion services, and 74% traveled more than 50 miles to access services. Also, only 66% of health insurance providers in the U.S. cover abortion services to some degree, which makes paying for an abortion very difficult. Many other countries also do not pay for abortion services, including Austria.

The average person using abortion as birth control would become pregnant two to three times per year, and would therefore need two to three abortions per year. This would be extremely difficult to manage and doesn’t align with statistics on who gets abortions: 58% of patients in the U.S. are in their twenties, 69% are economically disadvantaged, and 61% have children. These are not people who can spend thousands of dollars every year. Further, while almost half of all American women will have a second abortion over their lifetime, far fewer have 3 or more. High repeat abortion rates are associated with life challenges (e.g., partner abuse, addiction issues), as well as a lack of available, effective contraception.

Sources:

Government of South Australia, Myths and facts about abortion

Options for Sexual Health, Common abortion myths and facts

Public Eye, Abortion Myths, by Marlena Sobel

Everyday Feminism, 6 abortion Myths Debunked (2014)

Think Progress , Pricing American Women Out Of Abortion, One Restriction at A Time, by Tara Culp-Ressler (2015)

Guttmacher Institute, Many Women Find It Difficult to Pay for an Abortion Procedure, Are Unable to Use Insurance (2013)

Guttmacher Institute, Repeat Abortion in the United States (2006)

# 3

Only selfish and irresponsible women have abortions

Fact: This myth is built on sexism. Women who choose to remain childless are often portrayed as being self-centered and uncaring.
A good example of this from the media would be Samantha from Sex and the City. She’s very open about the fact that she doesn’t want children, but is also portrayed as reckless and indifferent.

Getting an abortion is not a selfish decision.

People attribute abortion to selfishness because women are expected to put themselves last (in relation to other people) and to always take on the role of nurturer and caregiver. This myth of self-sacrifice exists because of the ways that society has constructed womanhood: women are valued primarily for their beauty and for their role as mothers.

Many factors go into deciding to terminate a pregnancy; it’s not an easy or simple decision. But it is generally a responsible decision, because women know when they are not ready to care for a child, or another child. Having an abortion is really about good motherhood, and ensuring the best welfare for your family and your future.

Most people who get abortions are young and/or low-income, meaning that they probably aren’t ready or in the best position to take on parenthood. For example, Lori writes: “I had an abortion when I had just turned 16. I came from a poverty-stricken, dysfunctional family and honestly didn’t know how easily one could become pregnant. I knew bringing a baby into the world I was living in would not be fair. The child would have grown up as poor as I was, would live in a dysfunctional family just as I was, and would have little hope for a future. I feel that I made the best decision a mother could for a baby.”

The decision of if, when, and how to have children is completely yours to make.

Sources:
everydayfeminism.com

# 4

Women have no right to decide over another’s life

Fact: Society has no right to prioritize fetal life over women’s lives. When pregnant women are prohibited from having abortions, they no longer have a right to life themselves, and become second-class citizens under the law. When abortion is outlawed and/or fetal rights are protected by law, women’s bodies, rights, and health are subordinated to the protection of embryos.

Prior to legal abortion in any country, women had two options: to undergo an unsafe, illegal abortion that put their lives at risk or to continue their pregnancy, even in situations that were disadvantageous to both the woman and the fetus.The legal consequences of anti-abortion laws are catastrophic, as we’ve seen in Ireland, Nicaragua, Brazil, Poland, much of Africa, and other places where abortion is outlawed – 47,000 women die every year and over 8 million are injured.

When the U.S. Supreme court announced its decision to strike down all state laws restricting abortion, the court recognized that the constitutional right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (Roe v. Wade, 1973).Gaining access to safe and legal abortions finally gave a woman the basic right to control her own body and make her own reproductive choices.

The right to abortion has equalized women by giving them the right to manage their own bodies. Margaret Sanger said, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body.” This concept is fundamental for women. Bearing a child alters a woman’s life more than anything else. Other women’s rights are hollow if women are forced to be mothers.

Sources:
serendip.brynmawr.edu

Pro-choice Action Network

guttmacher.org

# 5

A religious woman would never have an abortion

Fact: Women of all different religions seek abortion.In the U.S., Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as other women, despite strict Catholic Church teaching against abortion. Fifteen percent of American women having abortions attend church once or more a week, while another 45 percent attend less frequently. Almost three-quarters of American women having abortions report a religious affiliation.

A number of religious organisations worldwide support a woman’s right to choose freely between continuing the pregnancy, adoption, or abortion. Abortion is not condemned in the sacred texts of most religions, and all religions have liberal streams of thought that support the right to abortion.
For more information, see:

Sources:

guttmacher.org

# 6

Only certain ‘types’ of women have unplanned pregnancies and abortions

Fact: All kinds of women, from diverse and varied backgrounds, experience unplanned pregnancy.

Only a minority are teenagers.
• Out of 40 countries with legal abortion, adolescents accounted for a smaller share of abortions than their share of the population. In North America, women aged 19 and under have 18% of abortions, while in Europe it’s only 11% overall.

• In Australia, about 90% of women contacting a Pregnancy Advisory Service at a women’s hospital over a 12-month period were aged 18–40+. Only 7.1% were under 18.

It’s women from all over the world
• Abortion is practiced widely by women everywhere, across all social classes, and regardless of laws against abortion.

• Women from every country, language group, religion, and socio-economic background seek abortion.

It’s both women who are already mothers and those who aren’t. 

• In a one-year period, approximately 50% of women who contacted the Pregnancy Advisory Service at a women’s hospital in Australia because of an unplanned pregnancy already had children.

• In the U.S. 61% of women having abortions are already mothers with at least one child, and 34% have two or more children.

• 44% of American women having abortions are married or cohabiting.

Sources:

www.thewomens.org.au

guttmacher.org and World Health Organization

guttmacher.org

Obstetrics & Gynecology (journal)

# 7

Women who have abortions do not appreciate the value of motherhood

Fact: Abortion and motherhood are not in opposition to each other.

Most women are very cognizant of the demands of parenthood and want to have a family only when the time is right. They are concerned about their ability to provide a stable environment for themselves and their children. Often their decision to have an abortion is influenced by the desire to do the best they can for the child or children they already have. Most women having abortions (61% in the U.S.) already have at least one child. They fully understand the responsibility of parenting and what it would mean to have another child without having adequate resources to ‘do it properly’. This puts them in the best position to make a decision about whether to continue with a pregnancy.

This means that deciding to have an abortion can be a very unselfish and responsible act. In fact, abortion is about good motherhood because it enables women to take care of their existing families, and/or to have future children when they’re able.

“Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. Abortion is profamily, prolife, moral, and good. For many millions of women, abortion has meant getting on with their lives and continuing to meet their responsibilities to themselves, their families, and society.” – Patricia W. Lunneborg, author of Abortion: A Positive Decision.

This myth also serves to create a false and sexist division between ‘normal’ women who are ‘natural’ mothers, and ‘abnormal’ women who do not become parents for a variety of personal reasons. Men’s choices about whether or not to have a family, for example, are rarely judged in the same way.

Sources:

www.thewomens.org.au

Abortion: A Positive Decision

# 8

Minors require parental consent for abortion

Fact: Austrian law stipulates that if the woman is between the age of 14 – 18, only she herself can consent to a medical treatment, provided she has the ability to understand the procedure and make a decision. If there is doubt as to her ability, it will be assumed that she is able to understand and decide. If the minor lacks the ability to understand and decide on a treatment, the approval of a parent or legal guardian is required.

Only minors under 14 years of age need the approval of a parent or legal guardian.

In some other countries, abortion can be provided to girls under the age of 16 without parental consent, but with informed consent of the patient.

Most American states require parental consent or notification before minors can have an abortion, but these laws simply place cruel and unnecessary obstacles in their path, and can create risks to their health and life.  Teenagers with a difficult or abusive home life may not be safe if they inform their parents.  Also, it means that parents could unethically force a teenager to have a baby against her will, thereby compromising her health and her future.  In countries such as Canada, the “mature minor” doctrine means that doctors are given the discretion to ensure that minors are mature enough to make their own decision, and are not being coerced by anyone.


See also: abortion-legislation.pdf

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, Injustice and Harms of Parental Consent Laws for Abortion (2014)

# 9

Some women have already had 6-7 abortions

Fact: Most women who have abortions (52 percent) have had no previous abortions, and 29 percent have had only one previous abortion. Considering that most women are fertile for more than 30 years, and that birth control is not perfect, the likelihood of having one or two unintended pregnancies is very high. When a woman falls accidentally pregnant and doesn’t want to be, there is only one treatment: abortion. Women should therefore not be judged for having more than one abortion, or restricted from doing so.

Statistically, it’s important to understand that once abortion has been legal for many years in a country, more women will have additional abortions as time passes – however, the number of repeat abortions should stabilize in a few decades, as it now has in the United States.

A high number of abortions over a woman’s lifetime usually reflects a severe lack of access to contraception in her country (such as in Russia).  However, some research has also suggested that certain women are more fertile than other women, which may cause difficulties in finding an effective birth control method. For example, a Canadian study showed that some women ovulate twice a month, which can put them at much higher risk of unintended pregnancy.

Sources:

guttmacher.org

New Scientist

# 10

Many women have abortions until shortly before birth

Fact: This myth is an outrageous statement, and very insulting to women (and doctors). Late abortions are only performed in cases where it is strictly medically necessary, in most cases when the fetus has severe abnormalities, or sometimes when the woman’s health or life is seriously at risk.

Canada is the only democratic country in the world with no abortion laws, not even gestational limits. Yet, Canadian women rarely have abortions in the third trimester, and only for the above-noted reasons. Abortions after fetal viability are rare because:

  • As long as abortion is legal and reasonably accessible, the vast majority of women will present as early as possible. In most countries where abortion is safe and legal, at least 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester. Most of the rest are done by 16 or 18 weeks, with only a very tiny number done in the third trimester. In Canada for example, the rate of abortions after 22 weeks LMP (after last menstrual period) is estimated to be 0.54%.
  • Most abortion providers only perform abortions in the first or perhaps early second trimester. Only a handful of doctors have the ability and willingness to perform third-trimester abortions. No reputable doctor would perform such an abortion without a compelling reason. Third-trimester abortions are complicated and difficult ordeals for both the woman and the doctor, and are never undertaken lightly.

Sources:
sisterresist.wordpress.com

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada:
•  Benefits of Decriminalization (2013)
•  Statistics – Abortion in Canada (2015)

# 11

Only women get abortions

Fact: Abortion rhetoric is highly gendered. Rarely is it even acknowledged that abortion patients are not exclusively ciswomen (women born women).

The dialogue around abortion is so gendered in fact, that it completely erases transgender people.
There are many trans men who sometimes need access to abortion and who receive abortion care and other related reproductive care.There are also many trans people who don’t fall into the gender binary but still need abortions – i.e, people who don’t identify as either male or female, or perhaps as a third gender.  The fact that abortion is so often framed from a woman’s perspective means that those who are marginalized in other ways are not being heard and their stories aren’t seen as important.

Reproductive rights activism has traditionally discriminated against transgender people through exclusion and lack of recognition.  We must stand with transgender people. This does not mean erasing ciswomen from our language, but including transgender people in our discussions, recognizing their unique (as well as similar) needs, and ensuring they receive the care and respect they deserve.

Source: everydayfeminism.com