Anti-abortion zealots are winning the war of words about abortion. As pro-choice advocates plead with people to see nuance, the far-right talks about murderers, a lucrative industry, and innocent babies. This allows them to set the terms of the debate, and to put pro-choice advocates on the defensive. Rather than claiming the moral high ground, pro-choicers say they want abortion to be rare, or agree that abortion is always a tragedy. It’s time for these five anti-abortion myths to die once and for all, and for those who support bodily autonomy to start loudly proclaiming the truth.
Abortion is a Hard Decision That Causes Mental Suffering
Virtually everyone agrees that abortion is a “difficult” and “tragic” decision. The problem is that this is not always the case. For many women—the girl raped by her stepfather, the woman whose baby is not viable, the 17-year-old who wants to finish high school, the black woman giving birth without insurance in a maternity care system that kills black women at alarming rates—abortion is the only and obvious choice. No agonizing necessary.
The real tragedy for many women who seek abortion isn’t abortion. It’s what would happen if abortion became unavailable. Research consistently supports this claim. One study found that women were more likely to report grief, anger, and sadness about the pregnancy than the abortion. The emotion women were most likely to feel after their abortion was relief.
Numerous studies have found that abortion does not cause depression or anxiety. While it’s true that a small number of women experience mental health issues following abortion, this is true after every major life event. This does not mean abortion causes mental illness. Indeed, the Turnaway Study, which followed women who were denied an abortion because of legal restrictions, found that being denied an abortion greatly increased a woman’s risk of depression, but abortion itself did not.
The ‘Abortion Industry’ is Highly Profitable
Anti-choicers love talking about an “abortion industry” and “lucrative jobs killing babies.” They can’t fathom that a person would perform abortions because they want to help others. The truth is that people take massive pay cuts to perform abortions. The average abortion doctor earns $105,000 per year. Compare that to the typical OB/GYN, who earns nearly $250,000 per year.
A for-profit healthcare system has artificially inflated the cost of all forms of healthcare. Abortion remains a comparable bargain, with many abortion clinics charging barely enough to cover their expenses. Abortion typically costs several hundred dollars, ranging from about $350 to $950. Consider that similar outpatient procedures, such as root canals and crowns, typically cost several thousand dollars.
Anti-Choicers Are Committed to Preserving Life
The anti-choice movement has never cared about the lives of pregnant women. The U.S. is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth, and one of the few countries in the world in which maternal mortality has actually increased over the past 25 years. Research consistently finds that banning abortion kills women. In nations that prohibit abortion, the rate of dangerous abortions skyrockets. In El Salvador, suicide became a leading cause of maternal death.
The anti-choice movement has done nothing to curb maternal mortality. They are uninterested in expanding access to healthcare, which means if they succeed in banning abortion, they will inevitably condemn women to die.
Alabama lawmakers just passed legislation to ban all abortions and make the procedure a felony. The legislation contains no exceptions for rape or incest. As in most states, Alabama’s maternity care system is collapsing, and mothers commonly die of preventable causes. This legislation has effectively subjected some women to death as a penalty for being raped, because when women are forced to give birth some will inevitably die.
There’s no moral high ground in forcing women to die because they were raped. It’s time to stop letting anti-choicers claim otherwise.
Anti-Choice Laws Stop Abortion
A number of recent articles on popular sites claim that the anti-choice war is working, and that abortion restrictions reduce the abortion rate. The research suggests otherwise. It’s true that the abortion rate has fallen slightly in recent years. Research suggests this is because of expanded access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act, not restrictive abortion policies.
Some research even suggests that anti-choice laws may raise the abortion rate. In Latin American nations, where abortion is banned, the abortion rate is more than three times the rate in the United States. Women are also significantly more likely to die from botched abortions.
Abortion is Bad for Women’s Health
Republicans have consistently shown no concern for women’s health. The oppose affordable health care, support treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, and have done nothing to reduce maternal mortality. So any claim to care about women’s well-being is nonsense that deserves no attention. Despite this, they continue to peddle the lie that abortion harms women’s health by causing breast cancer or undermining fertility.
This is not true. Abortion does not cause breast cancer or other health woes. Abortion restrictions, however, do endanger women’s lives. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a nonpartisan professional organization for OB/GYNs, emphasizes that abortion care is critical to women’s health.
It’s hard to argue with people who manufacture their own facts and who ignore scientific research. It’s even harder to win those arguments. We may not be able to convince strident anti-choicers, but we can convince people who are on the fence. And we can absolutely reclaim the moral high ground.
It’s time for the left to talk about how anti-choicers want to kill women, leave babies in impoverished homes, and increase the suffering of women across the globe.