The lies in Rolling Stone’s ‘Seven Most Common Lies About Abortion’
Rolling Stone recently published a list of The Seven Most Common Lies About Abortion.
The list is mostly a collection of straw man parodies of pro-life talking points rebutted with cherry-picked pro-choice statistics.
And it wouldn’t be worth a second of anyone’s time if it wasn’t being passed around social media like wildfire and garnering thousands of comments on Rolling Stone’s site. But it is, so let’s debunk the debunking point by point!
1. “Abortion Causes Breast Cancer.”
This lie about abortion is one of the most widely circulated. It’s commonly cited by abortion opponents and CPC employees as a means of scaring patients out of choosing abortion. Unfortunately for them, the link between abortion and breast cancer simply isn’t corroborated by any current, reliable medical evidence. In 2003, the National Cancer Institute conducted a workshop with more than 100 of the world’s leading experts on pregnancy and breast cancer risk, and they found that “induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.” This was corroborated by a 2009 study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which demonstrated that recent, rigorous, methodologically-sound studies display “no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer.”
Right out of the gate comes Straw Man #1. Pro-lifers don’t say abortion “causes” breast cancer, as if one free breast cancer diagnosis comes with every abortion. We’ve merely observed that there is a correlation between abortion and the incidence of breast cancer.
Though the National Cancer Institute and ACOG deny the link, a large part of the reason for that is that the American scientific community and media cannot look abortion and its consequences square in the eye. An ideological commitment to the necessity of “safe and legal” abortion clouds their vision. And even though these organizations deny it, other doctors and scientists believe there is a link.
That’s why most studies you’ll see confirming this and other harms of abortion come from overseas. For example, a recent study out of China reported that “abortion increased the risk of breast cancer by 44% with one abortion, and 76% and 89% with two and three abortions, respectively.”
But you didn’t see that on the cover of uh Rollin’ Stone!
2. “Abortion causes infertility.”
This lie is a staple of CPCs to try and dissuade women from undergoing abortions. Just like the lie about abortion and breast cancer, this fear-mongering doesn’t have any legitimate medical basis, either. According to the Mayo Clinic, “abortion isn’t thought to cause fertility issues or complications in subsequent pregnancies.” What’s more, the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, found that abortions performed in the first trimester “pose virtually no long-term risk” of infertility.
Again, pro-lifers do not assert that abortion “causes” infertility. But it certainly can contribute to it.
In fact, the Mayo Clinic article linked by Rolling Stone actually does acknowledge that complications from an abortion can cause infertility in some cases. Furthermore, per the aforementioned American media bias, doctors in other countries have found a greatly increased risk of issues like cervical incompetence which can make a woman unable to carry a child to term.
3. “Most women regret having an abortion.”
Statistically speaking, some women will regret having an abortion. But the fact is, the vast majority don’t cite regret as their main emotion after an abortion; it’s relief. A recent study at the University of California, San Francisco found that 90 percent of women who were able to obtain an abortion reported that they were relieved and those who did cite negative emotions after their abortion didn’t indicate that they felt they had made the wrong choice. In that study, 80 percent of women who experienced mostly negative emotions still felt that abortion was the right choice for them. This anti-abortion talking point is deceitful and reductive, and it doesn’t allow for women to share their nuanced, personal abortion experiences.
The study in question considers women one week after their abortion! It often takes years, sometimes decades, before the regret sets in, but when it does it is often devastating if not deadly. In just the last few weeks, stories of suicide over abortion regret have surfaced from an Australian model and a student at Oxford University. And those are just two recent examples.
What’s most striking about this particular “lie” is that it’s their interpretation of the data that “doesn’t allow for women to share their nuanced, personal abortion experiences.” It tells them to shut up about their regret because it’s ruining the narrative. Organizations like Silent No More Awareness Campaign don’t force anyone to share anything. They simply catalog the testimonies of women who have been hurt by abortion, and they are legion.
4. “Once a woman sees an image of the fetus from an ultrasound, she won’t want to have an abortion.”
The logic behind this anti-abortion lie has helped fuel the wave of paternalistic and invasive forced ultrasound legislation in much of the U.S. Even though 23 states currently regulate the provision of ultrasound by abortion providers in some way, viewing an ultrasound doesn’t stop women from having an abortion. Not even close. According to a recent study featured in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Journal, of the 40 percent of women who chose to view their ultrasound, 98.4 percent still went through with their abortion. Mandated ultrasounds aren’t just onerous and intrusive; they’re also incredibly ineffective at preventing abortion.
This flies in the face of every bit of evidence pro-lifers have ever collected on this topic. In fact, LifeNews.com recently reported that 78% of women don’t go through with their abortion after seeing an ultrasound.
Whence the disparity?
A recent article by Michael New showed that, though many women in the study cited by Rolling Stone did not change their minds after seeing an ultrasound, a large part of that number might be explained by the fact that the ultrasounds were performed by Planned Parenthood, an organization with an obvious financial interest in seeing the women go through with their abortion.
Also, from New’s article:
Furthermore the study did show that among women who were conflicted about how to proceed with their pregnancy, the ultrasound image made them statistically less likely to submit to an abortion. This finding held even when a variety of demographic and economic variables were held constant. As such, this study provides good evidence that for a significant subset of abortion-minded women, ultrasound images steer them toward life-affirming choices.
Who’s twisting statistics now, Rolling Stone?
5. “Abortion is psychologically damaging to women.”
Abortion opponents frequently tout the official-sounding “Post-Abortion Syndrome” (sometimes called “Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome”) as proof that those who undergo an abortion procedure will suffer emotionally and psychologically. The trouble is, there’s no such thing as “Post-Abortion Syndrome.” It’s a myth. It isn’t recognized by either the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association. It is not a medical term because it is not a medical reality. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion decisively states that there is “no evidence that having a single abortion causes mental health problems.”
Many pro-life advocates including Vicki Thorn, founder of the international post-abortion healing ministry Project Rachel, discourage the use of the term “Post-Abortion Syndrome” because most women would not self-identify with it. They may have psychological pain, but may not classify it as a “syndrome.” But it’s indisputable that many women do suffer negative psychological effects after abortion (see #3, above).
Also, the study cited by Rolling Stone didn’t find evidence of mental health problems after a single abortion, but did find that, “the evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain.” But nearly half of all abortions are repeat abortions!
The Silent No More Awareness Campaign responded to this claim noting that many women have a deep-seated need to convince themselves that they’ve “done the right thing”. To admit negative mental health consequences after their abortion would be a devastating and life-changing admission that many are unwilling to make.
This silence contributes to what’s known as pluralistic ignorance where a person thinks they’re in a minority when they actually aren’t. Women are told by Rolling Stone and society at large that abortion is no big deal, so they feel like there’s something wrong with them when they feel bad about their abortion. In turn, they don’t talk about their negative feelings, thereby reinforcing the perception that women don’t regret abortion. And the vicious cycle continues.
Ironically enough, the picture at the top of this page is the picture that ran with the Rolling Stone article—a woman holding an I Regret My Abortion sign! Are this woman and the thousands like her who hold these signs liars? Why doesn’t the author take them seriously?
6. “TRAP laws are really about making abortion safer for women.”
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws have become incredibly popular legislatively in the last three years, with copycat legislation springing up in states from Texas to Ohio. Examples include requiring abortion clinics to be Ambulatory Surgical Centers, requiring that all abortions performed past a certain point be done in a hospital, or requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. On the surface, these sound like benevolent requirements, but in practice, they are completely medically unnecessary and serve only to shutter otherwise functional abortion providers, which is the entire point. While abortion opponents claim that these laws simply make abortion care safer for patients, in reality they do no such thing. TRAP laws are designed to impose onerous and completely unnecessary requirements on abortion providers in order to achieve one goal: close down abortion clinics. So far, they’ve been remarkably successful. Since TRAP laws surfaced in 2010, more than 50 safe abortion clinics have closed. For a movement that claims it wants to prevent the next Kermit Gosnell from performing illegal and unsafe abortions, TRAP laws all but ensure that safe clinics disappear and unsafe, illegal ones abound.
Sure, abortion clinics say they’re perfectly safe already, and that regulations on abortion clinics are “unnecessary” and “onerous.” And they want us to believe them simply because they say so.
To give but one example: last year NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia executive director Tarina Keene appeared on a HuffPostLive report complaining about a series of new “TRAP” regulations in the state that required abortion clinics to be held to the same health and safety standards as hospitals.
She said that these regulations were not needed, because the last time Virginia’s abortion clinics were inspected by the state, they all “passed with flying colors.” But in reality, the most recent inspections revealed that all 20 abortion facilities in Virginia had deficiencies, meaning that not one Virginia abortion clinic had passed inspection. So NARAL’s Keene was either lying through her teeth, or else she had absolutely no idea what state health inspectors had actually found.
There are countless other examples of inspections bringing to light horrific practices in abortion clinics in recent years:
- Capital Care in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, shut down by the DEA due to a slew of violations, including falsified drug records.
- Whole Women’s Health in San Antonio, where inspectors found employees handling tissue and bodily fluids and drawing up medications and sterilizing instruments at the same time, without washing their hands or using gloves.
- Planned Parenthood in York, Pennsylvania, where inspectors found that none of the facility’s oxygen tanks contained any oxygen.
Though pro-lifers are certainly happy when an abortion clinic closes, if we are going to have legal abortion, we are very concerned that women are not hurt in the process, and abortion clinics have demonstrated time and again that they simply cannot be trusted to police themselves.
7. “Abortion endangers women’s health and lives.”
Anti-abortion protesters and CPC employees often say that abortion hurts women, that it harms them, that it is unsafe and even “deadly.” Except that, of course, it’s not. It’s not deadly when it’s safe and legal. How safe is abortion? According the Guttmacher Institute, the risk of death with abortion is 10 times lower than the risk of death from childbirth. Having an abortion is far safer than having a baby. What’s more, the Guttmacher Institute also notes that first trimester abortion is among “the safest medical procedures” and carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications that could require hospital care, and the risk of death for an abortion at or before eight weeks is literally one in a million. The real risk of death comes when abortion is unsafe: In 2008, 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortion were reported worldwide.
The danger to women’s health and lives isn’t safe, legal, accessible abortion. It’s those who are trying to end it.
Abortion does endanger women’s health and lives. First, it endangers the lives of thousands of girls in their mother’s womb every day. Second, it endangers the lives of women like Tonya Reaves, who was killed in 2012 by a botched abortion at a Planned Parenthood in Chicago, and she is far from the only victim in that category. Third, the article seems to completely miss the fact that the maternal deaths from “unsafe” abortion worldwide are still deaths due to abortion!
But let’s take a look at those numbers for a moment. Where exactly do they come from?
Well, they come from The Guttmacher Institute, which is closely tied to Planned Parenthood and exists largely to provide them with statistics. Guttmacher gets their numbers on this from the World Health Organization (WHO). How does the World Health Organization get those numbers? Here’s an excerpt from an article by Dr. Donna Harrison:
According to WHO, induced abortion is defined as “the voluntary termination of pregnancy.” WHO defines unsafe abortion as “a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both.” Subsequent WHO documents, such as a 2007 article co-sponsored by WHO, allow for a purely legal definition of unsafe abortion as “abortions in countries with restrictive abortion laws.”
According to the article, any induced abortion, even under the most medically pristine conditions, performed in a country where abortion is “illegal” is deemed “unsafe.” Similarly, any induced abortion performed in a country where abortion is legal, regardless of the subsequent morbidity and mortality which follows, is considered “safe.”
Dr. Harrison goes on to say:
“To participate in interpretation of pregnancy related deaths requires that one be committed to ‘adjust the data.’” Dr. [Cindy] Stanton, a WHO researcher, explained that adjusting data means “eyeballing it to see if it makes sense from what we expect.” This adjusting is especially necessary with “pregnancy related deaths,” she continued, and said, “We adjust the number of births or the number of deaths and we don’t change the number of pregnancy related mortality.” “In some areas,” Stanton went on, “We make huge adjustments to make the numbers turn out right. More than fifty percent of some numbers are ‘adjusted.’”
So they go at the data with a preconceived notion of what they want to see (more deaths from “unsafe” abortions in countries where abortion is illegal, calling into serious question the “estimate” of 47,000) and, whaddya know, they find it.
Furthermore, since we know the scientific establishment and the media in America don’t shoot straight on this issue, what if we look overseas for a more unbiased perspective?
A study of data from Denmark over the course of 24 years shows that women who have abortions do in fact fare worse than women who do not. Most studies only take into consideration the woman’s health in a short period of time after their abortion, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Looking at the longer timeline—which includes things like breast cancer risk that won’t show up quickly—shows a much different picture than the Guttmacher studies.
Even if All These Were Lies, It Wouldn’t Matter
So as we see, all of these so-called lies making the rounds on your Facebook page right now are not lies. Pro-lifers don’t have to make up lies, because the horror of abortion speaks for itself. That’s why we encounter such vitriol when we take to the public square with photos of abortion’s victims.
But even if every one of these seven statements were lies, it wouldn’t effect the morality of abortion one iota. Abortion is wrong because it takes the life of an innocent human being. Period. Full stop.
This list was written to obscure the injustice done to over 3,000 babies in our country every single day. The article is nothing more than a bit of hand waving to take people’s eyes off the rivers of innocent blood we spill every day.
So let’s be concerned with women’s health. Let’s be concerned with accuracy in our data and our talking points. But let’s first and foremost keep the focus where it belongs: on abortion’s innocent victims.
Reprinted with permission from ProLifeAction.org.