The Top 5 Anti-Choice, Anti-Science Myths You’ll Probably Hear from the “March for Life”
This year’s installment of the “March for Life” has claimed “Pro-Life is Pro-Science” as its tagline.
Every year since 1974, the annual “March for Life” has brought thousands of anti-choice extremists to the nation’s capital to rally against our basic freedoms. Time and again, the event serves as a reminder of the ways in which a small group of individuals remains obsessed with undermining the will of the pro-choice majority and shaming women for making decisions that are best for our own lives and circumstances. Even more absurd than trying to falsely claim that its out-of-touch, extremist agenda is supported by the majority of Americans, the anti-choice establishment is now trying to futilely allege that its ideology is backed by science.
Just last year, featured March for Life speaker and former U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) proclaimed, “Do you know why the pro-life movement is on the rise? Because science is on our side.” Now, the March for Life has tried making its desperate declaration even louder by marketing “Pro-Life is Pro-Science” as its 2019 official theme. This might be laughable if it weren’t so incredibly dangerous. If might even be amusing if we weren’t living in a reality where our basic right to bodily autonomy is hanging by a thread because of the ideological extremist policies pushed by the very same anti-choice activists.
We’ve had enough of the outright lies being used to cut off access to basic reproductive healthcare and shame women for knowing what’s best for themselves and their families. Being anti-choice isn’t even “pro-life,” much less “pro-science.” Enough is enough. It’s time to call these anti-woman, anti-science attempts at fearmongering what they are: myths.
Myth #1: “Abortion is dangerous.”
For decades, anti-choice activists have repeated the lie that abortion is a dangerous procedure that frequently causes serious complications — including death — but the reality is that abortion is both a common and safe procedure. It is also normal — one in four women will have an abortion by age 45. Last year, researchers the University of California at San Francisco reviewed extensive hospital data and concluded that you’re significantly more likely to suffer serious complications from procedures like wisdom teeth removals, tonsillectomies, or colonoscopies than you are from having a legal abortion. In addition to that, an investigative committee formed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2018 once again concluded that each of the common abortion procedures available in the United States is safe and effective. Not to mention, it’s a well-documented fact that carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth in the United States is a much more dangerous undertaking than having an abortion.
Myth #2: “Abortion causes breast cancer.”
No matter how many times science debunks this anti-choice myth, it continues to be endlessly repeated by people who have no interest in admitting the truth about their position. It’s a favorite myth among many anti-choice fake women’s health centers that exist solely to lure women in and spread lies about abortion. Numerous studies have demonstrated that there is no association between having an abortion and being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Way back in 2003, NIH’s National Cancer Institute held a workshop for cancer specialists across the globe to convene and investigate the claim, and the world’s top cancer experts came to a simple conclusion: there’s no link. In 2009, the Committee on Gynecologic Practice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came to the same conclusion: there’s no link. Leaders in the movement to fight cancer, like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society, have also been crystal clear: there’s no link between abortion and breast cancer. Period.
Myth #3: “Abortion pill reversal” exists.”
“Abortion pill reversal” is a dangerous trend emerging in the far-right movement and has even found its way into anti-choice legislation at the state level. Put simply, “abortion pill reversal” is human experimentation that has absolutely no basis in science or medicine. In spreading this myth, anti-choice activists are trying to target people who have taken the first of two medications involved in a medication abortion — and try to convince them to “reverse” their abortion by consuming a high dose of progesterone.
This so-called “procedure” is not backed by any research that tests its safety, effectiveness, or potential side effects and has not been evaluated by the FDA. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a fact sheet in 2017 that states, “Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” and referred to the practice as “unproven and unethical.”
“Abortion pill reversal” is just another way that the anti-choice establishment seeks to spread the myth that women often regret their choice to have an abortion. That, by the way, isn’t true either.
Myth #4: “Having an abortion will make you depressed.”
Adding onto the inaccurate claims that most women regret their choice to have an abortion (fact: 95% do not), anti-choice activists also often loudly proclaim that having an abortion will result in clinical depression and anxiety. Unfortunately for their false narrative, that’s also been scientifically debunked. Multiple times.
It’s completely normal to feel any mix of emotions after having an abortion — joy, sadness, grief, relief, indifference, or anything else. Different people have different experiences and different situations. But what the anti-choice movement alleges is that having an abortion causes mental illness, and that’s just not the case. Studies have found no increase in mental illness diagnoses or antidepressant use in people who have had an abortion. The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion in 2008 and returned without finding any credible evidence that having an abortion negatively impacts a person’s mental health. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 further confirmed findings that having an abortion is not associated with an increase in risk for suicide, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or depressed. However, the study did find that seeking an abortion and being denied that wanted abortion was associated with higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of life satisfaction.
Myth #5: “Banning abortion is “pro-life.”
And finally, there’s the myth that much of the entire anti-choice movement is based on — the belief that banning abortion is the “pro-life” thing to do, and that doing so will “end abortion.” But even that core message is not rooted in science. We know that the rate of abortion is lower in countries that make it legal and accessible. We know that abortion rates are highest in countries where it is banned or severely restricted. Furthermore, research has also shown that cutting off access to safe, legal abortion leads to an increase in maternal deaths. A 2017 landmark study by the World Health Organization and Guttmacher Institute concluded that countries with the strictest restrictions on abortion have significantly higher rates of unsafe abortion, abortion that is not performed by a trained healthcare worker. WHO estimates that 31,000 maternal deaths are caused globally by unsafe abortion that occurs when pregnant people can’t access safe, legal care. Another 7 million women worldwide are admitted to hospitals with serious complications from being forced to have their abortion outside of a legal, medical setting. The same pattern has been investigated in the United States, where studies show that states with more anti-choice restrictions have poorer outcomes for both maternal and child health.
If the anti-choice movement actually wanted to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies or actually support policies that are based in science, they’d be pushing for accessible birth control and comprehensive sexual education and affordable healthcare. But they’re not.
The anti-choice establishment has been dangerously effective at using these lies to restrict access to basic reproductive healthcare across the country. Thanks to extensive networks of dark money, prominent anti-choice activists sit in influential roles across the Trump administration, have unprecedented power over our courts, and are introducing some of the most extreme legislation ever seen.
These extremists have never been interested in science or evidence, and their ideological policies are the clearest testimony of that. Their movement has spent decades working to spread misinformation and build political power in order to undermine the will of the 7 in 10 Americans who believe in the right to choose and reject the anti-choice ideology that they know isn’t founded in facts or individual freedom. Even as the anti-choice establishment marches on Washington, we know the pro-choice majority will prevail because compassion, equity, dignity — and science — are on our side.