Myths and facts about abortion
There are many myths circulating in our society about the effect of abortion on women’s emotional and physical health. Here are facts to dispel some common myths:
Having an abortion has higher health risks than continuing a pregnancy and going through childbirth
Fact: Abortions are very safe when performed by qualified practitioners. Reputable research confirms that continuing a pregnancy and going through childbirth has greater risk to a woman's health than having a first trimester abortion.
Abortion affects future fertility
Fact: Safe, legal abortion performed by qualified practitioners is very rarely associated with any future risk to fertility.
Most women return to their pre-pregnancy fertility immediately following the abortion procedure. A small number of women have a delay in the return of normal menstrual cycles.
We recommend the use of contraception soon after the abortion procedure.
For information about contraception, see SHine SA
Women use abortion instead of contraception
Fact: Abortion is safe and used by women when the use of contraception fails or other factors that make using contraception difficult. The majority of women experiencing unplanned pregnancy are using some form of contraception, yet we know that:
- no form of contraception is 100% effective, including sterilisation
- all 'modern' methods of contraception have some associated risks/ side effects
- finding suitable contraception is very difficult for some women
- sexual behaviour is not always consensual or predictable.
Abortion causes emotional/mental harm
Fact: Unplanned pregnancy does cause emotional distress for some women, however research shows that for most women abortion causes no long lasting psychological consequences. Women who make their own clear decision about abortion generally find it a health enhancing experience. Having an abortion is not inherently traumatic; however, every step of the process to accessing abortion services can be made traumatic by judgemental or undermining treatment by others.
Studies do highlight risk factors, which can increase the likelihood of a woman experiencing longer lasting emotional distress:
- women who did not make their own decision
- women who have been or felt coerced/ pressured into having an abortion
- women who hold strong cultural or religious beliefs that abortion is wrong
- women who have a history of severe diagnosed mental health conditions.
A consistent opinion has emerged within the medical profession that the psychological effects of abortion are benign or positive and that serious adverse effects are rare. No reputable articles conclude there is any evidence to support the term nor condition of ʻPost Abortion Syndrome'.
All religious groups oppose a woman's right to choose
Fact: There is no one clear position or understanding about abortion and religion. Many religions and religious groups do not support a woman's right to be in control of her body (are opposed to contraception and abortion), however a number do support a woman's right to make decisions about her body including the use of contraception and abortion.
Adoption is better than abortion
Fact: This view claims that since there are so few children available for adoption then women with unwanted pregnancies should be encouraged to relinquish their offspring for adoption. For many women the choice to have an abortion is because they do not want to be pregnant, or continue to be pregnant, or to give birth or to relinquish a child. In an Australian study, "We Women Decide", women who had relinquished a baby for adoption spoke of the pain and ongoing feelings about this decision and this is in contrast to having no regret following an abortion.
Only young and/or irresponsible women choose abortion
Fact: Women of all ages in their fertile years approximately 12 years to 50+ years of age have decided to have abortions throughout the centuries for many different and similar reasons. The belief that only irresponsible women choose abortion suggests that ʻrealʼ women are selfless and nurturing above all other costs and a woman who chooses abortion is wilful, careless, promiscuous and selfish in not accepting their 'biological destiny'. The consistent finding of the many studies about women’s experience of abortion suggests that women of all ages, with or without children, in all occupations, religions, education levels, contraceptive practices, and marital status and seek abortions.
Abortion causes breast cancer
Fact: Abortion does not increase the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2009) ACOG Committee Opinion: Induced Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk. Obstet Gynecol 113 (6): pp 1417-1418
- Charles V, Polis C, Sridhara, S, Blum R (2008) Abortion and long-term mental health outcomes: A systematic review of the evidence. Contraception, 78(6), 436-450
- Danel I, Berg C, Johnson CH, Atrash H (2003) Magnitude of maternal morbidity during labor and delivery: United States, 1993-1997. Am J Public Health, 93, 631-634
- Grimes DA (2006) Estimation of pregnancy-related mortality risk by pregnancy outcome, United States, 1991to 1999. Am J Obstet Gynecol,194, 92-94
- Hakim-Elahi E, Tovell H, Burnhill M (1990) Complications of first trimester abortion: a report of 170,000 cases. Ob & Gyn 76,129-135
- Major B, Appelbaum M, et al., (2008) Report of the APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion.
- National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health for the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (2011) Induced Abortion & Mental Health: A systematic Review of the mental health outcomes of induced abortion, including their prevalence & associated factors.
- Paul M & Stewart F (2007) Abortion. In: Hatcher RA et al. Contraceptive Technology, 19th revised edition. Ardent Media, Inc, New York, NY, p664
- Raymond EG, Grimes DA (2012) The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the states. Obstet Gynecol;119(2 Pt 1):215-9.
- Guttmacher Institute
- Children by Choice