Abortion Myths

1. Choice = Informed Choice
This is unquestionably not the case. I have yet to find a pro-choice website which advocates that women inform themselves about what they are doing (or are about to do) to themselves and their unborn child. Information regarding the long-term physical and emotional effects, the stage of the baby's development, pictures and the like, are kept to a bare minimum if they are provided at all. "Choice" tends to focus around a nebulous term referred to as "reproductive rights," and these rights focus almost exclusively on what is legal in Canada.

2. All pro-lifers hold the same views.
There is a wide variety of differences between pro-life views. Not everyone who is pro-life is necessarily religious (although they are the majority) and not all pro-lifers believe that the abortion problem can be corrected in the same way.

3. All pro-lifers are right-wing religious fanatics who believe in shooting doctors who perform abortions.
This is a caricature, and an incorrect one at that. Very few pro-lifers believe in shooting abortion doctors. Most of us know that is not the way to solve the problem. Extremists are exactly that: extreme. They account for a very tiny percentage of the population.

4. All pro-lifers believe in the removal of your reproductive rights. They believe in compulsory pregnancy.
This is not so much a caricature as it is stupid. There is no such thing legally defined "reproductive rights" and there is no such thing as compulsory pregnancy. These are terms concocted to obfuscate the situation.

5. Before abortion was legalized, thousands and thousands of women were dying from self-abortions. Without legalized abortion, women are at risk and will die by the thousands.
This is patently untrue. There were a few cases of women dying from self-abortions. Despite the fact that abortions are widely available in Canada, there have been at least a few cases of women who insist on self-aborting (ie: Drummond) and who have died as a result (an unnamed university of Waterloo student in 1989/90). The current situation is actually more dangerous for women than it was prior to the complete legalization of abortion.

6. You have the right to an abortion.
Actually, you don't. We do not have a law that says you must be given an abortion if you request it. A doctor has the right to refuse. As far as I am concerned, this is a good thing.

7. Having an abortion will not affect your long-term physical or emotional well-being.
This is patently untrue. Long-term physical effects can include such things as future infertility and even breast cancer. The long term emotional side effects can vary from mild depression to suicide.

8. Canadians are generally in favour of the abortion situation in Canada.
The truth is that most Canadians are unaware of the situation in Canada. The overwhelming majority falsely believe that our laws mirror those of the US. The situation in the US varies from state to state and abortions may be forbidden anywhere from 16-24 weeks.

9. A fetus does not feel pain.
There is no scientific evidence to support this fact. Pain is simply an extreme sensation in the nerves. Neural tubes begin to develop somewhere around four or five weeks.

10. A fetus is just a blob of cells.
I will be dealing with this myth in an upcoming post.

11. Most abortions are performed to save the life of the mother.
The is untrue. The overwhelming number of abortions are performed as a method of late birth control.

12. It's the woman's body.
This is perhaps the worst myth of all since it is the key argument that allowed unnecessary abortions in the first place. The fetus is not a part of the mother's body. It is not a limb or an organ. It is a distinct entity carried within the mother. I will explore this myth further when I write about fetal development.

13. Some children are not wanted.
That some children are not wanted by their mother does not mean that they are not wanted by anybody. There are thousands of women in this country who are infertile and cannot have children of their own. Unfortunately, the adoption process is not always that easy.

(Note that I will add to these myths as I remember/encounter more.)


Brian Lemon said...

Few more things Rootie
1/ There are about 250k live births and 105 abortions in Canada each year. Yes more than 1/4 of all pregnancies result in abortion. From a policy perspective, this has resulted in our birth rate declining to a non-sustainable level. We would become extinct without immigration.
2/ About 40% of abortions are done for healthy women who do so for convenience
3/ About 1/4 are for the second or subsequent time
4/ The is no significant level of abortions due to rape or incestual abuse.

jeff davidson said...

do all pro-lifers cherry-pick stats from pro-life websites that misrepresent the facts in order to suit their own agendas or only you and your pal mr. lemon?

you offer no emperical evidence to support your statements. why not? do the facts get in the way of message?

Ruth said...

Not at all. In fact, I already said that anything I post can be verified by googling for:
abortion, abortion law in Canada, bill C-338, Elizabeth May and Judy Rebick, fetal rights movement and fetal development
Statistics Canada also has up to date information on the number of abortions and live births by year.
But, since you seem to need some hand-holding:

Peter Thurley said...

I'm looking forward to an argument that will prove exactly when a fetus gains the moral status of person hood. As I see it, this is the key question behind the entire abortion debate. I suspect we're on the same page here, but I'm just saying, I'm looking forward to an argument and not just an unsupported assertion.

Ruth said...

I do plan to tackle this question actually, since there is more than one argument that you can use.

Anonymous said...

Actually Peter, it has been scientifically proven that a fetus is, in fact, a living human being. So, the question is: Should we be allowed to discriminate against living human beings because they are different than us? I think that's wrong. Unfortunately, some people do not.

Dylan said...

Why do pro-lifers care so much about a few hundred unborn fetus' when there are literally millions of people dying from a preventable disease like malaria.

Why don't we lobby our government for legislation that will protect and immunize people RIGHT NOW from malaria? If we are not to discriminate against life-forms, what about lives of those who are across the ocean?

We know their dying! We have the money! Except there isn't a high-horse to get on and condemn people who don't think that we should immunize malaria victims - because who is going to say that it is a bad thing, or morally deplorable, to immunize African and Asian children?

Why don't we put our efforts together to eliminate mass deaths by preventable diseases instead of engaging in an abortion debate which affects what percentage of Canadian society?

I'd love to see both pro-choice and pro-life advocates work together to improve the lives of far more people than just themselves.

Ruth said...

Over 105,000 babies are aborted every year in this country.
We don't suffer from malaria here. That's a tropical disease. Countries can't/don't make laws about the problems of other countries. They deal with their own issues. It's not possible for us to force people in Asia and Africa to get immunized. All we can do is send financial aid, which we do. And, what makes you think pro-lifers don't care about people dying in other countries? Many do. Many have sponsor children. Many donate to groups like the Red Cross, World Vision and Christian Children's fund.
So, what was your point again? I missed it.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Hi Ruth,

I'm new to your blog and fairly unfamiliar with your views. I do, however, find this post rather intriguing. I must admit though that our views may differ quite a bit. If you don't mind some dialogue...

Points 1-3 - should be common sense.

Point 4 - I'm a bit confused by this point, which may be due to my unfamiliarity of your views. Accordingly I'm not sure what you're advocating.

If the states criminalizes abortion (subject to exceptions), then the state forces a woman to carry the fetus to term upon conception. So, I'm not sure what you mean by "there's no such thing as compulsory pregnancy".

Also, I'm not sure what is meant by "there's no such thing as reproductive rights". This sloppy terminology (which may not be your own) seems to refer to legal values of personal integrity, autonomy and privacy with respect to one's body.

Point 5 - Both sides may throw statistics at each other on this issue, but I wonder to what degree numbers (as in quantity) matter. If a woman's life is put at risk, because she either does not fit into an enumerated exception to a prohibition on abortion or she is unable to meet the necessary requirements (as in Morgentaler), then such a law should immediately be suspect.

Point 6 - Right to abortion? I guess this addresses some partisan argument of which I'm unaware.

Point 7 - Granted.

Point 8 - I could be easily persuaded that many, if not most, Canadians are unaware of the actual situation in Canada on the subject, believing it to be similar to the US. However, this does not answer the question of whether or not a majority of Canadians are "pro-life" or "pro-choice". A referendum or a poll or something like that would express this point.

Point 9 - There's no scientific proof of which I"m aware that plants don't feel pain. This statement reflects the same logic as presented in point 9. And it doesn't prove anything.

Point 10 - I look forward to your upcoming post.

Point 11 - Like point 6, I'm not sure where this myth comes from.

Point 12 - I guess this point will be further developed along with point 10. I'll wait until then.

Additionally, I noticed Peter Thurley's comment about " personhood" regarding a fetus. I find this notion rather interesting. Historically and legally, the woman and the fetus combined may be considered a "person". In fact, a baby was not considered a separate "person" until live birth. The notion of a fetus having separate rights vis-a-vis the mother seems more like a product of the rights revolution in an effort to combat arguments regarding a woman's rights over her body.

Finally, for the sake of disclosure, I think that limiting the number of abortions should be achieved through competent policy and not through criminalization / prohibitions.

Flognuts said...

It's really none of the business of Blogging Tories. Abortion for most Canadians is off the table. You want to lose us an election ----keep going. But all around you, no one is willing to turn to the AMerican evangelical CHristian fundamentalist right .
It ain't a gonna' happen. ANd if you and yours continue the wild rants , in fact if you and yours continue just the militant _fact" spewing...you are going to cost us to the Catholic Liberals, who separate their God from their Bodies quite nicely. Remember Quebec qomen take the pill and go to CHurch, even though the CHurch says the pill is verboten ! Get pragmatic.
We need government to make tiny incisions in the fabric, not a wholesale bolt of cloth .

Vek said...

You're a typical leftist, trying to say their's no proof when in fact all you need to do is use a bit of logic.

Every living organism is that species of organism from conception. A fetus isn't its own species, if it's a human fetus. It's a living human individual with its own DNA, own organs, just at an earlier stage of development than you.

Who says that pro-lifers don't care at all about people in 3rd world countries who are suffering? Though not all pro-lifers are Christian, many Christians are pro-life. Christians are compassionate, they are charitible, look at the charitible work that Christians have done around the world in third world countries. So yeah, I think that many pro-lifers, being Christian, do care about people in third world countries like they do care about the unborn. I may be Christian myself, but I'm not pro-life because I'm Christian, I'm pro-life because I'm compassionate about the well-being of others. I don't base my reasoning on passages of the bible, I have a BSc. and I base my reasoning on scientific fact. It's a human rights cause, and I feel that those foreign countries should do just as much as you stated about Malaria as we should do in Canada to stop abortion.

vicki said...

peter and dylan ...you've done the usual knee jerk re-action: generalise with the 'all pro lifers' line, and digress from the more important points.Ruth has cleared up many myths here. If most abortions are performed for birth control, why can't the responsibility be taken BEFORE sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. There is only one way to get pregnant in this human race.
Don't come back with the rape line...the facts are out on that as well.

Flognuts said...

I note the follwing in the G&M-------LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. — A premature triplet born to a woman who was flown to Toronto because there was no space for her in Alberta has died.

Mateo was the smallest of Mandy Martin's three babies born by emergency C-section last week.

The child only weighed 12 ounces. His sister, Angel, weighed one pound, nine ounces and his brother, Dustin, weighed one pound, 6½ ounces.

When medical science is keeping alive things that mother nature doesn't want kept alive, where is Grammie's hip replacement ? Where is junior 's appendectomy ?

ABortion causes crime rates to fall.

See Freakonomics. the Book .

Ruth said...

Tar Heel, on your points
1-3: Never assume common sense. In my reading I encountered a huge amount of ignorance on the subject.
4, 6 and 11: I recommend that you visit sites like Bread 'n' Roses or Planned Parenthood for examples of these views. And no, reproductive rights is definitely not a term I invented. It is widely used by the pro-choice side, however.
5: Quantity does matter when the abortion rate is anywhere between a third and a quarter of the live birth rate. That is a huge number. The position of the majority of pro-lifers is that abortion for the sake of the mother's life is permissible. However, the number of abortions performed as a means of late birth control far outweigh the number of abortions performed for medical need (this information is available at Statistics Canada) and this is what pro-lifers in Canada strenuously object to.
8: Most Canadians fall into a category that is better describes as pro-limited-choice. When faced with the fact that abortion is allowed until delivery, most are surprised/shocked.
9: That a fetus does not feel pain is a myth used to justify abortion.

Roy Eappen said...

Excellent points Ruth. Biologically it has to be argued that life begins very close to conception. Any other point would be random and arbitrary. We now can keep babies alive starting at about 25 weeks of conception. We are pushing back that boundary all the time. Abirtion has become a mantra for feminists. I don't care if you don't want to have a baby, but that is a decision that should be made before a woman gets pregnant.

The non law in Canada allows anyone to kill a baby up to its ninth month of gestation with no penalty. ( Note the case of the Ottawa woman who shot her baby in utero and basically faced no charges.
I personally do not support an outright ban on abortion, but I do support a lot more education on the subject and telling women the consequences of their actions.
There is a groundbreaking study out of New Zealand that points out the terrible consequences for many women of this"choice"

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Hi Ruth,

Thanks for responding.

You're quite right that it's not safe to assume that common sense is common. I only intended to identify that points 1-3 were.

I'm not a Dipper, and I don't frequent "Bread 'n' Roses". However, I'm rather familiar with Planned Parenthood in the US. As I understand it, the term "reproductive rights" is purposely vague, but it usually touches upon autonomy, integrity and privacy with respect to one's body. Despite its rhetorical aspects, I'm not sure that one can dismiss the terminology out right given the values it's used to represent.

Your response to point 5 seems to give a better clue as to what you're arguing. If I might be presumptuous, I would guess you're advocating abortion regulations, namely regarding to time periods and means, as opposed to a ban. If so, than I suspect many could easily be persuaded.

Again, the phrase "most Canadians" seems to refer to anecdotal evidence instead of polls, etc.

Claiming that a fetus does or does not feel pain might be valid if there was evidence to support it. So, if you're arguing the same thing, but from another angle, I agree.

E. I. Sanchez said...

Great Work. Life is precious and we have to defend the little ones.


BaconEating AtheistJew said...

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Take a look at my blog.

Peter Thurley said...


The notion of personhood is one that philosophers make much use of in ethical theory. It is typically understood as the component of a being that allows it to be a moral agent, to both be affected by moral decisions and to effect moral decisions. For more on this idea, see Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons. The way I understand the moral question of abortion is that in order for there to be a satisfactory reason to reject abortion as immoral, one must be able to show that a fetus is a moral agent, and thereby has the moral property of personhood. I think it does; however, it is much more difficult to prove than one might think. Hence my interest in the arguments Ruth is going to be showing - in all my reading on the subject, I have yet to encounter a satisfactory argument showing that a fetus obtains moral agency at the moment of conception. The closest I have seen is an argument by Wayne Sumner in an article called "The Third Way" that argues that sentience is the point at which one could consider a being have have gained moral agency. This happens, at the earliest, between the first and second trimester, and, so Sumner argues, any abortion post-first trimester should be prohibited. While I hold out hope that agency can be shown for the moment of conception, I just can't see how it can happen. I hope to be proven wrong.

Ruth said...

beaj, as I said on your blog
Very strange. I can't help but wonder how it is that people come up with weirdo beliefs like this (aside from the obvious fact that they're evil). It's a bit like the old blood libels.

Peter, I don't want to get ahead of myself since I still need to talk about fetal development and a few other things. However, if you are looking for the definition of a person then you should be thinking scientifically and NOT philosophically.

Peter Thurley said...

Why, exactly, should I be thinking 'scientifically' and not philosophically? Science, while it purports to be objective, seems to be rather subjective, bending to the political viewpoints of those who fund scientific projects (see recent discussions of climate change, with each side accusing the other of 'bad science' and discussions of evolution and creationism, again, with each side accusing the other of 'bad science'). If this is how we do science these days, why should I be sold by scientific arguments as opposed to philosophical arguments which tend to get right to the heart of the question: Is Abortion Immoral? Thats a distinctly philosophical question and not necessarily a scientific question, except insofar as science can be used to support a particular ethical argument.

I understand this is an aside and do not necessarily expect you to answer it. In terms of abortion, I agree with your position (at least as far as I can see).

Ruth said...

Because the definition of a human being is not a philosophical idea.
(As a note though, I do plan to present more than one definition of life and show their inadequacies.)

John M Reynolds said...

Something that was missed: Prolifers are trying to protect those that cannot protect themselves. People dying from things like malaria can protect themselves and their neighbours. Pro-lifers are trying to protect their unborn neighbours that cannot defend themselves.

Flognuts, while it may not be good to push an extreme view like an abortion ban, it should be alright to continue with education. This is important since most Canadians are likely for abortions with limits. A referendum on this would be nice as a general guidance toward future policies. Of course, other topics may be easier, like Senate reform, but some discussion about abortion should not be banned. Extremists from both sides should be brought into the light and exposed for what they are.

Peter Thurley, do not all fetuses have the ability to develop into a moral agent even if they are not one from the outset? It is that potential that differeniates it from, say, a blob of fat. Fat cells have no ability to become more than what they are. They can only grow bigger.

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