By Ellen Curtin
In the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, every news cycle brings another prediction that countless women will suffer and die if abortion on demand is banned or restricted. Even laws that specify the right to life-saving care are denounced as deadly and anti-woman.
How can pro-lifers counter these myths and misunderstandings? Here are some medical, political and commonsense truths to help. May each of us strive to speak with kindness always — planting seeds of truth and trusting that God will convert all fear to hope and all anger to love.
1. Myth: Miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies need abortion.
Truth: Kentucky defines abortion by intent: “’Abortion’ shall mean the use of any means whatsoever to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with intent to cause fetal death.” Some people get confused because treatments for ectopics and miscarriages may resemble uterine abortion procedures, but even Planned Parenthood acknowledges their different intent.
Up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage before week 20, mostly before week 12. If natural miscarriage fails to progress, delivering the body to avoid dangerous infection is basic healthcare. This is not abortion.
About 2% of pregnancies are ectopic. Removing the nonviable fetus and implantation area (usually a fallopian tube) before rupture and possibly fatal uncontrolled bleeding is urgent. But the intervention is done to protect the mother, not to seek fetal death. This is not abortion.
2. Myth: Mothers will be arrested after abortion.
Truth: No abortion law criminalizes the mother, only her abortion provider.
3. Myth: Abortion is healthcare.
Truth: Healthcare saves lives, and obstetricians serve two patients — mother and child. In contrast, every successful abortion is fatal, and abortion on demand ends lives for social, not medical, reasons. Even with cancer, modern treatment plans can delay radiation or tailor chemo to protect maternal health while preserving fetal development.
No abortion restriction denies life-saving care when a mother’s survival or major organs are at risk. But no emergency requires killing her child in utero. Although preterm babies may not survive long after induced delivery or C-section, they can still be held, blessed and kissed goodbye — powerful consolations for their grieving families.
4. Myth: The right to bodily autonomy includes aborting an abnormal fetus.
Truth: A pregnant woman can decide her own medical care, but the separate human being inside her also has needs and innate human rights.
The United Nations defines bodily autonomy as “the power and agency to make choices about your body” without violating “the bodily integrity of anyone else.” Furthermore, “every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.” Abortion violates both principles.
Birth defects are rare (only 3% of babies), and 85% of rare-disorder screenings are wrong (NY Times, 1/1/22). With accurate prenatal screenings, parents can plan and seek assistance, but anyone pressured to abort needs a second opinion. Happily, fetal surgery for congenital defects, which is increasingly common, has a 90% survival rate.
5. Myth: Rape and incest demand abortion.
Truth: This mother deserves extra prenatal and post-natal medical and psychological care, but how her pregnancy began does not prevent healthy fetal development and a safe delivery. Abortion punishes the baby rather than the criminal, does not reduce the survivor’s traumatic abuse and leaves her the mother of a dead child, with all the medical and psychological aftereffects of abortion.
Rape with no contraception has a 5% chance of pregnancy. Few abortions involve rape (1%) or incest (0.5%), and sexual violence has fallen by half in the last 20 years.
6. Myth: Abortion is safer than childbirth.
Truth: A major study in Finland (where abortion up to 12 weeks is legal and free) found 3 to 4 times more maternal deaths with abortion than delivery. Besides higher risk of future preterm births, “abortion significantly increases the risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior, when compared to women with unintended pregnancies who choose to carry the baby to birth” (AAPLOG).
Tellingly, in the pro-abortion Turnaway Study 96% of women unable to access abortion were glad five years later that they had not aborted.
7. Myth: Birth control and emergency contraception will be illegal.
Truth: Even anti-abortion states have not proposed birth control bans.
The abortion connection relates to medications and devices marketed as contraceptive that block a fertilized egg’s implantation in the uterus (see “Mechanism of Action” in makers’ FDA statements). While people who define pregnancy as “post-implantation” do not consider ejection of a fertilized egg as abortive, groups with religious objections to abortion are legally exempt from providing insurance for IUDs and other methods that prevent implantation.
Plan B (the “morning-after pill”) is not abortive when given pre-ovulation, but its manufacturer says a later dose “may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”
Again, no state has been friendly to suggestions of contraception bans.
8. Myth: Abortion laws impose religion on others.
Truth: Secular law prohibits the killing of innocent persons, and murder is illegal in every country regardless of the dominant religion. Every U.S. state addresses lethal violence and accidental or intentional homicide; 38 define and prosecute feticide.
Does any religion defend unprovoked aggression against the innocent and deny the human right to life? Judeo-Christian believers have a stark commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Muslims teach: “You shall not take life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law.” Buddhism says: “One should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite another to kill.” Traditional Hindu respect for life seeks least harm to others, and Hindus allow abortion only to save the mother’s life.
9. Myth: Polls support abortion on demand.
Truth: In the AP-NORC poll (July 2022), on-demand support declined by trimester, from 45% to 18% to 11%. In other words, more than half supported restrictions or bans in the first trimester, 81% in the second and 88% in the third. Nearly half said states should be responsible for establishing abortion laws, not the federal government.
Credit: “Reprinted with permission of the Messenger, the official newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Covington, KY.” [Page 6, Nov.11, 2022]
Ellen and her husband, Dan, are members of St. Thomas Roman Catholic Parish, Fort Thomas, Kentucky. She has served on many diocesan and parish committees, currently We Choose Life, the Board of the Rose Garden Center for Hope and Healing and Walking with Moms in Need.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Section 2, Article V, especially paras. 2270–2275.
CathMed.org: The Catholic Medical Association forms and supports physicians and all healthcare professionals and clergy to embody and promote Catholic principles in the practice of their profession.
CovingtonCMA.CathMed.org: The Sts. Teresa of Calcutta and Faustina Guild of the Catholic Medical Association in the Diocese of Covington provides all healthcare professionals and clergy with mutual support, inspiration and education. Contact William E. Wehrman III, M.D. at email@example.com.
LozierInstitute.org: The Charlotte Lozier Institute provides current statistics and science on a variety of bioethical issues.
NCBCenter.org: The National Catholic Bioethics Center provides education, guidance and resources to uphold human dignity in healthcare and biomedical research. See “The Bioethics of High-Risk Pregnancies.”
RAINN.org: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti–sexual violence organization.
In Catholic hospitals
Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. [#45]
Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child. [#47] — USCCB Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services
At the United Nations
Laws which explicitly allow for abortion on grounds of impairment violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities…. Even if [a diagnosis of fatal or other impairment] is not false, the assessment perpetuates notions of stereotyping disability as incompatible with a good life. — Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations
What does the Catechism teach?
Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being. — Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2274
A bioethicist addresses ectopic pregnancy
. . . I believe administration of [methotrexate] constitutes a direct attack on the embryo and is never morally permissible if the embryo is alive. Salpingectomy, on the other hand, represents a therapeutically indicated action on the body person of the mother, with the secondary effect that the life of the child will be lost, a foreseen but unintended effect. — Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education at NCBC