Common Abortion Myths and Facts

Myth #1:  Abortionis illegal in Canada.  

Fact:  In January 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada madethe decision that any law that restricted a woman's right to life, liberty, and security of person, as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 7, was unconstitutional.  This iscalled the Morgentaler Decision.  Since this ruling therehave been no laws regulating abortion or protecting rights to abortion in Canada.

Myth #2:  Women willuse abortion as their primary method of birth control.

Fact:  The decision to have an abortion is not, for mostwomen, a trivial matter.  This, combined with the reality that abortion is inaccessible to many women in Canada prevents it frombeing a chosen or viable primary method of birth control.  

Fact:   Access to contraceptionis a challenge for many women in Canada. Even among women who do have access, no birth control method is 100% effective,and all women experiencing pregnancy have the right to choose among the optionsof parenting, adoption and abortion.

Myth #3:  A womancan get an abortion at any point in her pregnancy.

Fact:  Physicians performing abortions are governed bymedical practice guidelines and legislation. Canadian Medical Association (CMA) policy permits abortion after 20 weeksonly under exceptional circumstances.  Lessthan 0.4% of abortions occur after this point.   

Fact:  Access to abortion is not available equally acrossCanada.  Thus a woman may have to wait toobtain an abortion, resulting in her being in the second term of her pregnancy.

Myth #4:  Abortionis dangerous and poses more risks to a woman's health than does pregnancy.

Fact: Abortion procedures do occasionallyhave complications, just as pregnancy and delivery are not without risks to thehealth of both the woman and the foetus. But current Canadian data (2004) reports no deaths as a result of surgicalabortion performed by an accredited physician. Abortion is safer than carrying apregnancy to term and giving birth.

Myth #5:  The drugs used in medical abortions are dangerous

Fact:  According to the Compendium of Pharmaceuticalsand Specialties (CPS), the most widely used source of drug information, the drugused in medical abortions (methotrexate) is safe and effective.  Methotrexate has been used in the treatment ofectopic pregnancy since the early 1980s.

Myth #6:  Complicationsfrom an abortion include haemorrhage, infection, perforation of the uterus, andlaceration of the cervix.

Fact:  Abortions performed by qualified physicians havea very low rate of serious complications. 

Myth #7:  Having anabortion will impact future pregnancies by leading to higher rates of miscarriage,ectopic pregnancy and placenta previa. 

Fact:  Women who have had an abortion experience thesepregnancy complications at rates similar to women who have never had an abortion.

Fact:  There is no evidence to suggest that there isany impact on a woman's ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term basedupon her therapeutic abortion history.

Inabilityto conceive or carry a pregnancy to term is based on many factors (i.e. sexuallytransmitted infections, genetics, environmental factors) and abortion is not a riskfactor for infertility or miscarriage.

Myth #8:  Abortioncauses breast cancer.

Fact:  In March of 2003 the National Cancer Institute(NCI) declared emphatically that recent studies consistently show no associationbetween induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.  Nevertheless, while no causal relationship betweenabortion and breast cancer has been scientifically established, anti-choice groupsattempt to dissuade women from choosing abortion by exploiting their fear of breastcancer.

Myth #9:  Abortioncauses depression and long-term psychological trauma.

Fact:  Since the early 1980s, groups opposed to abortionhave attempted to document the existence of "post-abortion syndrome" whichthey claim has traits similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.  The American Psychological Association (APA) conveneda panel of experts to review the data and they reported the studies with the mostscientifically rigorous research designs consistently found no "post-abortionsyndrome".  The American Medical Association(AMA) and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) concur that no such syndrome is scientificallyor medically recognized.

Myth #10:  Foetuses can feel pain.

Fact: Evidence regarding the capacityfor foetal pain is limited, but indicates that foetal perception of pain is unlikelybefore the third trimester.  

Myth #11:  Religiouspeople oppose abortion.

Fact:  The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice(RCRC) is a coalition of national Christian, Jewish, and other religious organizationsthat support a woman's right to decide when and whether to have a child.  RCRC educates the public about abortion and teachesthat it can be a religiously responsible decision.

Fact: Catholics For a Free Choice(CFFC) gives a voice to the many Catholics who respect a woman's right to make soundand moral decisions concerning her own body, and who support reproductive choice.

Myth #12:  Young womenrequire parental consent for abortion.

Fact:  Abortions for young women are legal, and can beprovided to girls under the age of 16 without parental consent, but with informedconsent of the patient.  At abortion clinics in British Columbia, extensive counselling takes place prior to, and following,the procedure.