Four Abortion Myths Dispelled

Dr. Suzanne Poppema

Over the years, I've heard many myths about abortion that are as pervasive as they are false. Four myths in particular never seem to go away, though any doctor who provides abortions can tell you they just aren't true.

For many years, I was an abortion provider. I owned and ran a clinic near Seattle, Washington, where I provided a range of reproductive healthcare-including abortions-to women, and I've remained active in organizations that support abortion providers across the United States. Over the years, I've heard many myths about abortion that are as pervasive as they are false. Four myths in particular never seem to go away, though any doctor who provides abortions can tell you they just aren't true.

Myth No. 1: Women need waiting periods so they can be sure they really want an abortion.

As if women haven't been agonizing about what they're going to do from the moment they missed their period! As if a woman who happens to be on her way to the grocery store drives past an abortion clinic and says to herself, "Hmm, I think I'll just pop over there and have one!" When a woman visits an abortion clinic, she has already thought long and hard about her decision. Mandatory delays just make it harder for a woman to get an abortion, especially if she needs to take two days off work for an initial appointment and then her procedure.

Myth No. 2: Women use abortion as a method of birth control.

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I hear this one so frequently and yet in decades of providing abortion services to more than 30,000 women, I met only two women who used abortion as a birth control method. And they were absolutely right to do so. These two women experienced blood clots while on birth control pills, ectopic pregnancies with the IUD, and they were allergic to latex condoms and spermicide. Using the rhythm method with abortion as backup was the best method for them. I've never met a woman who cavalierly chose abortion as her method of birth control.

Myth No. 3: One abortion is okay, but three or four?

No woman thinks having an abortion is so much fun that she gets pregnant just to have one. The difference between the women who have unintended pregnancies and those who don't is pure luck-not age, education, social status, or intelligence. When women told me they were so ashamed of returning to my clinic for another abortion, I would ask them if they got pregnant on purpose just to have an abortion. It made them laugh, but really, that's the only reason for a woman to feel guilty. Abortion providers do our best to offer a very respectful and comfortable abortion, but they're not anyone's idea of fun.

Myth No. 4: Only irresponsible women need abortions.

We all behave irresponsibly at times. Have you ever driven without a seatbelt on, even for a short distance? Driven after drinking alcohol-even just a little? Smoked a cigarette? Not taken all of the antibiotics your doctor prescribed? These are all irresponsible behaviors, yet most of us have been guilty of at least one. Having unprotected sex is irresponsible, too, but a woman who decides that she is not prepared to be a good mother is behaving responsibly.

Until we have a foolproof, easy-to-use form of birth control-in my opinion, that would be a pill, paid for by insurance, taken only once a year, with absolutely no side effects or adverse reactions, and absolutely no failures — then we cannot condemn women for having unintended pregnancies

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