With the legal landscape around abortion in flux, the conversation surrounding reproductive rights has been reignited. But not everything out there is necessarily—excuse our French—true. So, we chatted with Dr. Stephanie Hack, M.D., OBGYN and host of Lady Parts Doctor Podcast to debunk a few of the most commonly believed abortion myths that are just plain wrong. Here, five abortion myths that just don’t stand up to the facts.
Myth 1: Plan B and abortion pills are the same thing
False: Emergency contraception, such as Plan B or Ella (aka the morning-after pill), do not terminate a pregnancy if fertilization has already occurred. Instead, as Dr. Hack explains, Plan B and the like work by delaying or preventing the mature egg being released from the ovary (ovulation). This type of emergency contraception is different from abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, which, in contrast, do terminate pregnancy.
Why does it matter? Medically, emergency contraception is not abortion. However, with the recent Supreme Court Dobbs ruling, many fear legislators will misapply abortion bans to roll back rights to use contraception.
Myth 2: Self-managed abortion is the same back-alley "hanger" abortions
False: Abortion via oral medication is performed by taking two different medications—mifepristone and misoprostol—in sequential order. “It is a safe, non-invasive procedure,” says Dr. Hack.
Why does it matter? For years, violent imagery of back-alley, wire-hanger abortions has been associated with abortion bans. While there is truth to the deadly effects of abortion bans, in the last 20 years, FDA-approved abortion pills have become available in all 50 states as a safe, effective and affordable option for self-managed abortion.
Myth 3: Abortion causes depression
False: According to the Guttmacher Institute, there is no reputable scientific body of evidence that proves that abortion is any more dangerous to a pregnant person’s long-term mental health than delivering, parenting or placing a child for adoption they did not want to have. Says Dr. Hacks: “People may experience grief, guilt, or depression after terminating a pregnancy. They may also experience these same emotions during and after a pregnancy carried to term, or after experiencing a pregnancy loss.” Conversely, as reported by FiveThirtyEight, “Carrying an unplanned pregnancy involves shouldering increased risks of depression, preterm birth, lower birth weight and other complications.”
Why does it matter? Claiming that abortion leads to depression creates a black and white binary that wholly discounts that, like any other human experience, individuals will experience things differently. While one person might feel elated and relieved following their abortion, another might feel grief or guilt. This type of false science impedes people from seeking the help they may need if they do experience mental health issues following an abortion.
Myth 4: Abortion affects fertility
False: Abortions performed safely are unlikely to affect your fertility, says Dr. Hack.
Why does it matter? This is another example of misinformation that could affect someone’s decision-making.
Myth 5: Abortion has a greater risk of death than being pregnant
False: “Pregnancy presents a greater risk to a person's health than abortion,” shares Dr. Hack. FiveThirtyEight reports, “Unplanned pregnancies are already more likely to end in the death of the mother.”
Why does it matter? A 2020 report from the CDC showed U.S. maternal mortality rates to be shockingly high. Compounded with the reversal of Roe, these numbers will only increase. One study, Dr. Hack shared with us, estimates an increase of 21 percent in maternal mortality in the event of a total abortion ban, with an increase of up to 33 percent in non-Hispanic Black women/birthing parents. There is no way around it: Abortion bans disproportionately impact Black birthing people.