EDIT: As it turns out, my assumption about why D&E sometimes includes a shot was wrong. See my correction, and the rest of part 2, here.
So basically, expanding on the “oh yeah, I got an anti-choice bullshit pamphlet regarding how abortion is ALL EBIL” and whatnot from yesterday. I apologize in advance for the length of this post (and the upcoming ones). It’s needed in order to fully debunk and critique the misinformation that is being spread in this publication and on anti-choice websites on the Internet and in real life. I will also note that this is going to be a really serious series of posts. I will refrain from joking about what is essentially a sensitive subject for most people. I hope that this is the only time I’ll have to make a series of posts touching on this subject.
Also, seriously, before you start saying “wait, I thought you like mocking things!” or “wait, I wasn’t expecting you to talk about ABORTION!”, I have to remind you of the the fact that you’re reading a blog called “The Feminist Skeptic”. Yes, I love to mock things. Some things (and people) deserve to be mocked and should be mocked. Anti-choice propaganda is not it. Anti-choice propaganda is highly misleading, intellectually bankrupt, and extremely harmful. When I started this blog, one of my intentions (besides giving me a platform to post funny stuff I write mocking MRAs and paranoid anti-science people like Mike Adams, and giving me a space to be as sarcastic as possible) is to combat misinformation, especially because misinformation can seriously harm and/or kill people.
And it is for this reason that will I blog on this topic.
The above is the image that opens up the pamphlet that I got yesterday. I was walking down to the school’s library when this was offered. i was going to say no, and then I noticed that part. Figuring that it was going to be some sort of contemporary and alternative medicine bullshit or whatever, I took it, and glanced at it.
The first thing that caught my eye was “Abortion Hurts”. Uh oh.
As it turns out, it was an anti-choice propaganda piece.
It still hurts to read it now, and it’s been sitting on the table for the past few hours. It was also discussed with my housemates (who all agreed that this pamphlet is misleading and dishonest and quite terrible), and I used it to teach myself how to scan things on my new scanner/printer that I bought for college stuff.
The problem is, my scanner’s not that large. The largest it can do is letter sized, and this thing is larger than that. It’s also in a PDF. I can upload it somewhere and link it if anyone’s curious, but for the time being, you’re going to have to take my word for it.
Actually, doing the research for this post, I found out that you can download the PDF for this publication here. Now you can verify that all of my quotes come directly from this publication and that I’m not making anything up.
I went outside and confronted the lady who was passing these things out, telling her that I knew that she was passing out anti-choice stuff and that from what I was able to take at a glance was hilariously wrong. She and I had a small discussion, where I pointed out that her argument was both misleading and full of appeals to emotion (and is totally incorrect on the scientific front). I was also running to class, so I wasn’t able to speak to her that long. However, she told me that I should take my time to read the whole pamphlet and then come back to her with a response.
So this is that response. I will take apart this pamphlet’s claims, one by one. So to those people who work at Humanlife, this post is hereby dedicated to you. Thank you for providing me with additional blog material.
Let’s get started.
The propaganda piece starts off with something called “Let’s Really Think About It”. it starts off with this sentence.
Do you consider yourself an open-minded person?
Open-minded. Huh. That’s not really something I’d associate with those who are against a woman’s right to choice.
Most people do. You take pride in your receptive attitude toward things like multiculturalism and religious freedom. You know being open-minded means investigating all sides of an issue, but are you prepared to apply that open-minded philosophy to everything?
You know, someone once said that we should keep an open mind, but not so far open that our brains all fall out. I wish I knew who to credit that statement to, but this idea’s been around for a long time. Whoever said it, it certainly applies here.
What about the issues surrounding abortion?
You’re familiar with terms like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” or “a woman’s right”. Have you investigated what this rhetoric actually means?
Actually, I do know what it means. After all, I’m a strong believer of the “words have meanings” camp. It is in my sincere opinion that those who are anti-choice are also, for the most part, anti-life, at least when it comes to those already born. For this reason, I don’t use the term “pro-life” to refer to those against the right to choose, because I feel that it’s really a misnomer and highly misleading. I’ll explain why later.
If you really are open-minded, you want to go beyond the rhetoric and discover what “perforation of the uterus” actually means. You make it your business to know that teens are ten times more likely to commit suicide after having an abortion. You won’t let things stay in the dark—such as the increased risk of miscarriages, premature births, and infertility after abortion. You investigate the links between abortion and breast cancer.You are willing to look at the results of a vacuum aspiration abortion—even though it makes you sick—because it’s the truth. (We won’t show you pictures of abortions in this publication, but we will be blunt in our descriptions.)
Oy vey. So much misinformation in that one paragraph.
(For the record, they might not have put graphic pictures of aborted fetuses in this publication, but they were holding up a picture of a third trimester aborted fetus without any context. They also stated that abortion is legal for all months, without mentioning the fact that second and third trimester abortions are heavily restricted by law. Without this fact, people are easily misled into thinking that women would get pregnant, incubate the fetus for nine months, and then abort the fetus shortly before birth for LULZ. This is both incredibly dishonest and extremely insulting to the women who have to have second and third trimester abortions due to serious medical conditions or the like. Because I’m not an asshole, I will not be putting up shock images of aborted fetuses either. I find the practice of parading around photos of aborted fetuses tasteless and would not resort to appealing to one’s emotions in order to justify my position.)
We’ll start with some basic facts.
First off, the majority of abortions (62.8% according to CDC data in 2008) occur at or before week eight, and most abortions (91.4% according to CDC data in 2008) are preformed by the time thirteen weeks comes around. (Source, search for “gestational age”.) The further along the gestational age, the lower the percentage of abortions.
There are two ways to get an abortion, depending on your gestational age: medicated and surgical.
Medicated abortions are abortions induced by taking a series of pills. This type of abortion is not invasive and only takes three steps (taking the abortion pill that blocks progesterone, taking a pill to induce the uterus to contract, and follow up two weeks later). These are done for those pregnancies with a gestational age of 9 weeks or less, and account for 14.6% of abortions in 2008 (see the CDC study link).
Surgical abortions are a bit more complicated, but there are three main methods: dilation and curettage (D&C), vacuum aspiration (also known as aspiration abortion), and dilation and evacuation (D&E). D&C was the main method ever since the 19th century and involved dilating the cervix and using a curette (a curved scalpel thing) to scrape the uterine wall; however, this is being phased out as safer methods of abortion have been invented, including medicated abortions and vacuum aspiration. Vacuum aspiration is simply one dilating the cervix and using suction to abort a pregnancy. D&E uses a combination of suction and surgical instruments, and sometimes a shot to ensure fetal death prior to the procedure (I presume this is to ensure that the fetus does not suffer unnecessarily during the procedure, although please don’t quote me on this). Vacuum aspiration is used up to sixteen weeks after a woman’s last period, while D&E is normally preformed after sixteen weeks.
Needless to say, whether a person is getting a medicated or a surgical abortion, both types of procedures are safe and effective. In fact, it is one of the safest procedures, with only 0.5% chance of major complications. Furthermore, studies have shown that first-trimester abortions (which, remember, is the vast majority of abortions) do not hold long term risk for infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, birth defects, or preterm delivery (or low birth rate for that matter). There is no association between abortion and breast cancer. Abortion does not pose any risk to a woman’s mental health. And the majority of women who get abortions wish that they had gotten the abortion earlier. (Source: search “safety of abortion” for the statistics, studies are linked.)
The medical risks of abortion rise with longer gestational periods prior to abortion. Teens and the poor are hence more likely to face more risks, simply because of delays in finding funds in order to finance an abortion. Abortion is not covered under Medicaid by law save for cases of incest/rape or threat to the mother’s life, nor do any federal funds go towards abortion. This is unfortunate, as this causes women who also happen to be poor to face unnecessary risk in seeking an abortion. These women also make up the vast majority of women who seek abortions (42% of abortions are obtained by women with income levels below 100% of the federal poverty line, 27% are obtained by women with income levels 100-199% above the federal poverty line. Search “who has abortions?” in the Guttmacher Institute link).
The most common emotional abortion post abortion is relief, not regret. While there are certainty a number of people who will wish that the circumstances were different or that they were able to avoid getting pregnant in the first place (not to mention those who get a sense of loss/grief), this can be alleviated with proper post-abortion care and counseling as well as supportive friends and family. Most of the women who face poor post-abortion adjustment did not get the support they needed and/or were shamed by those people who are important to them in their lives (who often are the same people of the anti-choice camp).
Safe to say, those who support an anti-choice platform are woefully misinformed, if not outright ignoring statistics and reality.
The next page of the publication gives two testimonials of women who regret their abortions. I do not deny that such women exist, nor do I wish to make light of their suffering. In fact, I wish them the best. However, it must be said that the only reason their stories are included in this publication is to induce an emotional response to the reader, which is yet another attempt to appeal to emotion. The publication conveniently ignores the millions of women who do not regret their abortions and who have been able to move on with their lives, in order to make abortion seem to be more sinister and more terrible than it actually is.
On the following page, we have a description on the gestation process, focusing on what the fetus can do during each month of pregnancy in order to guilt anyone who happens to believe that a women should have the right to choose. There are pictures of the fetus from each of these months, carefully selected in order to further elicit an emotional response from the reader.
This page starts off with a quote from Ward Kischer:
Every human embryologist in the world knows that the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization. It is not belief. It is scientific fact.
I need to clarify something. No one on the pro-choice side has ever claimed that a zygote/embryo/fetus is not alive. It very much is living. However, even though the zygote/embryo/fetus is living, it does not necessarily mean that it is a person, nor does it mean that it can live independently outside of the womb, have its own thoughts, make decisions, reproduce, learn, etc.—things that we associate with actual living human beings, people like you and me.
This quote, a favorite of the anti-choice camp, relies on the dual definition of the word “life” in order for it to mean what they want it to mean. This is akin to creationists relying on the dual definition of the word “theory” in order to denounce and dismiss the theory of evolution. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s misleading.
There is absolutely no reason why they included anything beyond the 13th week/first trimester, given the statistics cited above. I am forced to conclude that this is yet another dishonest attempt to imply that there are women who choose to abort their third trimester pregnancies for fun.
The following page has two parts: “This is What Abortion Is” and “What About Birth Control?”. Here, you can see them equating emergency contraception (Plan B) with the abortion pill, and trying to justify their adding them to the “medical” abortion side using some mental gymnastics. They also put “unprotected sex” in scare quotes. I don’t know if this is them trying to ignore rape victims who often get Plan B after they present in hospital or whether they’re trying to imply that condoms have never broken or what.
They also put in a rather graphic description of an abortion method which was made illegal in 2003 (despite the fact that it was barely used): dilation and extraction (D&X, also known as the partial birth abortion), and a misleading description of D&E. I will not quote any of it here, because it is quite disturbing and because I find it tasteless. They only mention aspiration abortion in the context of an D&C, and note “bleeding is usually profuse” (uh, duh?). The only reason that I could think of on why they would put such graphic descriptions (and to use loaded terms such as “baby” and to describe procedures that are at the moment illegal and/or outdated) is to, again, induce an emotional response. I’m not an abortion doctor, so I don’t know if the descriptions are accurate or not either. But I’m pretty sure it’s at least slightly misleading.
“What About Birth Control” basically paints birth control pills as abortion pills because according to them, the pills cause “thinning the lining of the uterus”. Um, yeah, about that. Most women take combination pills (estrogen and progesterone) Birth control pills do two things only: prevent ovulation and thicken the mucus in the vaginal opening. It does not change the uterine lining. If you take the pill as directed, less than 1% will get pregnant. If you don’t take them as directed, it goes up to around 9%.
I cannot stress this enough. Hormonal birth control does NOT induce abortion. To state as much is misleading and intellectually dishonest.
Next two pages: “The Business of Abortion”. Inside are articles, written by those on the anti-choice camp, comparing abortion to genocide, claiming that abortion is really just population control, claiming that overpopulation is a myth, and and suggesting that people who are pro-choice are supporters of eugenics.
Cue the face on keyboard.
I’ll be debunking this in the next post. Honestly, the conspiracy theories deserve their own post, otherwise this would be over 10k words long. This is already pushing around 2.7k.
Stay tuned while I prep myself to actually read the articles.