Myths vs Fact: Abortion

Myths

  • Anti-abortion activists claim that having an abortion increases the risk of developing breast cancer and endangers future childbearing.
  • They claim that women who have abortions without complications are more likely to have difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy, develop ectopic pregnancies, which are pregnancies outside of the uterus (commonly in one of the fallopian tubes), deliver stillborn babies, or become sterile.

Facts

  • However, these claims have been refuted by a significant body of medical research.
  • In February 2003, a panel of experts convened by the National Cancer Institute to evaluate the scientific data concluded that studies have clearly established that induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. Furthermore, comprehensive reviews of the data have concluded that a vacuum aspiration procedure in the first trimester poses virtually no risk to future reproductive health

Myths

  • Most women who will carry out abortions will kill a fully grown foetus.
  • Abortions will result in serious health complications.

Facts

  • In countries with liberalized abortion laws, it’s been reported that serious complications arising from aspiration abortions provided before 13 weeks are quite unusual.
  • About 88% of the women who obtain abortions are less than 13 weeks pregnant
  • Of these women, 97% report no complications; 2.5% have minor complications that can be handled at the medical office or abortion facility; and less than 0.5% have more serious complications that require some additional surgical procedure and/or hospitalization.
  • Medical abortions have an excellent safety profile, with serious complications occurring in less than 0.5% of cases.

The Namibian Context

  • Unwanted pregnancies have caused a soaring number of baby dumping cases in Namibia, but the company responsible for Windhoek’s water and sewerage system reported finding an average of 13 baby bodies a month in 2008.

Myths

  • Abortions hurt the foetus

Facts

  • The wider agreement within the field of neuroscience is that a foetus develops the ability to feel pain after 20 weeks within the third trimester of pregnancy

Myths

  • Women use abortion instead of contraception

Facts

  • Abortion is safe and used by women when the use of contraception fails or other factors that make using contraception difficult.
  • The majority of women experiencing unplanned pregnancy are using some form of contraception, yet we know that: No form of contraception is 100% effective.
  • Including sterilisation, all ‘modern’ methods of contraception have some associated risks/ side effects
  • Finding suitable contraception is very difficult for some women
  • Sexual behaviour is not always consensual or predictable
  • Violence/abuse/control in relationships can make it difficult for women to use/access contraception

The Namibian Context

  • In addition to the reasons listed above the access to education on sexual reproduction and contraceptives are very limited in remote areas within Namibia

Myths

  • Abortion causes emotional/ mental harm

Facts

  • Unplanned pregnancy does cause emotional distress for some women, however research shows that for most women abortion causes no long lasting psychological consequences.
  • Women who make their own clear decision about abortion generally find it a health enhancing experience.
  • Having an abortion is not inherently traumatic; however, every step of the process to accessing abortion services can be made traumatic by judgemental or undermining treatment by others.
  • Studies do highlight risk factors, which can increase the likelihood of a woman experiencing longer lasting emotional distress:
    a. Women who did not make their own decision
    b. Women who have been or felt coerced/pressured into having an abortion
    c. Women who hold strong cultural or religious beliefs that abortion is wrong
    d. Women who have a history of severe diagnosed mental health conditions
  • A consistent opinion has emerged within the medical profession that the psychological effects of abortion are benign or positive and that serious adverse effects are rare. No reputable articles conclude there is any evidence to support the term nor condition of ʻPost Abortion Syndrome.

The Namibian Context

  • While those who do not go through with illegal abortions do not openly report themselves, mental health call centres such as Lifeline and Childline have reported several calls from young women with anxiety and depression associated with unwanted pregnancies

Myths

  • All religious groups oppose a woman’s right to choose

Facts

  • There is no one clear position or understanding about abortion and religion. Many religions and religious groups do not support a woman’s right to be in control of her body (are opposed to contraception and abortion), however a number do support a woman’s right to make decisions about her body including the use of contraception and abortion

The Namibian Context

  • The Namibian Constitution promises freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and belief to every person in Namibia[Article 10]. This means that society as a whole cannot be forced to accept the views of any particular religion. The right to make decisions on matters of conscience is a fundamental part of what to means to be human.

Myths

  • Abortion rates in Namibia are low because it is illegal

Facts

  • In an assessment by the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2006, 20% of obstetric complications were attributed to abortions.
  • Studies suggest that maternal deaths in Namibia range from 12 to 16%, this is of those who were recorded after seeking medical attention and does not capture all cases.

Myths

  • Abortion is Illegal In Namibia

Facts

  • A woman may also request an abortion when there is a serious risk that the child will have a physical or mental defect which will lead to an irreparable handicap in life and when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. These conditions are articulated in the Namibian Abortion and Sterilisation Act 2 of 19756

Referrences

  • https://prochoice.org/wp-content/uploads/safety_of_abortion.pdf
  • https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/201429
  • https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/1eee3180449104e2870d97961f150c7f/FINAL+Myths%26Facts+2018.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-1eee3180449104e2870d97961f150c7f-n5icohS
  • https://www.heard.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/namibia-country-factsheet- abortion-2016.pdf
  • https://www.lac.org.na/projects/grap/Pdf/moralityabortion97.pdf
  • https://www.unicef.org/about/annualreport/files/Namibia_2017_COAR.pdf.pdf
  • School Drop-Out and Out of School Children: A National Review. (2015). UNICEF.
  • Bernstein,A and Jones,K. (2019). “The Economic Effects of Abortion Access: A Review of the Evidence,” Institute for Women’s Policy Resesarch.
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Causes

  • The wider agreement within the field of neuroscience is that a foetus develops the ability to feel pain after 20 weeks within the third trimester of pregnancy
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