Roe versus Wade has been overturned! But what does this mean for America’s women and their children? How do we sort out fact from fiction and myth from reality when it comes to this contentious subject? Abortion is one of the most polarising issues debated today but it is also one of the most misunderstood.
Not only did Roe make legal abortion a national issue, but it also took it out of the hands of American voters for nearly 50 years! At that time, the court decided that although neither a right to an abortion nor a right to privacy, were mentioned in the constitution, it did imply a right to privacy, and that this should be extended to include abortion - as Justice Blackmun said in the Roe opinion - “effectively through all 9 months of pregnancy”!
This ruling was highly contentious at the time and was based on precedent from a previous case in the 60’s about contraception, a very strained reading of the constitution and a false reading of American history. Both liberal and conservative legal scholars alike, have for decades criticised the way Roe was decided, even if they agreed with the outcome. The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (herself a staunch supporter of abortion) said this: “Roe ventured too far in the change it ordered and presented an incomplete justification for its action”.
In this latest ruling of the Supreme Court overturning Roe, Justice Alito says this: “Until the latter part of the 20th century there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Zero. None. No State constitutional provision had recognised such a right. Until a few years before Roe was handed down, no federal or state court had recognised such a right. Nor had any scholarly treatise of which we are aware.” Alito also says: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences...It’s time to heed the constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. The permissibility of abortion and the limitations upon it are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting. That is what the constitution and the rule of law demand.”
This is the outcome of overturning Roe. Abortion has not been made illegal anywhere in the US by the Supreme Court. What the court has done, is hand the power to legislate on abortion, back to the States, just as it was before 1973. This means that some states will likely further liberalise their abortion laws and yes, some will outlaw abortion and protect the lives of unborn children. 13 States have trigger laws already in place which mean that abortion will be outlawed in almost all cases within the next month or so. It is expected that between 23 and 26 states in total will pass abortion restrictions. About half of the United States of America, is about to ban abortion in many cases!
Many of you may have heard some disturbing stories about what this might mean for women living in these States. What are the consequences? Is abortion good or bad for women and children? This article aims to clear up some common misconceptions and provide you with accurate information, you may not have heard before.
Will women be denied lifesaving care or criminalised for having a miscarriage?
Care for women who find themselves in genuinely life-threatening situations, will not be affected. Miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies will be treated in the same way they always have, and women will not face prosecution in any of these situations. No pro-lifer would ever advocate for allowing both mother and child to die when it is possible to intervene and save one. All the states that have trigger laws in place, have provisions to save the life of the mother and administer treatment in these situations. They are in the public domain and can be checked independently.
Making abortion illegal won’t stop abortions, it will just stop “safe” abortions!
Nobody in the pro-life movement wants to see women harmed any more than we want to see children harmed. And it’s worth saying that there is no such thing as a safe abortion, one person always dies. But many of the arguments often presented around illegal abortions are at best deeply flawed and often just completely false!
Firstly, we know that restricting abortion reduces the number of abortions that take place, both legal and illegal. This has not only been observed in the US, where abortion restrictions have been applied, but across the world as well. Even within the British Isles, we have seen evidence of this within the last couple of years. In trying to safeguard protections for the unborn, the pro-life campaign in Northern Ireland (Both Lives Matter), made the claim that 100,000 people are alive today in Northern Ireland, because of the country’s abortion laws. This claim was contested and taken to the Advertising Standards Agency, who were forced to conclude that the claim was accurate! In the UK, abortions have gone up tenfold, since the Abortion Act of 1967.
A 2012 study in Chile (where abortion was outlawed in 1989), found that not only did the abortion laws there save children’s lives, but they also improved women’s health. Like laws on alcohol and tobacco, the abortion laws acted to dissuade. Maternal mortality rates in Chile continued to improve after abortion was banned. The same is true for other countries that outlawed abortion in the 90’s like Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador (which does have higher than average rates of illegal abortion). Surely, we would expect to see more pregnant women and new mothers dying, if abortions were still happening at the same rate, only unsafely in dangerous back alleys? South Africa, which legalised abortion in the 90’s, saw maternal mortality rates worsen after it did so.
If the data doesn’t support the idea that thousands of women will end up dying from illegal abortions, why is this such a commonly held view? This is where the misinformation comes in! In the years leading up to Roe, the co-founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), were instrumental in campaigning for legal abortion in the US. One of these co-founders was an OBGYN named Bernard Nathanson who himself performed tens of thousands of abortions. Nathanson later turned pro-life advocate and admitted the following:
“We aroused enough sympathy to sell our programme of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the US. The actual figure was around 100 000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1 million. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200 to 250 annually. The figure constantly fed to the media was 10 000.”
Furthermore, in 1960, more than a decade before Roe made abortion legal, the then Medical Director of Planned Parenthood, Mary Calderone, made this statement. “Abortion is no longer a dangerous procedure, in 1957 there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind, legal or illegal. 90% of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians.”
More women died from legal abortion in the year Roe was ruled, than died the previous year from illegal abortion. Women are still dying from legal abortion today.
No-one ever talks about the negative effects abortion can have on women’s health and the health implications for subsequent babies.
Quite apart from the immediate risks associated with the abortion procedure (which can include maternal death), abortion is linked to many other long term health concerns. Did you know that abortion is linked to breast cancer? This may surprise you; many people have never even heard of this before. However, of 76 studies examining potential links between abortion and the risk for breast cancer, 61 of them demonstrated a positive link with 41 of those being statistically significant! For example, an analysis published in 2013 of 36 studies in China, concluded that one abortion increased the risk for breast cancer by 44%, two abortions by 76% and three abortions by 89%! This increased risk is due to the way oestrogen changes as pregnancy progresses, known as the ABC link.
At least 49 studies have demonstrated a statistically significant increase in premature births or low birth weight, for babies born after a prior induced abortion. Prematurity and low birth weight are among the biggest risk factors for infant mortality or disabilities (such as cerebral palsy), as well as for behavioural problems. In the United States, the Department for Health and Human Services, conducted a 20-year study on ectopic pregnancy rates, which indicated a more that 500% increase in ectopic pregnancies since abortion was legalised. In the UK, there are around 15 000 ectopic pregnancies per year and in rare cases these can lead to maternal death. Studies indicate that the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy is twice as high for women who have had one abortion and up to 4 times as high for women with 2 or more previous abortions. Ectopic pregnancies can also influence future fertility. Some studies have indicated there may be links between surgical abortions and future increased risk of miscarriage.
Again, in the UK, we have observed the devastating effects of DIY home abortions in recent times. Abortion pills by post became the law of the land during the Covid19 pandemic and look set to stay. Did you know that every month for the last year and a half, about 500 women have visited a hospital for treatment due complications arising from home abortion? Around half of these women have required surgical interventions. We have also seen maternal death occur from home abortion in this country.
Won’t women’s mental health suffer if they are denied an abortion?
This has been a hotly debated topic for decades. Abortion advocates have consistently underplayed or denied any adverse psychological impacts of abortion. Any negative outcomes for a woman following an abortion (which may not arise until years after the procedure), are attributed to other factors such as: existing mental health problems, lack of support and other life & social issues.
However, the data from some of the most comprehensive, peer reviewed studies from around the world, suggests otherwise! The largest ever meta-analysis, consisting of 22 studies covering more than 800 000 women, was published in The British journal of Psychiatry. This concluded that: “women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems”. This same study indicated a 156% increased risk for suicide!
Almost all (90% +) abortions in the UK are performed because of a risk to the woman’s mental health. Meaning that her mental health would allegedly be more adversely affected by continuing with the pregnancy than by a termination.
Not only does this analysis prove this premise to be false, but within the last 10 years both the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, have both published reviews or guidelines that state (respectively):
“The rates of mental health problems for women with an unwanted pregnancy, were the same, whether they had an abortion or gave birth.”
“Women with an unintended pregnancy should be informed that the evidence suggests that they are no more or less likely to suffer adverse psychological sequelae whether they have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy and have the baby”.
Both statements are out of step with the evidence which indicates women are MORE likely to suffer mental health problems after an abortion. But it’s interesting that both of these institutions have at least had to admit on record that women are not more likely to suffer psychological harm, if they continue with an unwanted pregnancy.
Several studies show that some women (often more than half) are coerced or pressured into an abortion by a partner, parents, friends or an employer.
There are many charities and non-profit organisations dedicated to helping women with post abortive trauma and regret, including our own: PASE (Post Abortive Support for Everyone). Just look up “I regret my abortion” on Facebook and you will see thousands of women supporting each other through pain and suffering.
If women cannot have abortions the adoption and foster care systems will be flooded with unwanted children
No-one wants to see children grow up in care or face abuse and neglect. Every case like this is a tragedy and we should all do more to support these children and their mothers. However, once again we come to an issue where the truth has been misconstrued.
The children who are in “the system” both in the US and the UK, are children who weren’t aborted, despite abortion being widely available! These are (or at least were at the time of their birth) largely “wanted” children. While there is a lack of foster parents on both sides of the pond (and this is something we should certainly seek to rectify), only a small percentage of children in care are eligible for adoption; the aim is always to re-unite children with their biological families whenever possible.
When it comes to adopting babies, there are between 1 and 2 million couples in the US on the adoption register at any given time. That equates to about 36 couples for every baby that comes up for adoption. The waiting list is extremely long! Only about 15% of the 135 000 adoptions that currently take place in the US annually, are voluntarily relinquished American babies. America aborts about 900 000 babies every year. Even if 100% of the babies aborted last year in the US were voluntarily given up for adoption as infants, there would still be enough couples on the register to adopt them all!
However, we know from the recent (very pro-choice) Turnaway study, that it is extremely unlikely that all or even most of these babies would end up in the care system. This study found that 5 years after having been denied an abortion (due to gestation, local restrictions etc), 96% of women no longer wished they could have had the abortion in the first place. By far, the majority of these women chose to parent.
What about exceptions for rape?
Some States that choose to restrict abortion might include exceptions in cases of rape and some may not. Whatever they decide, we should all be united in condemning all forms of assault against an innocent party. Women who have suffered assault need our love, understanding, compassion and as much practical support as we can provide. However, ending the life of an innocent human being is not going to erase the trauma of rape. In cases where we have a pregnancy resulting from rape, we have two innocent victims to care for. Although some women do find it too difficult to parent a child conceived in rape and understandably choose the route of adoption, many more women than not bravely choose to give birth to their babies. Many of these women parent their children and testify that their babies helped them to heal.
Human life is always valuable
From the moment of fertilisation, the science of embryology tells us that a new, genetically distinct, biologically living, whole human being comes into existence. Pre-born babies at any age, look and act exactly how they are supposed to look and act at that point in their life. Just as new-borns do and toddlers and pre-schoolers and teenagers and adults!
We know that smaller, less developed and more dependant human beings are not less valuable than larger, more developed and less dependant human beings. We don’t apply this anywhere else on the human spectrum! A 3-month-old is not less valuable than a 2-year-old. We also know that it would be wrong to kill a 3-month-old baby because it was poor, unwanted, disabled or because its mother is young. We don’t kill 3-month-old babies whose fathers have committed violent acts against their mothers.
We don’t allow parents to legally kill 3-month-old babies, even if they change their minds and no longer wish to put their bodies to work and care for the child. They must look after the child and not allow it to come to harm or otherwise neglect it, until such a time as arrangements can be made for someone else to come and look after it, whether that is hours, days or even weeks. Dependency does not negate humanity. Human rights should belong equally to every member of the human family. Old and young, strong and weak, dependent or not.
We rejoice for the hundreds of thousands of lives that will be saved by the overturning of Roe and Casey. We are thankful for the States in America that are committed to supporting both mothers and their babies. Please join us in raising awareness of the humanity and value of the unborn so that together, we can make abortion unthinkable.