Misconceptions about Abortion common in Ireland

This article refutes some common misconceptions about abortion. It is produced by a member of the Dublin Abortion Rights Group, but does not represent all policies of DARG. It is intended as a broad tool for activists when discussing the issue of abortion

Human life begins at conception

There is no scientific consensus as to when human life begins. It is a matter of philosophic opinion or religious belief. Human life is a continuum---sperm and eggs are also alive, and represent potential human beings, but virtually all sperm and eggs are wasted. Also, two-thirds of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature.

Abortion is the murder of a person

Person-hood at conception is a religious belief, not a provable biological fact. Religious communities have differing ideas on the definition of "person" or when abortion is morally justified.

Abortion is morally wrong

Most people reject the position that abortion is always wrong. In fact, abortion often has positive benefits for women's lives and health.

Many people believe that bringing an unwanted child into the world is wrong, and that forcing a woman to have a child against her will is morally wrong.

Many who are opposed to abortion for religious or moral reasons believe that it is wrong to impose their values by civil law on everyone.

People who are philosophically opposed to abortion often change their views when a close relative has a crisis pregnancy.

The foetus should have rights under the law and the Irish constitution

The 1983 'Pro-life' amendment stated that the rights of a woman and that of the unborn were 'equal'. The Supreme Court 'X case' judgement in 1992 decided that the right to life of the woman was paramount.

If foetal rights were enshrined in law, women's bodies, rights, health and lives would be subordinated to the protection of embryos.

The legal consequences of the actual application of such a law would be catastrophic for women.

Abortion should not be legal and must be stopped.

Laws have never stopped abortion, but only made it unsafe for women. Abortion is a universal practice that has been with us since the beginning of time, whether legal or illegal.

Most Irish people believe that abortion should be illegal. The majority rules in a democracy.

Opinion polls constantly show the differing views people have about abortion and the circumstances when they believe it should be available. Only about 20% of Irish people believe that abortion should be banned in all circumstances.

Human rights are guaranteed for everyone and are not subject to the whim of the electorate. Even if only a minority believed in freedom of choice, that right should be protected from the tyranny of the majority.

The right of the unborn to live supercedes any right of a woman to "control her own body."

Margaret Sanger said, "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body." This concept is fundamental for women. Bearing a child alters a woman's life more than anything else. Other women's rights are hollow if women are forced to be mothers. Being born is a gift, not a right. People don't ask to be born, and some even wish they weren't.

If a woman has sex, she has to pay the consequences. Too many women have abortions for their own convenience or on "whim."

This vindictive, self-righteous attitude stems from a belief that sex is bad and must be punished. Motherhood should never be punishment for having sex. Forcing a child to be born to punish its mother is the ultimate in child abuse. Anti-abortionists trivialise motherhood and childbirth by dismissing pregnancy as a mere inconvenience. They ignore or belittle the needs of the woman and the conflict she endures in making her decision. Guilt is inflicted when compassion is needed.

Opposition to abortion is common in all segments of society. It is not a campaign by religious groups trying to foist their beliefs on everyone else.

The Catholic Church and the "religious right" are the backbone of the anti-abortion movement. Pro-choice religious people see anti-abortion laws as a violation of religious liberty. Abortion is a religious issue, because the stated basis of opposition to abortion is the theological question of when person-hood begins. Also, religious doctrines that dictate female subservience and a childbearing role for women are the real hidden agenda of opposition to abortion.

Many women are coerced into having abortions. Abortion clinics push women to have abortions, and don't inform women about alternatives to abortion.

Partners, parents, or friends may sometimes urge a woman to have an abortion, even if she is unsure or would prefer to have the baby. Therefore, it is important that women have access to compassionate non-directive counselling - to make sure the woman's own concerns and needs are dealt with. Non-directive counselling provides women with full information on alternatives to abortion. If women seem ambivalent about abortion, or feel pressured by others, counsellors will encourage them to take more time to think about their decision.

Abortion is dangerous and medically risky. It is not as safe as natural pregnancy. Abortion increases the risk of miscarriage in future pregnancies, and infertility.

The risk of dying from childbirth is about 13 times that for early abortion, and the overall abortion complication rate is extremely low, about 25 times lower than for childbirth. First-trimester abortion has become one of the safest and simplest medical procedures of all, one that can be quickly and routinely performed.

Having an abortion will not adversely affect a woman's future reproduction. The ban on abortion in Ireland means that many women are afraid to seek a post-abortion medical check-up, which is important to prevent infections, etc.

Abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

This is a common argument from anti-abortion groups.

Scientific studies show there is no link between abortion and higher rates of breast cancer. This is the conclusion of major health organisations in North America, including the Canadian Cancer Society.

There are too many late abortions. Women shouldn't wait so long.

Irish woman have later abortions because they must travel to Britain, make arrangements to be away for 2-3 days and must collect the money to pay for the termination in a private clinic.

In countries where abortion is legal and easily accessible virtually all terminations are done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and only a few after 16 weeks. Most late abortions are done for health reasons.

The anti-abortion movement is not opposed to contraception.

The same people who oppose legal abortion often oppose contraception as well. This position is irresponsible and hypocritical. These groups have campaigned against legal reforms to make contraception more freely available. They also oppose sex education and school programmes to prevent child sexual abuse.

Making contraceptives and abortion available only encourages teenagers to have sex.

Teenage sex has complex societal causes. Studies have shown that where birth control, abortion, and comprehensive sex education are readily available (such as in the Netherlands), teenagers have less sex, not more, and abortion rates go down. Further, abstinence-based sex-education programmes in schools don't stop many teenagers from having sex; instead, they increase the likelihood of unsafe sex.

Reality dictates that birth control and abortion be available to help prevent teenagers from becoming parents.

Adoption is a better alternative to abortion.

A woman should be able to decide for herself. Some women do choose adoption, but many more choose single parenthood.

Adoption is a difficult route for anyone to take, and it is not fair to demand that women carry a pregnancy for 9 months and then give away a baby. Many women feel they could not do this and no one has the right to force a woman to do so.

For a married woman, giving a baby up for adoption is virtually impossible legally.

The revelations in recent years about the abuse of children in institutions and the 'export' of unwanted babies to America in the past has turned many people against adoption.

Abortion is being used as a method of population control in underdeveloped nations.

Virtually all women would rather rely on contraception than abortion, but in some countries, contraception is expensive or unavailable and women are forced to resort to abortion. Although abortion is a legitimate way to allow individuals to limit their childbearing voluntarily when a country's resources cannot support its population, pro-choice people oppose forced abortion.

Most unwanted pregnancies become wanted children. Women who have abortions regret their mistake later.

Many unwanted babies are abused and neglected, and suffer lifelong developmental and social problems. Many women make mistakes in having babies they don't want and can't love or care for. A few women may come to regret their abortion, but this should not be a reason to deny choice to all women.

Abortion causes psychological damage to women. They suffer guilt feelings all their lives.

The silence surrounding abortion in Ireland means most women cannot talk about their termination &endash; either before or afterwards. Anti-abortion propaganda insists that having an abortion is wrong and that women should feel guilty. Again this is imposing a religious view, that of 'sin', onto the woman's decision. Lack of counselling and confused feelings can lead to later problems.

The American Psychological Association has concluded that abortion rarely causes any long-lasting or severe psychological after-effects. Many negative feelings are related to the unwanted pregnancy, not the abortion, which usually brings feelings of relief.

Psychological problems such as post-partum depression are more common in new mothers and are related to hormonal changes which happen whether the woman has an abortion, or gives birth.

The foetus is capable of feeling intense pain during an abortion.

The brain structures and nerve-cell connections that characterise the thinking and feeling parts of the brain are not completed until between the 7th and 8th months of gestation. Only after 30 weeks do the brain waves show patterns of waking consciousness when pain can be perceived.

Abortion is mass murder &endash; genocide - another Nazi holocaust. Six million abortions are the same as six million Jews; a life is a life.

Hitler used racial grounds to exterminate Jews and other "undesirables." Under the Nazi regime women who were carrying 'Aryan' children were denied abortion, but it was used, along with child experimentation, to kill the babies of 'undesirables.

In the reproductive rights movement, no one is out to kill all embryos. It is an insult to the memory of human beings murdered by the Nazis to equate them with embryos for anti-abortion propaganda.

The anti-choice don't really believe their own propaganda---some former abortion doctors, such as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, are heroes to the anti-choice movement, despite the fact that they are guilty of "genocide" according to the movement's own definition.

In America many on the anti-abortion fringe are also active in far-right political movements which attempt to deny the human rights of born people &endash; i.e. anti gun control, anti-Black, anti-Jewish, etc. These activists have also been active in killing doctors who provide abortions and bombing clinics, etc.

The "abortion mentality" leads to infanticide, euthanasia, and killing of mentally disabled and elderly persons

This "slippery slope" argument has no merit. In countries where abortion has been legal for years, there is no evidence that respect for life has diminished or that legal abortion leads to killing of any persons. Infanticide, however, is prevalent in countries where the overburdened poor cannot control their childbearing and abortion is illegal.

Infanticide was quite common in Ireland before abortion became available in Britain in 1967. Even now a number of distressing cases happen each year in which a dead baby is found soon after birth.

The availability of abortion in Britain has meant that Ireland does not have 'backstreet' illegal abortions. However these happened in the past and led to the deaths of some women. Even when abortion was illegal in Britain Irish women travelled there to have 'backstreet' abortions. Women also seriously injured themselves attempting self induced abortions &endash; falling down stairs, having scalding hot baths, gin and other poisoning and inserting objects into the vagina.

Part of the pages of the Dublin Abortion Rights Group