The Myth of the Dangerous Abortion

All around the nation, Republican-led legislatures are passing Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that are based largely on the false claim that abortion is a highly risky medical procedure. They pretend that they do this out of concern for women’s health. Tara Culp-Ressler points out the lie:

 There’s no telling how the courts will ultimately rule on TRAP laws, but one thing is clear: This entire issue isn’t based on any medical evidence.

There isn’t any data proving that patients at abortion clinics are receiving substandard care. When it comes to first-trimester abortions, the rate of serious complications — issues that may land a woman in the hospital — is less than 0.05 percent. The risk of dying from an abortion is considerably smaller, estimated as occurring in 0.0006 percent of all legal surgical abortions. To put that in perspective, the risk of death associated with childbirth is about 14 times higher.

Medically speaking, there are dozens of common medical procedures that are considered to be very safe but that are still riskier than abortion. The mortality rates are higher for gallbladder removalknee replacement surgerybariatric surgery, and hernia surgery.

There are also non-surgical procedures sometimes performed outside of hospital settings that are more likely to kill people than abortion, but that don’t face the same type of regulation that abortion does. “As an example, the mortality rate associated with a colonoscopy is more than 40 times greater than that of abortion,” Jeanne Conry, the former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the largest group of OB-GYNs in the country, recently explained to Kaiser Health News. But no one is passing state laws to crack down on gastroenterologists.

Because those claims are lies. TRAP laws have nothing to do with protecting women’s healthy, they have only to do with preventing women from controlling their own reproduction.

"Oh, please. Ankh-Morpork has had elections before. It's just that you were disqualified from running ..."

OH Gov. Candidate Defends Franken by ..."
"It's still a better candidate... then again I'd vote for a dog over most politicians ..."

Crokin: Trump Was Sending a Message ..."
"These days the only issue these people (pretend to) care about is abortion. As I've ..."

AL Governor Thinks Moore Did It, ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • D. C. Sessions

    Set the bar low, why don’t you?

    Knee replacement surgery is not trivial. A good single-knee replacement will take enough blood that it often requires transfusion; two knees at once always requires transfusions. Most people are at least a month recovering.

    Liposuction is closer to what most people think of as comparable.

  • ambassadorfromverdammt

    Knee replacements sometimes require blood transfusions, therefore TRAP laws really are about protecting women’s health.

    Is it just me, or is there something missing from the chain of logic?

  • D. C. Sessions

    You could also write that outpatient abortions are less dangerous than open-heart surgery. It’s quite true, but not impressive because comparing something safe (abortion) to something known to be dangerous (open heart) actually increases the impression that the safe thing … isn’t.

    All true, all to make a valid point. Just not a good way to get there.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Yep. Not just your nation either – here in Oz we’ve had the idiocy of Eric Abetz recently too :

    Same sorta carp, different country.

    Fuck the coathanger lobbies lies.

  • Neil Rickert

    Obviously, we should ban even more dangerous procedures, such as childbirth.

  • DrewN

    Neil Rickert brings up a good point that I’m far too lazy to google. What is the mortality rate for an average pregnancy vs an average abortion (assuming proper medical care for both). I wouldn’t be surprised at all if childbirth was a bigger danger overall.

  • Raging Bee

    Is it just me, or is there something missing from the chain of logic?

    Yeah — logic.

  • D. C. Sessions

    DrewN — Ed conveniently linked to the data: 14 times the risk of a first-trimester abortion.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Raging Bee: the chains are the end game.

  • justsomeguy

    The big giveaway for me is the slew of informational laws. Before you get an abortion, you have to have an ultrasound (or two), AND there has to be a doctor present to describe that ultrasound, AND the doctor has to use specific language as defined by the state, AND you have to go to a completely separate clinic to get “counseling.”

    … but not a single one of these even *pretends* to be about providing medically accurate information. The obvious goal is to convince people not to get abortions.

  • blf

    Isn’t it the case that newborn mortality (and maybe also childbirth mortality?) rates in USAlienstani are out-of-line — in the wrong direction — with other so-called “developed” nations?

  • Raging Bee

    justsomeguy: IANAL, but it seems to me that much, if not all, of those “informational” laws can be ruled unconstitutional, on the grounds that they constitute harassment and intimidation, and seek to impose a particular set of beliefs on people. Same goes for the medically unnecessary exams.

  • Modusoperandi

    D. C. Sessions “…two knees at once always requires transfusions.”

    What if they just swap sides?

  • ashleybell

    where are the official statements from the AMA and the Surgeon General. They should become very very very vocal and constant on thiis issue. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a more concerted uber-effort put forth by the medical community on this…Any guesses anyone as to why the silence?

  • d.c.wilson

    Start talking about these TRAP laws with a wingnut and inevitably, they will start screaming about Kermit Gosnell as if he was the norm and not an aberration. And they’ll be completely immune to the irony that the more they try to shut down reputable clinics, the more women are likely to turn to backalley abortions performed by people just like Gosnell.

  • Pingback: When dangerous abortions aren't | ***Dave Does the Blog()

  • magistramarla


    I’ve thought about this too, and in my opinion, it’s like almost everything else – follow the money. Doctors and hospitals in the US are making tons of money off of childbirth. The C-section rate is shameful, but the hospitals rake in much more money from a surgical birth than from a vaginal one.

    It makes sense that if more women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, the doctors and hospitals stand to make that much more money. It’s a good scam!

  • Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges

    @14 Could it be that many doctors work in facilities run by religious institutions (e.g. Catholic hospitals)? They can’t come out against their bosses with impunity.

  • Marcus Ranum

    In Amanda Marcotte’s podcast (highly recommended!) she pointed out that the fact that there’s sometimes minor lacerations to the cervix can hardly be compared to the damage suffered in childbirth – 30% of which end in a C-section in the US. It’s farcical to be pretending concern for someone’s health and safety and say that childbirth is the preferred option.

  • karmacat

    With the AMA, it may be more of an issue of it not being enough of a priority. In terms of obstetrics, there is more concern about the high cost of malpractice insurance. I do think the AMA does need to address this. The surgeon general should definitely be addressing the misinformation and lies out there.

  • JustaTech

    blf@11: Yes, infant mortality (up to 1 year of acge) is much higher in the US than the rest of the OEDC (‘developed countries’). A small part of this is that what Spain may count as a stillbirth, in the US is described as a premature birth who died after 2 days in the NICU. That drives up the infant mortality. But mostly it’s that there are far too many women in the US who get little to no pre-natal care.