Occasionally, pro-life advocates argue that abortion is wrong, at least in part, because it harms the women who get abortions. It’s important to note what precisely this argument needs to establish in order to succeed. It’s not enough to allege that abortion is potentially or sometimes harmful to women in certain circumstances. This is due to the obvious fact that almost everything is potentially or sometimes harmful in certain circumstances. Medical procedures and important life decisions are especially clear examples of this(and abortion is both of these things!!). So, the pro-life advocate must support the claim that abortion is generally or especially harmful to the wellbeing of women in order for the “women-protective” argument to work.
Unfortunately for pro-life advocates, virtually every alleged harm of abortion is subject to empirical disconfirmation. There are three common claims that pro-life advocates make about the harmfulness of abortion with respect to women’s wellbeing: abortion harms the physical health of women, abortion harms the mental health of women, and abortion leads to deep regret
Again, remember that it is not enough to argue that these things can happen or sometimes happen. Pro-life advocates must maintain that these harms of abortion are typical or otherwise especially bad when compared to similar medical procedures and important life decisions. Is there solid evidence to support the existence of these harms? The answer is a resounding ‘No’
Abortion is not Physically Harmful
- Major abortion complications are rare, occurring in less than ¼ of one percent of procedures, which is safer than having wisdom teeth removed.
- Delaying or effectively blocking abortion care puts women’s health at risk. When a woman has no option but to obtain an abortion later in pregnancy, major complications are more likely and costs are higher
- Each year between 4.7% – 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion
- Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term is more dangerous to a woman’s physical health than abortion
- Children born after denial of abortion experience significantly worse maternal bonding and live in greater poverty than children born after a woman was able to access abortion services
Abortion is not Mentally Harmful
- Abortion does not place women at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, low self-esteem or anxiety, nor does it increase drug, tobacco or alcohol use
- In fact, Women who are denied an abortion are more likely to experience adverse psychological outcomes
Abortion Regret is Rare
- Over 95% of women report that abortion was the right decision for them
- One year later, women who obtained abortion care were more likely to have a positive outlook on life than women denied this care
Clearly, the “women-protective” argument for the pro-life position does not hold up to scrutiny. Abortion is not harmful to the wellbeing of women in any significant way. In the absence of powerful arguments in favor of fetal personhood, there is no good reason to restrict abortion access.