“You are entitled to your opinion.
But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
~ former N.Y.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
An article I read last month has been haunting me. It was in the New York Times Magazine and it shed light on the current state of abortion access in Mississippi. A clinic escort was escorting a patient into the only clinic in the state that provides abortion services. A protester—who was white—handed a pamphlet to a black woman who was heading for her scheduled abortion. It claimed, among other things, that abortion was “the leading cause of death among African-Americans.” According to the CDC, it’s not even on the top 10 list. And a first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures and carries minimal risk: Major complications (those requiring hospital care, surgery or transfusion) occur at a rate of less than 0.5%.
It’s not simply that the pamphlet contained a blatant and potentially terrifying lie that haunts me; I’ve always known that protesters have a history of giving out misinformation. But this one led me to rethink how we get our information, how other people get theirs, how we all form our opinions, and how that process is currently, rapidly changing.
It used to be that when we listened to the news or read the newspaper, even if we read different papers we could see what others were seeing. But the Internet changed all that; Facebook now collects more money in advertising than all American newspapers combined. And, unlike newspapers, they can show each of us different ads, stories, and links based on our browsing history. And to make matters worse, there’s no public record regarding what anyone else has seen, and no oversight to ensure accuracy. So this story got me wondering what those same groups are posting on Facebook. And I’ll never know. And you probably won’t, either.
So I’m asking my readers to try to think of ways we can ensure that more people base their opinions on FACTS. For starters, I’m taking a detour today to review some basic information about abortion around the world and here in the U.S. My hope is that you’ll each sprinkle this information into everyday conversations as appropriate. There’s a lot on the line right now, especially for those among us living in poverty.
- Worldwide, abortion rates have gone down in recent years. The decrease is almost exclusively in areas that have increased access to modern, effective contraception.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal, induced abortion, and timely care for complications.
- Abortion tends to be safer and less prevalent where it is broadly legal than in more legally restrictive settings.
- Despite that, here in the U.S., in the first half of 2019, 12 states enacted some type of abortion ban and 6 states enacted legislation that protected or expanded abortion access.
- Anti-choice activists frequently focus on late abortions, but In the U.S., two-thirds of abortions occur at eight weeks of pregnancy or earlier; 89% occur in the first 12 weeks, and only 1.3% occur at or after 21 weeks.
In that same article about Mississippi, a woman who takes calls from people trying to put together the resources they’ll need to access abortion (money, transportation, childcare), summed up her outlook beautifully. “A lot of our caller stories sound tragic to other people,” she said. “I don’t think of it as tragic; I think of it as life. What’s tragic is that they don’t have what they need to make their choices without having to come to me.”
Thank you to all my readers who do and have done so much to level the playing field in so many ways.
For more information including a current map of the U.S. new legislation, see Guttmacher Institue’s State Policy Trends at Mid-Year 2019: States Race to Ban or Protect Abortion
For global information regarding safe and unsafe abortion, see the World Health Organization’s fact sheet: Preventing Unsafe Abortion
For an overview of Induced Abortion in the U.S., see the Guttmacher Institue’s Fact Sheet
The views expressed above are solely those of the author and not those of Planned Parenthood.