Debates over anti-abortion laws have raised common myths about abortion. These are the facts
It’s not just Alabama and Georgia. More states are considering bills that would make virtually all abortions illegal at 6 weeks or less.
But with the debates comes a lot of misinformation about abortions. Here are some of the most common myths, and the facts behind them:
MYTH: Women can still easily get abortions within the legal time frame
Georgia is one of the latest states to enact a so-called “heartbeat law,” meaning virtually all abortions are illegal once a heartbeat is detected.
That can be as early as six weeks, which is before an embryo becomes a fetus, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Several states already have similar laws, including Mississippi and Ohio. And more states, like Missouri and Louisiana, have “heartbeat bills” moving through their state legislatures.
FACT: There are several reasons why many women can’t get abortions within 6 weeks
First, there are biological reasons why a woman might not know she’s pregnant until six weeks. (More on that later.)
When she does know, there are more obstacles that can prevent her from getting an abortion within newer, tougher time limits:
Geography: The number of clinics in the US that specialize in performing abortions keeps dropping -- from 381 in 2005 to 272 in 2014, the latest year of available data, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for reproductive rights.
Six states have only one abortion clinic. Several other states don’t have a clinic for more than 100 miles.
Many women seeking abortions can’t afford the transportation to get there, much less a place to stay if they’re required to wait 24, 48 or 72 hours, as required by some states.
Finances: Abortions can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to over $2,000, said Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, associate professor at the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.
And with tougher state laws getting passed, more abortion providers are going out of service -- which means higher costs for abortions.
In some cases, “clinics must fly in a physician each week to provide abortion care, thus raising the costs for patients,” Upadhyay said.
So can be difficult to impossible for some women to come up with that money before the time limit passes in states with strict abortion laws.
MYTH: Women know they’re pregnant within a month
One state senator who helped pass Alabama’s new abortion law -- the strictest in the country -- said he believes a woman knows she’s pregnant much sooner than one month.
Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss repeatedly referred to a “window” of time between conception and when a woman knows for sure that she’s pregnant. He said he believed that time was between about seven and 10 days.
Others say a woman can tell within a month whether she’s pregnant, depending on whether she gets her next period.
FACT: Some clues don’t emerge until after six weeks
There are several reasons why a woman might not know she’s pregnant for well over a month.
In the early weeks of pregnancy, some women experience “breakthrough bleeding” -- which can be mistaken for a period.
About 20% to 30% of women experience some type of spotting or bleeding in early pregnancy, according to the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.
And women with ovarian cysts or hormonal imbalances can have irregular periods, said Dr. Jen Villavicencio, an ob-gyn and fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It can be especially difficult for women with irregular periods to tell if they’re pregnant.
MYTH: ‘None of my friends or family would ever get an abortion’
This is a common sentiment among people who say they and their loved ones oppose abortion due to religious beliefs.
FACTS: Almost 1 in 4 women get an abortion by age 45. And most of them identify with a religion.
That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute. And the religious demographics may be surprising: More than half of women who get abortions identify as Catholic, mainline Protestant or evangelical Protestant.
MYTH: People wouldn’t need abortions if they were more responsible
FACT: Abstinence works. But birth control methods sometimes fail.
All forms of birth control come with a risk of failure.
People who use condoms, for example, experience a failure rate of about 13%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using a birth control pill comes with a failure rate of about 7%.
The failure rate when using some intrauterine devices (IUDs) can be as low as 0.8%.
But those who use a diaphragm experience a 17% failure rate.
MYTH: Women who get abortions don’t care about children
FACT: Most women seeking abortions already have at least one child
According to the CDC, more than 59% of women seeking abortions have already given birth to a child.
One of the most common reasons why low-income mothers seek abortions is so they can continue providing for their children without taking resources away from them, Guttmacher said.