Abortion has been a compelling topic of debate among medical, legal, social, religious and cultural groups. Being a multidimensional issue, perception of induced abortion is super imposed by a collection of related myths in the society and hence is still looked at as a social problem than a medical solution. As stated by a Lancet study, there were 15 million abortions as against 27 million births in India each year. Though, this is a great progress over time, certain myths that hover over the decision for a termination of pregnancy are still to be considered with facts that justify them as false and thus promote medical termination of pregnancy as a safe, therapeutic means of avoiding unwanted birth and maternal morbidity.
Top 10 myths about abortion that can hamper the decision towards a better choice of maternal health and procreation are:
Myth No 1. All abortions are unsafe :
Early medical abortions and surgical abortions as stated under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) act are the safest types of medical procedures. First-trimester aspiration abortions pose considerably less frequent and less serious complications than those associated with giving birth. Illegal abortions where women often make desperate and dangerous attempts to induce their own abortions or resort to untrained practitioners who perform abortions with primitive instruments or in unsanitary conditions are unsafe and contribute to higher percentage of maternal deaths.
Myth No 2. Abortion leads to infertility :
Normally, safe medical abortion does not affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant and having healthy pregnancies in the future. Medical termination of pregnancy is not something that would affect the ovaries or eggs when done in a safe setting by a qualified practitioner. An abortion should not change the ability of a woman to get pregnant again later on in life. If there is a developed complication such as uterus infection due to the procedure, which are more common in unsafe abortion methods, it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) increasing the chances of infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
Myth No 3. Abortion increases the risk of breast cancer :
Abortion is an issue that bring out strong feelings in people but they have little to do with any connection to a disease like cancer. Breast cancer being the most common and grave form of cancer among women, is the most feared disease. Linking abortion to risks of breast cancer, though may have created emotional fear among the public, research revelations do not have a cause-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer. Several international scientific studies have examined the alleged link between abortion and breast cancer. Based on scientific evidences, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Myth No 4. Abortion can cause mental trauma :
Although some women may find abortion as a difficult or stressful phase with feelings of regret, sadness or guilt in the short-term, most women cope positively and do not experience long-term problems. A majority of women who undergo abortion report that they do not consider abortion as an emotionally or psychologically harmful option. In fact, overwhelming responses of large part of women after an abortion are positive feelings of relief and happiness. To understand that abortion is an option, to acknowledge that a woman has the right to decide what’s best for her and her pregnancy and to have a supportive family and friends helps a woman to overcome any deficit in decision making.
Myth No 5. Women are responsible for unwanted pregnancies and abortions :
There are certain ideas that assume that women can totally control fertility based on the understanding that contraception is always available and women are in a position to agree or disagree to sex. But practically, sex and contraception are two aspects of the same act where humans and interrelationships can be unpredictable and disorganized. Further, there is no contraception that guarantees 100% effectiveness all the time. More importantly, sex is not always voluntary. Many women seeking an abortion, no matter if they are in or outside a relationship have not been in a position to refuse having sex.
Myth No 6. Only certain sects of women undergo abortion :
Women’s sexuality has been used as a battlefield for cultural and religious arguments on morality. But in reality, the need for abortion arises in women from diverse and varied backgrounds, of different ages, religions, marital status, occupations and income groups who may suffer unplanned pregnancies. It is stereo-typically a harsh belief that only young, single, sexually active, irresponsible, promiscuous or frigid women form reasons for abortions. Whereas, truth is that women from varied societal sectors suffer unwanted pregnancies for various reasons and seeking timely abortion can be the best solution.
Myth No 7. Abortion insults motherhood :
Procreation is one of the least common reasons for partners to engage in sex. Women of any reproductive age can have consensual or non-consensual sex as part of their life. Women who seek abortion may already be mothers or have future plans of motherhood. When there is often such varsity in factors that influence the decision to take up mother hood, it is best explained as the desire for the mother to do the best she can for the benefit of the unwanted child or children she already has. Women being fully aware of the responsibilities of parenting and adequate resources to carry them out, gives them the rights to make decisions on choosing their pregnancies or abortions.
Myth No 8. Religion forbids abortion :
The religion-abortion relationship is often assumed to reflect the theology of various faiths with regard to pro-life groups. Relationship of religion and beliefs about the beginning of life to the decision for or against abortion arises with problem pregnancies. To safeguard the interest of a religious group, people may oppose the decision for abortions of unwanted pregnancies. These are circumstantial points where people must have the wisdom to cease spiritual reflection and put forward intellectual decisions that indicate a reality that is healthier than the ethical.
Myth No 9. Easy abortions will facilitate female foeticide :
Gender selective abortions are a problem in India, but experts deny this through the evidence that 90% of medically reported terminations take place in the first trimester when gender detection of the foetus is not possible. Hence, sex selection cannot be a major concern for promoting safe and legal abortions and easy access to medical terminations cannot lead to greater female foeticide.
Myth No 10. Criminalizing abortion will stop abortion :
Fact that abortion rates in countries where abortion is illegal are observed to be more or less the same as in countries where abortion is permitted, shows that even when the procedure is illegal, people will find ways to terminate a pregnancy. By criminalizing abortion, abortions will not stop but safe abortions will stop. People resorting to dangerous methods to self-induce abortion or visit unapproved abortion providers can result in hemorrhage, infections and maternal death.