Breaking Down the Myths Around Abortions: Misinformation & the Digitalization of Anti-Abortion Groups
Searching for information about abortions can be confusing and scary. Especially when you come across misleading statements aimed at scaring you away from following through with an abortion. Abortions are not dangerous to your health. However, many anti-abortion organizations will push their agenda by using fear tactics and warning people of negative side effects of getting an abortion. Growing digital tools are allowing these groups to deceitfully interact with people and undermine their access to reproductive rights. The digitalization of anti-abortion groups is a threat to reproductive justice and access to abortions.
*Blog by Alice d’Aboville
You have the right to accurate and reliable information regarding abortions
Let’s begin by dismantling some false claims and reaffirming that abortions are not dangerous to your health. There is no scientific evidence that links abortions to illnesses and diseases and there is no medically accepted proof that associates abortion to increased risk of breast cancer for example. You are not going to become infertile and abortion will not affect your chances of becoming pregnant again. The American Psychological Association has said that there is no evidence to suggest that women who have abortions will be more likely to suffer from mental health issues. Deciding to have an abortion can be a very difficult decision that may provoke feelings of sadness or guilt for some. But still, most people say they feel relieved afterwards and do not regret their decision. Abortions are one of the safest medical procedures available today. Having a safe abortion is statistically as risky as having a colonoscopy.
Things that are riskier than abortions include:
- Giving birth
- Taking Viagra
- Getting a shot of Penicillin
- Getting your tonsils removed
- Getting your wisdom teeth removed
- Running a marathon
It is not an excruciatingly painful procedure. Many have compared the pain as only a little bit worse than the pain they experience during a menstrual period. Remember, abortion is common. 73 million abortions occur yearly and for example one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45. Some have had an unplanned pregnancy while using birth control and others might be sexual assault survivors. Everyone faces different circumstances and have their own reasons for having an abortion. You are not required to have a perfect justification for seeking an abortion. You do not need to explain yourself and the decisions you make in order to access abortion care.
Another common myth says that only young, irresponsible women who do not value motherhood have abortions. That is simply not true. Many parents with children decide to have abortions and the decision is often based on an understanding of the responsibilities of parenting and wanting to focus on the children that they already have. Others realize that it might not be the right time for them to take on parenting. Getting an abortion does not translate into being anti-mother. Trans-gender and non-binary people also seek abortion and reproductive health services.
Digitalization of anti-abortion groups
These abortion myths shine a bright light on the rising issue of misinformation as technology is being used more and more by anti-abortion groups to spread false claims. Privacy activists warn us that anti-abortion groups are taking advantage of technology to collect personal data and make sexual and reproductive health care more difficult to access. Through fake websites, chat boxes, targeted ads and anti-choice apps, anti-abortion organizations try to generate doubt about one’s decision to get an abortion. They share scientifically inaccurate information and try to discourage you from getting an abortion.
More terrifyingly, they are collecting shocking amounts of sensitive and private information without consent or knowledge from users. Groups like, Heartbeat International, are creating ‘digital dossiers’ of individuals who are approaching their ‘crisis pregnancy centers’, but who are often not aware of the hidden agenda of these centers. Other examples include sending targeted propaganda on people’s mobile devices when they are visiting an abortion clinic by using the location data of clinic clients. By funding contraception apps anti-abortion groups can also get hold of personal menstruation and sex data that is then shared with networks of anti-abortion health clinics. This kind of data exploitation represents the terrifying control and influence that anti-choice institutions try or already have over our bodies.
Women on Web has also been affected by misinformation and online scams. Hackers and frauds online pretend to be part of the Women on Web team by using our brand and falsely claiming that they can deliver abortion pills worldwide without any legitimate medical support. We have also seen fake Facebook groups being created with WOW logo that say they can offer medical guidance and access to abortion pills. However, there are no licensed medical credentials shown and no proper procedures being taken. These traps put many anguished people at risk. In some countries Women on Web’s website has been simply blocked and censored.
No one is safe from misinformation and online attacks. As our access to reproductive health care services becomes more digitized, and as we interact on more online platforms, we must be wary about the information we come across. Take care in reading the privacy policies of websites and mobile sexual health applications and consider installing ad blockers to minimize targeted ads.
Accurate information and education empower individuals and communities, similarly to how reproductive justice empowers individuals and communities. You are worthy of an abortion and should not fear the procedure. Women on Web offers genuine information to guide individuals through their own decisions regarding their reproductive choices and lives.
Take care of yourself, protect yourself and be vigilant about misinformation.
For more perspectives on what having an abortion is like, click here to read testimonies from other women who have had abortions.
Alice lives in Montreal and graduated from McGill University’s International Development Studies program in 2018. She is passionate about reproductive justice issues and aims to work in the humanitarian sector. Alice is a trained abortion doula and a member of Montreal Abortion Access Project.