It’s a statement women pass around like a secret fact: “You know abortions reduce your chances of getting pregnant when you actually want to, right?”
I’ve heard this “fact” exchanged by friends and family for years, mostly around brunch plates or Saturday night drinks. There’s my friend’s aunt, who had two abortions, and then never had a baby when she was ready – instead she had miscarriage after miscarriage and has lived each passing childless year shrouded in guilt. The ex-coworker who swears abortions damage the uterine wall; her mother, a nurse, told her so. The girlfriends who just know. “Everybody knows that,” they insist.
But every time this “fact” resurfaces, something tugs at me. It feels off – like a hangover of something women were told in the 1960s to sway them away from supposedly sinful acts like, well, sex. Especially of the ‘I’m not married’ kind.
Listen: The abortion scene in Glow and all of our feelings about it. (Post continues…)
It’s reminiscent of the idea that birth control affects fertility (according to every study so far, it absolutely doesn’t, by the way) another ancient way to control what women do with their bodies – ESPECIALLY their uteruses.
Considering this is something that will directly affect one in four Australian women, why not ask a doctor?
I reached out to the Medical Director of Marie Stopes Australia, Dr Philip Goldstone, to find out the truth. So, does abortion really harm fertility?
“There is no evidence that having a medical or surgical abortion affects a woman’s chance of falling pregnant later in life,” Dr Goldstone, who has over 20 years experience in sexual and reproductive medicine, told Mamamia.
In fact, the only chance a woman’s ability to get pregnant in the future will be impacted is – like with any procedure – “in extremely rare cases of serious complications”.
The ‘abortions are dangerous’ message that so many of us – our friends, mothers, sisters – have consumed is one spruiked by the anti-choice movement.
“That narrative… is designed to frighten women into reconsidering their decision,” Dr Goldstone said.
“There is simply no scientific basis to the claim that abortion can make women infertile. Surgical termination is amongst the most common and safest surgical procedures performed in Australia, whilst medical termination is similarly safe.”
While we’re busting myths, Dr Goldstone would also like to add that, no, getting an abortion does not put you at greater risk of developing breast cancer.
“Numerous reviews of clinical data have proven this to be untrue. Similarly, there is no evidence to suggest that there are long-lasting negative psychological impacts of abortion.”
It’s funny, isn’t it? How falsehoods purposefully designed to make women feel horrible about themselves have persisted for so long, even in a country where abortions are safe, effective and legal.
If you would like to know more about medical and surgical abortions, or reproductive health, visit the Marie Stopes website here.