Analysis

FACT CHECK: Do abortion restrictions cause unsafe abortions?

pregnancy center

A recent article in Foreign Policy claimed pro-life laws, like the Texas Heartbeat Act (SB8), do not reduce the number of abortions. This is a frequent assertion made by abortion activists, who suggest that pro-life restrictions will lead many mothers to undergo abortions by any means possible, even illegally. These claims are false, and there is data to demonstrate this.

The Foreign Policy article states that pro-life laws could have “catastrophic results,” claiming, “In countries around the world with limited or no access to safe, affordable abortion, people are either forced to keep unwanted pregnancies or dismembered [sic] or even killed by unsafe abortions each day.”

The premise that some abortions are “safe” and others are “unsafe” ignores the fact that in every successful abortion, at least one human life is ended. Safe abortion is a myth, because it is inherently violent and destructive.

Abortion and mortality

The abortion industry has preyed on vulnerable women, returned victims to their abusers, and injured and killed mothers in addition to killing their preborn children. We do not need to imagine cruel and inhumane treatment of women and children when the legal abortion industry commits so many atrocities.

The Foreign Policy article makes a calculated choice to compare abortion restrictions in Texas to those in Kenya and Uganda. At a few points, the author notes that the “contexts are vastly different” between the nations, but nonetheless, still tries to claim that the maternal mortality rate of Kenya and Uganda will necessarily apply to Texas due to pro-life laws.

However, Kenya and Uganda are not the only nations that have or have had strong pro-life policies in place. Ireland, for example, had a constitutional amendment protecting the right to life of the preborn child until 2019. Ireland did not subjugate the mother’s health to that of her baby, but had a strong record of jurisprudence that recognized the equal rights of both mother and child. In contrast to Kenya and Uganda, pro-life Ireland had one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.

READ: FACT: The Texas Heartbeat Act bars rapists from suing survivors


Does legal equal rare?

Ireland changed when the pro-life measure was overturned in a referendum in May of 2018 and enacted in 2019. In the years since, elective abortion has become legal in the country and the number of abortions has remained high. As a matter of fact, an increase in the number of abortions is the predictable result of legalization, just as restricting or banning abortion leads to fewer abortions.

Similarly, Northern Ireland had abortion forcibly legalized by the United Kingdom government in Westminster in 2019. Unsurprisingly, this led to a dramatic increase in the number of abortions committed. Other countries show similar results; Russia, the most extreme example, legalized abortion in 1920 as the Soviet Union. Today, they have the highest abortion rate in the world, and at times, it’s been even higher than it is now. The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System likewise showed that abortion drastically increased after Roe v. Wade, rising from 651,831 in 1973 to a massive 1,268,987 abortions just 10 years later.

Secular Pro-Life has compiled a list of studies showing the effect of restrictions on the number of abortions. Unlike the claim in Foreign Policy — a claim which was based on a single study — Secular Pro-Life includes dozens of studies demonstrating how legality affects the number of abortions. Where abortions are illegal or restricted, fewer abortions take place.

READ: The top 8 myths about the new Texas abortion law


Attacking pro-life laws

The Foreign Policy article makes sweeping assertions about how pro-life restrictions are accompanied by a lack of social safety net for vulnerable mothers and children. Describing the experience of being uninsured and pregnant in Texas, the article quotes a report stating, “roughly two months after delivery, pregnancy Medicaid comes to an end, and the safety net gives way to a cliff. For many new mothers, the result is a medical, emotional, and financial disaster.” But the reality is that Texas has implemented and continues to expand programs to provide legitimate alternatives to abortions, including Medicaid. These programs provide a path not only to choosing life, but to stronger families in Texas.

Abortion activists tried to discredit other pro-life laws in Texas with similar claims as those made in Foreign Policy. After the passage of HB2 in 2013, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project — which received funding from pro-abortion donors — purported to discover millions of “unsafe,” self-induced abortions taking place in Texas due to the “restrictive” pro-life laws. What the study actually found was unsound data, which was manipulated to suggest that a quarter of a million Texas women were self-inducing abortions. Though the data does not prove these claims, activists continue to cite this debunked study to falsely claim that abortion restrictions harm mothers.

The Texas law will not lead to an increase in abortions, and there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that we can expect to see a significant decline in the number of abortions. Despite what abortion activists think, fewer abortions is positive. For mothers in difficult circumstances, abortion is not a solution but the death of a child. Giving mothers hope and real help is possible.

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