Debunking NARAL’s lies about crisis pregnancy centers: Part two

women and abortion

On Monday, we began dismantling a NARAL report jam-packed with vicious lies about crisis pregnancy centers and the work they do helping women choose paths other than abortion. The misinformation was simply too much for one post to contain, though, so today we’re back with for more.

Sin #5: “Greatly exaggerating the risks of abortion” to “frighten their clients into carrying a pregnancy to term.”

The next several pages document the prevalence of CPCs telling women that abortion is fraught with risks such as breast cancer, future infertility, and mental illness, but spend relatively little effort demonstrating that these warnings are false. Maybe that’s because they’re true.

Fatality: In 2012, Professor Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University challenged the oft-cited claim that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth, noting that the previous study claiming that suffered from severe underreporting of abortion data, wrongly classified deaths due to abortion as mere pregnancy deaths, and failed to consider abortions past the first trimester.

Another study the next year, from West Virginia University-Charleston’s Obstetrics & Gynecology Dept.’s vice chair Dr. Byron Calhoun, also deemed the number bogus for similar reasons. Also in 2013, Coleman and the Elliot Institute’s Dr. David Reardon examined 30 years of data from women in Denmark and found that abortion at 12 weeks or earlier was linked to an 80 percent higher risk of death within a year of the procedure, and 40 percent higher within 10 years.

InfertilityMayo Clinic acknowledges that, though rare, it is possible that “a surgical abortion can damage the cervix or uterus. In such cases, surgery might be needed to correct the damage before a woman can conceive again.” Indeed, the pro-abortion Salon once quoted an abortionist as saying, “There are only two kinds of doctors who have never perforated a uterus: those that lie and those who don’t do abortions.”

Preterm Birth: Many studies from recent years have found that abortion increases the odds of future preterm births. For example, a 2013 study by McGill University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Montreal) found “women who had one prior induced abortion were 45 percent more likely to have premature births by 32 weeks, 71 percent more likely to have premature births by 28 weeks, and 117 percent more likely to have premature births by 26 weeks.”

Miscarriage: A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Gynecology linked abortion to a 60 percent increased risk of miscarriage. Studies in 20031980, and others have found a miscarriage link, as well.

Breast Cancer: In 2009, Dr. Louise Brinton, head of the National Cancer Institute’s Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, co-authored a study in the peer-reviewed Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, concluding that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 40 percent. Further, a 2013 meta-analysis out of China, published in the peer-reviewed Cancer Causes and Control, found a single abortion raises the breast cancer risk by 44 percent, a second raises it by 76 percent, and a third by 89 percent, while a 2013 study in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine found a history of abortion multiplies a woman’s breast cancer risk six-fold. (See also here and here.)

Mental Health: Dozens of peer-reviewed studies associate abortion with a significantly increased risk of clinical depression, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and various other behaviors associated with emotional trauma, including eating disorders, substance abuse, and dysfunctional relationships.

Some of the most eye-opening examples include a 154 percent higher likelihood of suicide (Southern Medical Journal, 2002), a tenfold increase in suicide attempts among post-abortive teenage girls (University of Minnesota: Minnesota Extension Service, 1986), 65 percent higher risk of long-term clinical depression (Medical Science Monitor, 2003), a doubled likelihood of hospitalization for psychiatric illness (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2003), a fivefold increase in drug and alcohol abuse (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2000). (See also here.)

Sin #6: Evoking Gosnell.

In another report, a CPC volunteer in Ohio painted a gruesome picture of abortion clinics and providers, claiming they weren’t licensed, that the clinics were dirty and splattered with blood, and that the doctors only cared about making money. A local provider was called “a butcher.”

For this claim, NARAL again cites itself, apparently hoping the pro-abortion bloggers hanging on their every word won’t follow the footnote to the Jan. 2013 report and notice that its corroboration is rather less than ironclad. The CPC isn’t identified and there’s no direct quote. So we have no idea what the volunteer actually said, what clinics she was referring to, or whether the picture’s as outlandish as NARAL claims.

Perhaps, for example, NARAL’s characterization is jumbling details the volunteer originally did not—like a reference to Kermit Gosnell, whose clinic wasn’t in Ohio but was blood splattered. And Gosnell-like practices have indeed been confirmed in Ohio: one was shut down by the health department in April 2013 due to “18 violations ranging from documentation shortcomings to unsanitary practices,” three more committed health and safety violations that won Planned Parenthood a $25,000 fine last August, and another has a pattern of botched abortions which have killed at least one woman.

Sin #7: CPCs deny the truth that “birth control is not, and never has been, an abortifacient.”

Once again, the truth is the opposite of what NARAL claims. In an extensively-sourced step-by-step explanation of the science, Dr. Donna Harrison shows that Plan B induces “luteal-phase defect,” the “term for when the ovary does not produce enough progesterone to allow the embryo to survive”:

If Plan B is taken five to two days before egg release is due to happen, the interference with the LH signal prevents a woman from releasing an egg, no fertilization happens, and no embryo is formed. Current studies do not demonstrate a harmful effect on the embryo if Plan B is taken after egg release. 

Many authors focus on these two facts to make the sweeping claim that Plan B has no effect on a human embryo. What they are forgetting is Plan B’s effect at step 3, the two-day window in which embryos can form but positive pregnancy tests don’t occur. That’s the window during which the studies mentioned above suggest that Plan B has a likely embryocidal effect in stopping pregnancy.

As for IUDs, James Agresti explains:

[A] 290-page report dedicated to “long-acting reversible contraception” published by Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2005 and updated in 2013 explains that “IUDs prevent pregnancy by impairing gamete [sperm and egg] viability at fertilization and they have a strong inhibitory effect on implantation.” This statement is supported with citations of five medical studies, and the report recommends “women should be informed that intrauterine devices (IUDs) act by preventing fertilization and inhibiting implantation.”

Sin #8: “81 percent of the CPCs investigated in Maryland failed to discuss sexually transmitted infections.”

Suspiciously, the old NARAL report on which this claim rests states the claim, but offers no elaboration whatsoever. They might be onto something if that 81 percent claimed to handle STDs, but NARAL doesn’t say so, much less substantiate it—and, well, the term is crisis pregnancy center.

Sin #9: CPC’s anti-contraceptive agenda.

NARAL is very, very angry at CPCs for allegedly overstating birth control’s risks, understating its effectiveness, and refusing to provide it.

Risks: The National Cancer Institute says that oral contraceptives are linked to reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, but admits that there is also some indication of increased risks for breast and cervical cancer and benign liver tumors, and that its relationship to malignant liver tumors is “less clear”—not nonexistent.

The World Health Organization classifies several types of oral contraceptives as Group 1 carcinogens, which means that while the risk may not be large, the potential hazard to humans is definitely established.

Meanwhile, the CDC states that sexually-active women are more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease if they use an intrauterine device, and last year Vanity Fair (not exactly a Religious Right mouthpiece) made waves by investigating  NuvaRing’s capacity to cause fatal blood clots…which Planned Parenthood failed to disclose when VF sent young women to ask them about it.

Effectiveness: Despite the narrative that saintly Planned Parenthood is spreading the truth about the miracle of birth control while pro-lifers are spreading misinformation to scare people away from it, a 2012 report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology actually concluded that 45 percent of women overstate the effectiveness of birth control pills and condoms. That’s no wonder, when what Guttmacher calls “highly effective” methods (the pill, ring, and patch) still leave women with nearly a 1-in-10 chance of getting pregnant.

Overall, the evidence actually shows that the spread of contraception doesn’t reduce abortion rates, which shouldn’t surprise anyone; even if you take at face value all of Big Choice’s most positive statistics about contraceptives’ effectiveness if used absolutely perfectly, Guttmacher has admitted the reality of how they are used is that half of women who get pregnant were using it the month they conceived. (See also here and here.)

Refusal to Offer: Some CPCs may opt against birth control due to religious views about sex’s relationship to marriage and/or procreation; others simply because they know it doesn’t reduce abortion rates.

Whatever the motivation, nobody already going out of their way to do charitable work is morally or legally obligated to also engage in someone else’s personal idea of charity. No CPC is going to prevent someone looking for contraception from easily obtaining it elsewhere.

And while again, CPCs shouldn’t browbeat unplanned mothers for the decisions that led them there in the first place, the fact remains that risky sex of some kind is usually why they’re there, so CPCs are on to something when they suggest that maybe, just maybe, looking at sex differently is in order.

* * *

That’s a lot of lying, but we’re still not done. Click here for the third and final installment on the truth about crisis pregnancy centers.

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