The Myth of the 'Repeat Abortion' is Both Ridiculous and Dangerous

Illustration for article titled The Myth of the 'Repeat Abortion' is Both Ridiculous and Dangerous

The Daily Telegraph breathlessly reports that the National Health Service is spending £1 million a week on carrying out "repeat abortions"; that is, on women who have had abortions in the past. Some particularly crafty ladies have gotten away with up to nine free abortions!


Is it problematic that the NHS is spending that much money on abortions? Yes, because that means women are having trouble accessing the contraception they need to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy, an issue that the Telegraph actually reported on three days ago in an article called, "Women finding access to contraception 'difficult'". The article reported that four in ten women who unintentionally became pregnant had problems getting contraception, and that areas where it's hard to access contraception have higher abortion rates.

It's incredibly frustrating that the reporter who wrote the "repeat abortion" piece did not once refer to the statistics that were published just days before by the same fucking paper. Instead, she warps numbers and quotes pro-life sources to push the idea that the number of "repeat abortions" is indicative that, as one antiabortion supporter is quoted as saying, "abortion is being seen by many as a form of contraception. But is this surprising when we live in a society which says it's all right to have an abortion once. If it's fine once, why not two, three or four times." That quote makes me want to go DAHKJDHASJHADAHKDA. But, instead, let's break down the reasons why this article is bullshit.

In the very first sentence, we learn that, "in some cases," women are getting up to nine abortions! Wouldn't that statistic make even the most pro-choiciest of pro-choicers somewhat concerned? Later, however, we learn that only 85 women across the entire country had an abortion for the eighth time in 2010. Sorry, Telegraph and antiabortion advocates everywhere, but that's a negligible amount of people. It's also unspecified whether these women took RU486; they may not have even had surgery.

The only other numbers we get are that, in 2010, "189,000 terminations took place, with more than 64,000 of them being performed on someone who had already undergone the procedure." That's a far less incendiary — and far more vague — statistic, isn't it?

We also learn that "five out of every six repeat terminations being requested by a woman who is unmarried." THANKS! That's really important information, definitely more crucial than, say, information on access to contraception. Would it be okay if more married women wanted abortions?

The Department responded to the statistics by saying that there's no evidence that proves women are using abortion as a method of birth control and that abortion rates have increased only slightly in the last ten years. In the Telegraph article that ran a few days before, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

"There has been much government focus on ‘problems' with abortion services, despite evidence that women receive high quality care when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. At the same time, real and pressing problems with women's access to the contraception they need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy in the first place appear low down the list of government priorities.

Policy to guide family planning services, which could help prevent these pregnancies, is now a year overdue.

Women need access to high-quality contraceptive services that are not restricted on the basis of age or location, with straightforward access to abortion care when their method lets them down.

We call on policy-makers to deliver a sexual health strategy that empowers healthcare professionals to deliver the contraception and abortion services that women in the 21st Century need and deserve."


The Telegraph leans conservative and is clearly pro-life; remember their recent undercover investigation in which they purportedly filmed doctors agreeing to "illegal abortions" on the basis of a baby's sex? If you read the piece, it's clear that the doctors were just trying to do their job without judging their patients: "I don't ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination," one doctor said. This nonjudgmental attitude is apparently not okay with the Telegraph, which is bent on convincing the country that women are wily sluts who want to get dozens of abortions so they can sleep around and, on the off-chance they decide to have a child, "illegally" decide its sex.

The paper's plight would be laughable and pathetic if it wasn't so terrifying: if the takeaway for readers is that women are carelessly getting tons of abortions — I mean, seriously, this whole thing reminds me of the genius Onion Abortionplex article that some people didn't realize was satire — that will only hurt the women who desperately need access to contraception in the real world.


NHS 'spends £1m on repeat abortions' [Telegraph]

Image via Deklofenak/Shutterstock.



Here's what I never understand about this part of the abortion debate. Those women who you're trying really hard to paint as irresponsible sluts who can't be trusted - why would you want them to have kids? If you're going to demonize people that much, it's a bit odd to then imply that them having children would be a wonderful idea.

Also, if some women are getting up to 8 abortions that isn't a sign that abortion should be restricted, it's a sign that something has gone wrong in terms of education about and access to preventative birth control. Which everyone else understands, but apparently the anti-choice zealots do not.