Science vs. myths about later abortion

Legislators are disregarding scientific evidence and enacting legislation that codifies misinformation. The questions of the effects of abortion on clients' mental health and of fetal pain and fetal viability are three areas in which significant misinformation has been disseminated, and this misinformation has been used as the basis for new legislation limiting abortion. The scientific evidence, however, does not support any of these restrictions.

Abortion is not linked to subsequent mental health problems.

A number of states mandate that those considering abortion be counseled by medical staff that the procedure can adversely affect their mental health. Yet the scientific evidence to date disproves the idea that having an abortion is any more dangerous to a pregnant person's long-term mental health than delivering and parenting a child that they did not intend to have, or placing a baby for adoption.

For more information on mental health and abortion visit the Tools for Advocates page and view our fact sheet in English and Spanish.

Fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

Many states have restricted abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on the assumption that the fetus can experience pain beginning at this gestational age. However, based on the best available scientific evidence, the fetal capacity to feel pain does not develop until after the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy, and it is unlikely that that the fetus can experience pain until afer birth.

View more tools for talking about the myth of fetal pain here, and read a review of current evidence in English and Spanish

A fetus is no more viable at later abortions than at earlier abortions.

In addition, while the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision determined “viability” as a critical marker for finding a balance between the right of a person to end an unwanted pregnancy and the interests of the state, there is no clear legal or medical definition of viability, leaving state legislatures free to define the term for themselves, without scientific evidence and with little uniformity between states.

Information on the science of viability can be found here, including factsheet in English and Spanish.