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 women’s 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 have passed or are considering legislation that mandates that women considering abortion be counseled that the procedure can adversely affect a woman’s mental health. Yet, both the scientific evidence to date and the history of 44 years of legal abortion in the United States disprove the idea that having an abortion is any more dangerous to a woman's long-term mental health than delivering and parenting a child that she did not intend to have or placing a baby for adoption.

View tools for advocates about the lack of a link between abortion and mental health here.

Fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

Many states have restricted abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, based on the assumption of fetal pain. The scientific evidence and information from physicians and biomedical researchers, however, assert that fetal pain is unlikely before the 27th, not 20th, week of pregnancy – that is, long after almost all abortions are permitted to occur. 

View a list of tools for advocates about the myth of fetal pain here.

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 woman 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.

View tools for advocates around the issue of viability here.

To review the research on the science of later abortion, please visit our research area.