Anti-abortion disinformation has infiltrated everything from the media to conversations we have with family and friends, all the way up to politicians, law enforcement, and judges.
Right now, the abortion pill mifepristone is under attack due to a lawsuit from the anti-abortion Alliance Defending Freedom, who are citing biased sources and ignoring the facts: mifepristone is safe, effective, and essential. Despite this, anti-abortion judges hearing the case–from Texas to the 5th Circuit to the Supreme Court–are parroting anti-abortion disinformation in their arguments, opinions, and judgments.
This guide lays out some of that anti-abortion disinformation and breaks apart myth from facts.
Debunking general anti-abortion disinformation:
Myth: Anti-abortion activists often use the phrase “chemical abortion” to refer to abortion pills or medication abortion.
Fact: This is anti-abortion framing used to induce fear and doubt in the safety of abortion, and is not used by any mainstream medical, nursing, or public health organization. The correct terminology is medication abortion or simply abortion pills.
Myth: Anti-abortion activists claim that abortions with pills delivered by mail are less safe than when the pills are administered in a doctor’s office.
Fact: Research shows that people can safely manage a medication abortion with or without the direct involvement of a medical professional. Everyone should be able to determine the location and support that are best for them when seeking abortion care.
Myth: Anti-abortion activists claim to have scientific studies which support their argument that mifepristone is “dangerous” or less safe than an in-clinic abortion.
Fact: There are over 100 credible, peer-reviewed studies detailing thousands of patient experiences that prove medication abortion’s safety and effectiveness. And millions of people have safely used mifepristone for over two decades. Anti-abortion activists often cite studies explicitly commissioned by anti-abortion organizations created with the goal of banning abortions (e.g. the Charlotte Lozier Institute) to back up their claims, or else cite wildly out-of-date studies that rely on unrepresentative samples.
Myth: Anti-abortion activists claim that the approval process for mifepristone was rushed, or less thorough than for other FDA medications.
Fact: The FDA approved the drug in 2000 after three phases of clinical trials that began in 1983–a longer process than the agency’s average review time of 6-10 months.
Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine vs. FDA
April’s District Court ruling from Judge Kacsmaryk featured an opinion that parroted much of the disinformation promoted by the anti-abortion plaintiffs in the case, this includes:
Myth: The judge claimed that the FDA can’t deny that “serious complications from mifepristone are certainly impending.”
Fact: Mifepristone has a complication rate of 0.3 percent and is much safer than commonly used medications like Tylenol.
Myth: The judge argued that “women who use this drug [and do not complete their abortions] cannot possibly go back to their non-doctor-prescribers for surgical abortions.”
Fact: Only a tiny fraction of medication abortions are not successful, but when such an event occurs patients should be able to receive standard care for an incomplete miscarriage, including additional doses of medication or uterine aspirations. Uterine aspirations are also within the scope of practice for many advanced practice clinicians such as registered nurses, certified midwives, and physicians’ assistants.
Aiken, Abigail R.A., et al. “Safety and Effectiveness of Self-Managed Medication Abortion Provided Using Online Telemedicine in the United States: A Population Based Study.” The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, vol. 10, 2022, p. 100200, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lana.2022.100200.
Fernando, Christine. “‘It Felt like Coming up for Air’: Abortion Patients Defend Mifepristone Access.” USA Today, 27 May 2023, usatoday.com/story/news/health/2023/05/27/patients-defend-abortion-pill-mifepristone/70228441007/.
Walker, Amy Schoenfeld, et al. “Are Abortion Pills Safe? Here’s the Evidence.” The New York Times, 1 Apr. 2023, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/04/01/health/abortion-pill-safety.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur.