There are certain erroneous points, which are sometimes presented as facts, when discussing the question of abortion. This week, let us take a look at them.

When information becomes misinformation
In the United States we have a wonderful system of roads and highways, and I am sure that most of us have traveled on many of them. You do not have to be an expert in road building to know that, regardless of the beauty of the highway, there is always a necessity for proper signs. We have probably all been in a situation where we have become confused as to just where we are when traveling along, and our common reaction is to think: “I hope I see a sign soon.” The road may take us to a marvelous destination, but if we don’t know how to use the road properly, with clear indications of direction, progress and destination, we will become hopelessly lost. This is why there is a necessity for proper signs, containing correct information.

In a recent article about the proper use of modern media, I made use of a current term that we hear in connection with the many marvels of technology placed before us: the “information highway.” Like a beautiful, well-paved road, the information highway of the modern media is only as good as the correct information that it gives us. Just as we have to be alert for correct signs when we are traveling, we have to be conscious of the “information” that is fed us on the modern information highway.

One area in which we sometimes find persistent myths, rather than correct information, concerns the question of abortion. Knowingly or unknowingly, some sectors of the information highway continue to present myths as facts when discussing the abortion question. This week, I would like to take a look at some of them so that we can all be conscious of the truth, when we are presented with erroneous statements concerning this defining issue of our moment in human history.

Identifying the myths
A recent interview, sponsored by the international Catholic news service ZENIT and published on their web site, ( moved me to use the myths concerning the abortion question as our topic this week. ZENIT interviewed Dr. Rosario Laris, a surgeon, public health teacher and bioethicist, who works in Mexico. Dr. Laris identified three principal areas in which myths are perpetuated concerning abortion. They are that: legalizing abortion reduces the deaths of mothers through illegal abortions; when legalized, abortions actually decrease; and, abortion does not have any physical or psychological effects on those who obtain an abortion. Let us look at each of these with the help of Dr. Laris.

Does the legalization of abortion reduce the numbers of deaths of pregnant mothers? International Planned Parenthood claims that “the legalization of abortion and the provision of family planning services dramatically cut abortion related deaths.” Is this correct? The World Health Organization points out that 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in the developing world, and Dr. Laris states that 25 percent of the maternal deaths throughout the world currently take place in India, even though that country has had legalized abortion since 1972.

Another example is the comparison between Russia and Ireland. Russia has had legalized abortion for many years, Ireland has not, yet the number of maternal deaths in Russia is six times the amount of those in Ireland.

In the United States, where we have tragically had legalized abortion now for many years, there are 16 deaths of women for every 100,000 mothers carrying or delivering children; in Ireland, there are only 5 deaths per 100,000 mothers.

Dr. Laris also points to the myth that there are many deaths of mothers in Mexico due to unsafe abortions. The reality is that, in the entire country, the death rate caused by unsafe abortions is actually very low. Other medical issues contribute to the maternal deaths in that country.

The National Right to Life web site ( points out the following facts concerning the true cause of the overwhelming number of maternal deaths: “The lack of modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of abortion, results in high maternal mortality rates. Legalized abortion actually leads to more abortions, and in the developing world, where maternal health care is poor, legalization would increase the number of women who die or who are harmed by abortion.”

Does legalization reduce the number of abortions?
Some of the misinformation in this area states that the legalization of abortion is not equivalent to the promotion of abortion. Once again, Dr. Laris points out that this is just not true. Here are some statistics: abortion was legalized in Spain 20 years ago and its numbers have increased 200 percent since then. One out of six pregnancies in Spain today ends in abortion.

Another example to cite would be that of Poland where, for many years under the Communist regime, abortion was legal. During that time, the number of abortions was very high. When it was outlawed, the number of abortions dropped to one out of 100 pregnancies. Dr. Laris concludes, based on these and many other statistics, that to legalize abortion is, in effect, to promote it.

Many studies also reveal that having an abortion takes a great toll on the psychological state of the mother. Proponents of abortion indicate that once the abortion has been obtained, the mother simply feels “relief” and is able “to get on with her life.” This does a great disservice to women because the facts seem to point to the opposite effect.

Dr. Laris points out, in the interview that we have referenced, that several studies in different parts of the world indicate similar results: that, far from being a relief and a path to freedom, the procuring of an abortion often leaves the woman with feelings of depression and regret. A 1989 study made by The Los Angeles Times showed that 56 percent of women who had an abortion felt guilty about it and 26 percent expressed mostly regret at having done so. The immediate result may be one of “relief” or “freedom,” but statistics do not bear that out in the long term.

Reiterating the alternatives to abortion
The Catholic Church has a rich history of providing for children and mothers in critical situations. From the earliest days of the Church, when we read of the works of charity practiced by the early Christians, to the many institutions, religious communities and services sponsored by the Church down through the ages in order to care for children and orphans, we see a consistent picture of realistic charity. The Church does not just preach the Gospel, she also aims to provide the means to carry out its message in trying circumstances.

We know that our own Catholic Social Services provide a great deal of support for those looking for alternatives to abortion, as do the many groups that have been founded to assist in this noble work. It is also important to reiterate what I wrote a couple of months ago about the alternative of adoption.

Parish priests tell me of the many fine couples in their parishes who are longing to adopt a child and give him or her a loving home, in which this child truly becomes part of them. Unfortunately, the wait is often long and the process daunting. A large part of the reason for this is that, tragically, so many babies are aborted that there are not many who can be brought into a loving home.

At this time, I would like to remind young women contemplating an abortion, and the families who seek to be supportive of them in their difficulty, not to forget the alternative of adoption. This has been a source of great joy for many parents and of great blessings for the children received into these loving homes.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Pregnancy Hotline, run by Catholic Social Services, at: 1-800-CARE-002. It provides 24 hour, seven days a week support for inspaniduals seeking assistance with a pregnancy, supportive counseling and linkage with needed resources. Please also keep in mind the Adoption Services department of Catholic Social Services, which can be reached at 215 854-7050, or through their web site:

In confronting the myths associated with abortion, the Church is not merely engaging in a debate, but reaching out in mercy with the greatest of gifts: the truth.

27 May 2010