Rhetoric of abortions shroud legal battles

The Supreme Court declined to hear an Oklahoma case on limiting chemical abortions on Monday. This decision means that Oklahoma’s own Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the attempt to ban all chemical abortions, will stand. The Oklahoma ban proposed limits on virtually all kinds of chemical abortions, most notably the drugs mifepristone and misprostol, according to The Huffington Post. These drugs may be used in tandem during the first seven weeks of pregnancy.

According to news organization Al Jazeera America, this proposed ban is the most extreme of its kind in the U.S., as it essentially prevents all types of chemical abortions. While the scientific conversation surrounding chemical abortions is important and relevant, legal battles involving the use of these drugs often get bogged down in political rhetoric that has little to do with medical fact. The argument against chemical abortion focused on it being unsafe for women; however, this is untrue.

Chemically induced abortions, or medical abortions, involve changing the hormone levels in a woman’s body to induce a miscarriage, according to Planned Parenthood. While taking an abortion pill has potential side effects, medical abortions are safe procedures, with limited risks for the women seeking them. Anti-abortion activists in this particular case are claiming that medical abortions hold medical risk for women, ignoring the fact that all medical procedures carry some element of risk, and those involved in medical abortions are no higher than other types of procedures. Over 1.4 million women have used these drugs to induce abortions; eight of them have died, which the state of Oklahoma argued constitutes an unacceptable risk to women. In the United States, 1 in 2,400 women die in natural childbirth per year, which means that chemical abortions of this nature are actually safer for women than natural childbirth.

Anti-abortion activists use rhetoric that is supposedly “pro-women” to control women’s access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. For example, many anti-abortion activists fight to limit Planned Parenthood, claiming that its main purpose is to provide abortions. In 2011, Arizona Senator John Kyl claimed on the Senate floor that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions. According to Planned Parenthood, only three percent of its services focus on abortions. Kyl later retracted that statement, according to NPR, but its legacy remains in policy making today.