As abortion supporters struggle to fight against rising prolife momentum nationwide, some have turned away from glossing over abortion with statements like “safe, legal and rare.” Instead some are beginning to make statements like “I love abortion.” They think being disingenuous about abortion is ceding the broader argument to prolifers, and so embracing abortion as a positive good will remove the “stigma” from it.
One tactic used to bolster their argument is to claim that abortion is one of the most common medical procedures. Some go so far to say it’s the most common medical procedure for women in America. It’s doubtful that claim will remove the stigma from abortion, because it’s hard to really have a person watch something like a late-term abortion and have them believe it’s perfectly acceptable, much less lovable.
While there are certainly a tragically large number of abortions in America, is their claim true? Is abortion the most common medical procedure in America?
First, some definitions. A surgical procedure is a medical procedure, but not all medical procedures are surgical procedures. It’s important to mention this for two reasons. On one hand, most people making this claim about abortion probably have surgery in mind. On the other hand, many abortion supporters frequently claim abortion is completely different from common outpatient surgeries. They do this because they don’t want clinics that provide outpatient surgical abortions to be regulated as outpatient facilities or ambulatory surgical centers.
Now, let’s get into some numbers. There are just under 1 million induced abortions every year in America, including surgical and medical abortions. Here’s a list of medical procedures in hospitals that were performed more than 1 million times each in 2010: blood transfusions, vaccinations, intubations/ventilations, episiotomy repairs, diagnostic cardiac catheterizations, c-sections, upper G-I endoscopies/biopsies, and circumcisions. That’s not even mentioning common things that are medical procedures, for example, intravenous fluid replacement.
Let’s get really specific here. What about outpatient surgical procedures for women? Is abortion the most common outpatient medical procedure for women? Here’s a list of outpatient procedures performed more than 1 million times each a year on just women: spinal canal injections, eyelid operations, cataract replacements, and lower G-I endoscopies. Again, this list doesn’t include common medical procedures for women provided in outpatient settings. For example, there are tens of millions of pap tests every year.
If we listed out every "medical procedure" more common than abortion, you’d stop reading. In 2010 there were 46 million in-patient surgeries and 53 million outpatient surgeries in the U.S. Surgical abortions are small subset of that large total.
Let’s just look at Planned Parenthood’s statistics. They do about 320,000 abortions every year, and they claim this is just three percent of their services (which it really isn’t). So, the leader of the abortion movement itself claims abortion is uncommon in their clinics, even though they are the country's largest abortion provider.
So, which is it abortion supporters? Abortion organizations will probably continue to fight over whether to say abortions are rare/tragic or common/lovable, and then no doubt they’ll decide which statistic is the one that will be repeated over and over in media coverage.
We do concede there are a lot of abortions. Abortion would be the number-one cause of death, if it counted. There have been more abortions committed in the Black community than every cause of death combined since 1973. Facts are important, but we all need to get them right.
Ultimately, every claim abortions supporters make has one common purpose: distract from the key truth that abortion takes the life of an innocent child. One thing they’ll never want to talk about—no matter how popular they try to make abortion—is what an abortion actually does to an unborn child.