No Evidence for Claim that Sixty-Four Percent of Women Seeking Abortions Were Coerced To Do So

South Dakota has passed the 72-hour abortion waiting period/mandatory religious counseling law, all to “protect” women from being “coerced” into having an abortion. With just 48 hours left for the governor of the state to decide if he wishes to sign or veto the law, a recent letter to the editor by one of the founders of a pregnancy center that will benefit financially from the law gave me pause.

In a letter to the Argus Leader, Dr. Allen Unruh (owner of the Alpha Center, a group of pregnancy centers that recently performed a “training” on how to counsel women should H.B. 1217 be signed into law), wrote about the “lies” being told (by pro-choice opponents of the bill) about the mandatory counseling and wait period bill required in the new law.  But what stuck out most was his statement that “Up to 64 percent of abortions are coerced against a woman’s will.”

It didn’t take me long to find a laundry list of articles quoting this statistic, all of them from anti-abortion publications like Lifenews and Lifesite, as well as testimony from hearings on a variety of “anti-coercion” bills being proposed and in some cases passed in states across the country.  Yet no one talked much about the source data, or how the study was conducted, or if they did, they simply stated it was published in Medical Science Monitor.

Intrigued, I went to search for the article itself.  Although it is often attributed to a Rue VM as the author, it comes as little surprise that one of the four authors was Dr. David Reardon of the Elliot Institute, a man best known for making a living by creating the non-existent “post-abortive syndrome,” as well as advocating that a woman who had been impregnated through rape would best recover if she gave birth to her attacker’s baby.

The “64 percent of women are coerced” comes from a study called “ Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women.”  The abstract does not even bring up coercion, since that wasn’t a major focus of the study — the study was supposed to show whether abortion causes post traumatic stress disorder and if so, if it was more likely to occur in American women than Russian women.

In fact, you can’t even find out the detail on “coerced abortions” without getting a copy of the study itself, which you can download a personal copy of here.  There you will learn that the women in the study were self-selected in and chose to participate, which inherently skews a sample from the start.  Only 217 American women were even used in the study, making for a very small sample size.  And the American women involved were already predisposed to believe that abortion was a morally wrong procedure — 50.7 of the women in the study said that they believed abortion was “morally wrong” and 30 percent said they were “unsure,” and almost 60 percent answered that either a woman did not have a right to an abortion or that they were “unsure” if she did or not.

So, to boil it down, 139 women who self-selected to participate in a study about traumatic effects of abortion, a majority of whom thought abortion was a morally wrong procedure to which women did not have a right, stated that they “felt pressured by others” to have an abortion.  Based on that result, anti-choice politicians and activists have been declaring that “64 percent of all women are coerced into abortions” and that laws need to be made to restrict their access to the procedure to protect them.

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  • reproductivefreedomfighter

    Thank you for tracking that down, Robin.  Another anti-choice myth debunked.  Nice work. 

  • plume-assassine

    The CPC forced counseling/proselytizing bill passed? But it’s completely unconstitutional. My mind is spinning. I hope it will be challenged.

  • crowepps

    Yeah, it passed, since after all we are talking about South Dakota, home of some of the most rabid anti-abortion fanatics in the country, but it has not yet been signed by the governor.  There is some hope that since the bill is OBVIOUSLY unconstitutional, that the governor might decide the lawsuit it will generate is a waste of money, considering even the Catholic Court isn’t going ot be able to justify this one.

  • saltyc


    It looks like it’s just a ruse to brankrupt abortion providers.

    [a provider] is subject to a $10,000 civil penalty if he fails to comply with the law’s 72-hour waiting period or fails to have the woman attest that she has had a pregnancy center consultation. [with one of the sponsor centers]

    It doesn’t define what “attest” is because it doesn’t require the CPC to confirm that the consultation was made (would mean the CPC agents are “collaborating” with abortion, dontcha know?) So the doctor has no way of knowing whether the meeting actually happened and no way to protect his or herself. source:

  • plume-assassine

    Oh hell no. This is un-f—ing-believable. I hope they are ready for a long legal battle. I couldn’t even stomach reading the entire article because it’s so patronizing.


    “I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”


    yeah, as if they hadn’t already thought about it enough, maybe even constantly ever since missing a period?


    “Women need to just be reminded of the fact there is a natural, legal relationship between them and their child.”

     More evidence that Republican men think that women are moral children who need to be gently reminded that they are incubators and chastised if they don’t believe that a fetus is a child.

  • goatini

    That’s not a gentle reminder – that’s a combination of marketing and threatening.


    It’s “ALL-NATURAL”!!  (As opposed to what?  Synthetic?  Fake?  Turkey baster?  IVF?  Oh, right, scratch those last two, since anyone TRYING to get pregnant isn’t going to be affected by this BS.)


    It’s “LEGAL”!!  (A DIRECT THREAT to the woman, implying that a fertilized egg has “legal rights” that it DOES NOT HAVE.)


    Damn these lying scum.

  • crowepps

    Daugaard, who gave no interviews after signing the bill, said in a written statement that he had conferred with state attorneys who will defend the law in court and a sponsor who has pledged to raise private money to finance the state’s court fight. Officials have said estimated the cost of defending the law at $1.7 million to $4.5 million.

    Sigh, this is just so discouraging.  They’ve passed what amounts to a religiously motivated private law, on the understanding that the rich religious fanatic who wanted it passed will pay to defend it.  I always figured the legislature was supposed to actually be representing the people of the state who voted for them, not fringe ideologues who are shopping around for someplace to get a ‘test case’.

  • crowepps

    Natural as in “that’s what women are FOR”

    Legal as in “that’s what women are FOR”

    Since these misogynists can’t imagine any other reason to have women around.

  • plume-assassine

    Oh, I forgot about this gem from Leslie Unruh,

    “…let’s give these women the 72 hours they need to make this decision on their own without being coerced.”

    Hmm… speaking of coercion, does she not realize that what she is doing as a CPC founder involves lying to and scaring women into keeping unwanted pregnancies?


    Man, if I was someone living in SD seeking an abortion, and I was forced to go to a CPC, I would be as much of an angry, uncooperative bitch as possible and tell them exactly where to shove their lying propoganda pamphlets.

  • saltyc

    If they’re passing laws for their rich religious fanatic friends, they should have to disclose who they are at least. Just who are thos deep-pockets fueling the war against women? I wish Newsweek or someone, even Geraldo, would do an expose.

  • ldan

    Makes me wonder if there’s any laws against having a private donor defend such a thing. It seems like there ought to be, specifically to guard against ‘buying’ laws in such a fashion.


    Of course I note that the sponsor has said they’ll raise the money, not that they already have it in hand. And if they don’t raise it? is the state on the hook for that? Aren’t we in a fiscal crises or something? The sort of thing that means that maybe they shouldn’t be passing laws that are going to require expensive court battles before most likely being ruled against?

  • kirsten-sherk

    Robin, thanks for exposing the source of this misleading and irresponsible research. David Reardon has made a career out of creating research findings that match his worldview and it’s important that we call them when we see them.

  • robin-marty

    I have to assume that there are in fact laws, and that bills have to be written to get around them. In Minnesota, the GOP just introduced the 20 week ban, and as part of the bill has introduced a fund that can be filled with private donations to defend it, since it’s so obviously unconstitutional.

  • crowepps

    I’m not altogether sure it’s constitutional to have private donors handing over cash to the State attorney general’s office — in lots of places they describe doing that as a ‘bribe’.

  • ldan

    Precisely. And if they can sneak it in when it’s ‘just’ abortion laws they’re talking about, what’s to stop them from doing it with any other laws? Million- and billionaire money already has too much influence over our laws. Allowing them to fund the defense of laws that will likely be overturned just wastes everyone’s time.


    Are they also funding the salaries of the judges and other court employees’ time and benefits? If not, you’re still wasting taxpayer dollars, even if it isn’t going directly to the attorneys.


    Frivolous lawsuits weren’t enough. Now we get to watch court dockets clogged with frivolous laws. *headdesk*

  • ack

    At least in AZ. There’s a mulitmillion dollar donated fund to defend SB1070. My favorite part was when Brewer acted all surprised when the media reported that some of the money came from white supremicist groups.


    Elections, and therefore bills, are bought every cycle. It’s not supposed to be pay to play, but that’s politics.

  • crowepps

    Elections, and therefore bills, are bought every cycle. It’s not supposed to be pay to play, but that’s politics.

    Oh, I agree, but traditionally there was enough respect for the pretence that the voters mattered that they didn’t point to the money when they signed the bill.

  • crowepps

    It certainly looks like Clarence Thomas is bought and paid for.