“Abortions on Women Who Aren’t Pregnant” Common Trope of Anti-Choice Movement

Reproductive rights reporter (and RH Reality Check weekly columnist) Amanda Marcotte writes today that Missouri Congressman and Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, already well-known for his solidly anti-choice positions, gave a speech in 2008 in which he states that, among other things, abortion providers perform abortions on “women who are not actually pregnant.”

To many readers, that would seem like a bizarre statement. After all, you can’t have an abortion unless you are pregnant! But for the culture of anti-choice activists that see providers as monsters and women as gullible victims, this is almost religiously-accepted fact.

Carol Everett, a former clinic worker in the 70’s who then “converted” and became an outspoken icon for the anti-choice movement, was fond of telling stories of the horrors she allegedly assisted with when she was in the “abortion industry.” She once provided a testimonial on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family’s radio program in the 80’s where she claimed she was constantly involved in “unneeded” abortions in order to make money.

There are two other things I’d like to talk about. There are women who come in and have abortions but aren’t pregnant. You may say, “Oh, that doesn’t happen.” Maybe you say that. It does happen. First of all, this woman thinks she’s pregnant. She’s scheduled herself for an abortion. She’s come in and her pregnancy test is negative. They have a woman that they have paid their advertising dollars to get in there. They want to do that abortion if there is any way.

So they do everything they can to prove that she’s pregnant or has been pregnant. You say “has been pregnant?” Yes, if they can convince her that she has been pregnant, that she’s had a spontaneous abortion. She’s going to have to go into the hospital to have a D&C to remove the rest of the contents of her uterus. They will convince her to go ahead and have a procedure she doesn’t need that day. And it happens. Channel four [Dallas-FortWorth] got it on tape — a woman that went directly from our office to a doctor’s office and the doctor told her that she was and had never been pregnant, and we had tried to do an abortion on her. I don’t know what percentage that is. I have no idea…

Everett may have claimed that abortions were performed for no reason and for the sake of financial gain, but it was a statement vociferiously rebutted by many of her former colleagues. For example, William W. West, Jr., M.D., who works in outpatient psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, stated in a news release in 1988 after Everett had been appointed the public affairs Director of Greater Dallas Right to Life Committee and Texas Coalition for Life:

“One thing Ms. Everett claims is that callous greed like hers is a common motive among those who are involved in the provision of abortion services. This is flagrantly untrue. She should know better. She also contends that legal abortion, as practiced in the United States today, is prohibitively dangerous. In actual fact, it is probably about as safe as having a wisdom tooth pulled and is certainly much safer than having a baby, its only alternative. She should know this.”

“. . .Among Ms. Everett’s various fraudulent claims is her assertion that abortion surgery is deliberately performed on women who are not actually pregnant in order to get their money. Give me a break! I hope there are not many among us who are cynical and gullible enough to actually believe such garbage!”

However, in the early days after Roe v. Wade, there were reputable stories of abortions being performed on women who weren’t pregnant, as in a 1978 expose by the Chicago Sun Times, where female reporters went undercover to clinics to investigate allegations of illegal abortions after the first trimester, unsanitary conditions, and not-pregnant women receiving D&Cs. The resulting series of articles were lurid and uncomfortable, and some of the clinics involved were closed as a result of the discovery. Still, those cases marked the very rare exceptions, not the actions of providers as a whole.

But anti-choicers have revived this old story as they did the medieval “legitimate rape” claims, and have used these claims as one basis for passage of mandatory ultrasound laws. When Michigan proposed their ultrasound bill in 2005, “anecdotal” evidence of practitioner malfeasance was used as one of the arguments for passing the bill. According to the legislative analysis of the HB 4446:

Some clinics perform abortions on the basis of the results of a urine test alone. These tests can give false positives.  There is anecdotal testimony to suggest that women, in some circumstances, have been given an abortion when there was no pregnancy. Requiring an ultrasound will give additional verification that the woman is pregnant and protect the health of a woman by ensuring she is not given an unnecessary procedure.

The claims continued through 2011, with Concerned Women for America’s Wendy Wright testifying in support of the Ohio bill to ban abortion from the point in which an embryonic heartbeat could be detected.

Would abortionists do abortions on women who are not pregnant? Numerous reports from investigative journalists, state inspectors, and abortion providers have revealed abortionists who routinely committed abortions on Women who were not pregnant.

Her sources for her testimony range from an investigation in Florida where a lack of pregnancy tests for half the patients was taken by investigators to mean that the women who underwent abortions weren’t pregnant, to a former clinic worker’s testimony against a Kansas provider (an assertion that is missing in follow-up documents), and even the testimony from the Michigan ultrasound bill in 2005 (yes, that unspecified “anecdotal evidence”).

It’s ironic when you think about it, however. On one hand, anti-choice activists are declaring that a woman is pregnant before a pregnancy test could even confirm it, or that a fertilized egg not implanting in the womb somehow is the loss of a complete and separate fully formed life. At the same time, they are also completely convinced that there is a mass undertaking by doctors to perform pregnancy terminations on women who aren’t in fact even medically pregnant.

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  • blissed

    Since business is booming due to all that encouraged hooker up “sexual expression” and “discovering boundaries” with all manner of penis experimentation.  Anything to keep that almighty precious “career” uninterrupted and cranking along…

  • liberaldem

    being sarcastic, a troll, or what?  The subject of the article is specious claims from the anti-choice community that women who are not pregnant are having abortions.  If a woman is not pregnant, she isn’t going to have a need for an abortion.

    For your information, women are capable of making their own decisions about every aspect of their lives-their education, career, and whether or when they have children.  Got a problem with that?

  • jruwaldt

    I strongly suspect Blissed is a troll. His/her comments are routinely voted down. I considered commenting but felt I should follow the maxim, “Do not feed the trolls.”

  • blissed

    are keeping the clinics flush.  If there are non pregnant women coming in, maybe its for a dry run?  Sort of like practice during a fire drill…

  • jennifer-starr

    Blissed is fixated on his fantasies of single career women and their alleged harems that they won’t let him join. Where he gets his info from I’d like to know–I suspect it’s either from porn or from the voices in his head, because it’s certainly not from reality. 

  • colleen

    away from demeaning and belittling women and then masturbating furiously when one responds to your comments and focused on convincing men to be sexually responsible you could be of some use.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    How old are you and are you a virgin?  Are your buddies virgins?  Why all the double-standard bigotry?  What if all women suddenly went Lysistrata on you misogynists and you had to rely on blow-up dolls instead?

  • jennie-kermode

    I’ve had a D&C when not pregnant. I wasn’t ripped off. I had it on the NHS and there was a sound medical reason for it. A D&C, however, is not necesarily the same thing as an abortion; when no foetus is present it’s inaccurate to describe it that way.

  • crowepps

    It’s true that dilation and curettage may also be done for other reasons, such as to remove fibroids, but it’s accurate to call D&C’s abortion when they are done to remove a dead fetus or whole or partial placenta which hasn’t been expelled during miscarriage (in order to prevent infection).

    The procedure actually is done for a lot of different reasons, and it’s accurate to use it any time the reason is to “remove the products of pregnancy”.  We need to eliminate the judgmental myth that one should only use the nasty word ‘abortion’ for occasions of ‘baby-killing’ by a patient who’s an immoral slut.  Not true at all, and the biggest problem with doctors insisting they won’t learn how to do an ‘immoral’ procedure is that in emergencies arising from pregnancy complications, their patients die as sacrifices to their self-righteousness.

  • veggietart

    He thinks abortions are done on women who are not pregnant.


    He thinks abortions are done in unsanitary conditions and are dangerous (only if they’re illegal, back-alley ones).


    He thinks women who have been raped cannot get pregnant.


    He is…the most idiotic man in the world!


    And yes, for most people, abortion is safer than childbirth.  And this convert sounds like a crackpot.

  • crowepps

    He sure is credulous — apparently anybody flogging a book can show up and tell him some kind of silliness and he swallows it hook, line and sinker.  Not exactly the kind of person anybody sensible would want in charge of making law!

  • thalwen

    Blissed is a classic MRA troll who is mad at all the wimminz for having all that naughty dirty sex not with him and so must be blamed for all of society’s ills. 

  • thalwen

    With all the contracepting we’re doing, it’s impossible to be pregnant all the time. And what’s a girl to do when she’s really in the mood for an abortion but the sperm has taken out a restraining order on the egg? Luckily doctors dressed like mad scientists at your local abortuary will be happy to give you a mockbortion. Though, much like a non-alcoholic cocktail, it doesn’t have that zing that a real abortion has but it’s nice that they have us pre-pregnant ladies in mind.

  • arachne646

    I had an IUD which implanted in the wall of my uterus (a rare complication, and otherwise, a super experience–would have kept it but DH had a vasectomy), and I needed a D+C to remove it. Quick anaesthetic and I don’t remember if I needed to use pads or how many. Years ago, but very easy and painless.