Hesperian Health Guides

Separating facts from misinformation

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Health Actions for Women > Chapter 9: Preventing Deaths from Unsafe Abortion > Separating facts from misinformation

It is very common to find inaccurate information about abortion on signs, in brochures, and on websites. People sometimes have such strong feelings against abortion that they will lie or distort the truth, hoping to talk others out of having an abortion. Lies about abortion also weaken community support for the legal right to safe abortion. People who are against abortion may not even know they are saying things that are not true. They are simply repeating untrue things they have heard.

3 men speaking in a group of 4.
This booklet says that if abortion is made legal, more women will have more abortions.
That is not true. In countries where abortion has been legal for a long time, women don’t have more abortions, and they don’t die from unsafe abortions either.
Yes, abortion was legal where I went abroad to study, and I never heard of a woman dying from abortion. It was also easier for women and men to prevent pregnancy using family planning.

Many people think that all religions and religious people are against abortion, because some religious leaders teach that abortion is always wrong. But this is not true. Religious people from many faiths believe women have the right to safe abortion.

a woman speaking.
I belong to an organization called Catholics for Choice. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is morally wrong. But it also teaches that a person’s conscience determines if a certain action is a sin. We believe that if a woman carefully examines her conscience and decides an abortion is the most ethical thing she can do in her situation, she is not committing a sin.
ActivityMany points of view!

This activity can help a group explore different points of view about a difficult topic and look carefully at how information is presented differently depending on the point of view.
To prepare: collect news articles, pamphlets, and quotes from people who either believe abortion is wrong, or think a woman should be able to decide for herself.

  1. Read out loud the different materials (or sections from them) that have been collected.
  2. For each item, ask the group to share their feelings and responses. For example, does it seem like it is trying to worry, frighten, or shame people? Is it using words or pictures to play on people’s emotions?
  3. Compare the arguments or opinions stated, and look at the source of information used to support the argument.
  4. To conclude, you can ask the group to compare the different points of view about abortion. Ask: Are these points of view common? Are some more common than others? How does the information available affect the points of view among our friends, family, and neighbors? Which sources of information seem most reliable or trustworthy?

a priest and another man talking to a woman who stands between them thinking.
It is your right to decide if you need an abortion.

Games to discuss facts and myths about abortion

When people believe things about abortion that are not true, it makes discussing abortion even more difficult. And health decisions based on wrong information can be harmful. Games can help people learn the difference between facts about abortion and myths or other types of wrong information.

Here is an example of how to adapt a board game to help a small group learn and discuss facts about abortion. This is a variation of the board games described An STI board game, and Chapter 7.

ActivityA board game about safe abortion

To prepare: Make "fact questions" for the board game. Include misunderstandings about abortion that are common in your community and include the facts too! For more facts about abortion, see Where Women Have No Doctor. Try to find the answers to:

  • When can a woman legally have an abortion in our country?
  • Who can decide if a woman can have a safe, legal abortion?
  • Are abortion laws the same for married and unmarried women and for adolescent girls?
  • Where can women get safe abortions or correct information about abortion?
  • Where can women get emergency care if there is a problem after an abortion?

Make "discussion questions." You can use the stories in the previous section, and ask the group what each woman should do and why. Here are a few examples of other questions you might use:
  • What are some things women think about when trying to decide whether to continue an unintended pregnancy?
  • How might a man influence a woman’s decision about abortion? What difference does it make if their relationship is more equal, or if the man has more power?
  • What makes it difficult for adolescent girls to get an abortion?

HAW Ch9 Page 260-1.png

After the game: Ask group members which questions were particularly hard to answer. Was this because the facts were unclear or because the opinions in the group were different? Note topics and concerns that can be addressed in future trainings.

Sometimes it can be a challenge just to get people to state their opinions out loud, or even ask questions about such a controversial topic as abortion! It can also be difficult for people to listen to different points of view without some structure and help.

The following activity helps a group begin to express their opinions, ideas, and questions. This can then create the opportunity for you to share more information, and to clarify ideas that may be based on wrong information.

ActivityTaking a stand

To prepare: Make a list of statements that reflect common ideas, myths, and attitudes both for and against safe abortion. Take care to have an equal number of statements for and against. Mark 3 large pieces of paper: AGREE, DISAGREE, and UNDECIDED. You can also draw a face smiling, frowning, or looking uncertain on the paper for people who cannot read. Place the 3 large pieces of paper in 3 separate places in the room.

  1. Explain to the group that after you read each statement aloud they should walk to the sign that best represents their opinion about the statement. Read the first statement and ask people to stand near the sign that reflects their opinion on that statement.
  2. illustration of the above: people grouping together near the 3 signs.
  3. After groups have formed around each of the signs, ask people to share their ideas and help them discuss the 3 different points of view. Let people know they can move to a different sign if they change their opinion as they listen to others.
  4. Continue this activity until you have completed the list of statements.
  5. To conclude, ask the group if there are questions they would like more information about or if they have learned something by listening to people with different points of view talk about abortion. (You might invite a health worker with knowledge about abortion to attend, to help answer questions at the end of the activity.)