“Hell Houses” Are Spreading Dangerous Propaganda About Abortion

We’ve just emerged from “spooky season.” And I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite Halloween activities is visiting—and screaming like an inconsolable toddler—inside a haunted house.  

This is a fun, harmless activity. Unless, of course, you stumble across a “hell house.” 

It may look like a haunted house. But actually, it’s more like *the bigoted remix.*  

Ready, willing, and able to scare YOU into salvation! 

Since the 1970s, hell houses have been luring children in under the false premise of spooky fun! But once they’re inside, that fun turns into fanaticism, with extremist zealots acting out hateful, traumatizing scenes… like the devil taking a man who has died from AIDS into hell, or even, a fake shooting, in which actors turn off the lights, set off gun noises, and in a spine-chilling crescendo, broadcast an ominous voice that calls out from overhead:  

 “What if this was real? Where would you be going, heaven or hell?”   

Another hell house staple that’s been around for decades? The “abortion scene.” It’s often gory, and it usually ends the same way: with a young woman dying from a “botched” procedure.  

This false propaganda has one mission: to scare people out of getting an abortion in the future, making abortions appear dangerous, and above all else, deadly.  

Let me be crystal clear: these hell houses are dead wrong. 

Let me be more specific: Decades of research has shown that abortion care is safe.  

But don’t just take it from me.  

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (a.k.a. smart scientists) have unequivocally declared:The clinical evidence clearly shows that legal abortions in the United States—whether by medication, aspiration, D&E, or induction—are safe and effective.” In addition, as we navigate a post-Roe landscape where abortion is not legal in a lot of places, people can still safely manage their abortions at home through medication abortion. 

The idea that abortions are unsafe denies science and comes directly from the anti-abortion movement: Those folks standing outside clinics with graphic, violent images on their picket signs, and those folks lurking inside hell houses, performing graphic, violent scenes in front of children. 

These scenes have been around since bellbottoms were first in style. Bellbottom leggings are, tragically, back in fashion—and these scenes, hellacious-ly, aren’t going anywhere.  

Every Halloween, hell houses will continue to spread misinformation. But we can fight back. We must spread the word about their dangers, shield children from their distress, and recommit to destigmatizing abortion in our lives, language, and advocacy work—from spooky season and beyond.  

Because abortion is NOT a jump scare. It is essential health care that is safe and effective. And it is health care that all people should be able to access—for whatever reason, whenever they need it, without exception or restriction.