Misleading information and half-truths litter a state pamphlet that is slanted to scare women out of seeking the routine procedure, activists say.
Photo by Jacqui Miller via Stocksy
Women seeking an abortion in Texas face risk of death, infertility, and mental health problems, so says the latest draft of the state's pamphlet for pregnant women. Under state law, the Texas Department of State Health Services has distributed a pamphlet for pregnant women seeking abortions since 2003. The pamphlet—titled "A Woman's Right to Know"—has been criticized over the years by groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the nation's largest group representing reproductive doctors. In 2013 ACOG politely asked Texas to please correct the bunk information it gave pregnant women.
Texas health officials claim to have consulted with ACOG this time around and say they have made some revisions "after reviewing medical research and information from experts in the field," Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams tells the Texas Tribune. No, you didn't, experts respond.
"As you will notice, our thoughts were not incorporated into the pamphlet last time," ACOG spokesman Megan Christin writes to Broadly in an email.
"We know that abortion is very, very safe. We know that complications are very rare," Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute tells Broadly. "The way this is couched, it makes it sound like abortion is very dangerous, which it isn't."
Death is one of the problems listed under the pamphlet's dire risks related to abortion. Yet data that researchers got from the state show that a total of five women over a 13-year period who obtained abortions in Texas died, less than 0.0005 percent of all women who underwent the procedure.
The Texas pamphlet also suggests that women who undergo abortions face a risk of breast cancer:
If you give birth to your baby, you are less likely to develop breast cancer in the future. Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer. In addition, doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer to understand whether abortion may affect the risk of breast cancer.
It's true that giving birth will likely lower a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, research suggests. But refraining from giving birth will not have the opposite effect, as a report from the National Cancer Institute made very clear. The information Texas provides on breast cancer and childbirth, while having some assertions that are technically accurate, is incredibly misleading, Nash, of the Guttmacher Institute, explains. "Basically they're taking sentences and putting them together and implying that an abortion, because you're not carrying a pregnancy to term, you're increasing your risk," she says.
Likewise, Texas also tells women that their risk of dying increases the longer they wait to get an abortion. "You have a greater risk of dying from the abortion procedure and having serious complications the further along you are in your pregnancy," the pamphlet states. While technically accurate, Nash says, the wording implies that abortions carry a far higher risk than they actually do.
Unfortunately, women in Texas who want to seek an abortion are required to undergo a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which by the state's own logic would seem to place pregnant women at a greater risk of dying and having serious complications.