Shocking Study Shows States Often Lie to Women Seeking Abortions

In the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court upheld the legality of abortion. However, they also allowed for provisions which would let states to enact “informed consent” statutes which would require abortion providers to give patients packets of information regarding the procedure, risks involved and stages of fetal development. Since 2010, over 300 anti-abortion laws have been enacted in the United States, many of which pertain to these “informed consent” statutes.

The premise of these statutes, supposedly, is that people are incredibly stupid and cannot figure out for themselves whether or not they would like to have an abortion, and that doctors also cannot be trusted to tell their patients what they need to know about the procedure as they would in literally any other medical situation.

The decision, however, did require that the information in these packets be medically accurate, truthful, and non-misleading. It did not allow for states to just outright lie to patients in order to convince them not to have an abortion.

That, as you may have guessed, has not exactly been the case.

A study published on Monday in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, conducted by researchers at Rutgers University–with varying political leanings and religious beliefs–found that these “informed consent” packets are, in fact, full of lies.

An analysis of these brochures from 23 of the 35 states with “informed consent” statute found that an average of 30% of the information in them is medically inaccurate and misleading. The bulk of misleading statements pertained to the first trimester of pregnancy (when 90% of abortions occur) with 45% of them being deemed medically inaccurate!

The vast majority of these inaccurate statements were related to fetal growth and development–suggesting that fetuses were much further along in development at a given point in the pregnancy than they actually were. For instance, many of these brochures suggested that the brain was fully formed at 2 weeks, that “the vocal chords are active and the fetus can cry” at week 5, and that “fingers, toes, ankles, and wrists are completely formed” at week 6, all of which were determined to be completely false.

South Carolina was found to have the most medical inaccuracies in its packets, with 46.15% of all information being found to be false, closely followed by Michigan with 44.32% and Kansas with 43.4. 

These blatant falsehoods are a clear violation of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and it’s rather ironic that these statutes are called “informed consent” laws when the information provided is so grossly inaccurate. Then again, it’s hardly surprising given the fact that Arizona literally requires doctors to lie and say medical abortions are “reversible” and several states require doctors to lie to patients and tell them that abortions cause breast cancer, infertility, and depression.

This information is especially interesting given the fact that tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which will determine whether or not a state can enact sham laws for the purpose of limiting access to abortion.

It appears that the anti-choice crowd themselves are more than aware that they can’t win with the truth–so they lie about gestational characteristics, about the risks of abortion, they lie about laws that simply make it harder to get an abortion by trying to frame them as simply caring about “health” and wanting to be sure patients have the best medical treatment and information available. Because if they came right out and said “Hey, we want to make a pamphlet about why we think abortion is bad and require all patients seeking abortion to read it” and “We’d like to just shut all the abortion clinics down, because we don’t like abortion” they know they’d lose. Which they should.

[Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law]


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