What Happens When Abortion Opponents Turn Lies into Law?

by | Mar 3, 2016 | Reproductive Rights

Over the past five years, abortion opponents have quietly passed hundreds of restrictive laws. These laws try to deny a woman access to abortion care, even when that means lying to her, delaying her care, requiring tests she doesn’t need, making it cost more than it should, and shutting down reproductive health clinics. As a result, abortion care is being pushed out of reach for many.

Some legislators are transparent and acknowledge that the bills they support are designed to stop abortion altogether (such as outright abortion bans), but others are not. As a result, a large majority of abortion restrictions are promoted under the guise of supporting “women’s health” or “informed consent,” using lies about abortion, about women who decide on abortion and about the trusted health care professionals who provide abortion care. When these lies are turned into laws, doctors are forced to lie to their patients, health care clinics are shut down, and women are denied care.

Take, for instance, Texas’ clinic shutdown law, on which the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday. The entire scheme is based on lies about abortion safety. Abortion care is “one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association. As two of the nation’s leading medical organizations, they should know! And yet, Texas lawmakers have used the pretense of concern for patient safety to put in place abortion restrictions that have caused incredible harm to women’s health. And that’s just one set of restrictions in one state. 

A new analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that, of the 353 anti-abortion restrictions introduced in state legislatures this year, 251 restrictions in 37 states are based on common anti-choice lies. (Analysis based on data from the Guttmacher Institute.)

We found that 150 of these restrictions are based on fundamental lies about abortion and abortion providers. This includes lies about abortion safety and about the physical and mental health effects of abortion. One example is a bill in New York that would require an abortion provider to give a woman seeking abortion care false information, including the lie that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, which has been debunked by the American Cancer Society, and that abortion has negative psychological consequences, which has been debunked by the American Psychological Association. Laws like this are already in place in states across the country, forcing doctors to lie to their patients.

We found that 101 of these restrictions, introduced in state legislatures already this year, are based on lies about women who decide to have abortion care – the lie that a woman is not capable of making a private medical decision about abortion without state intervention, or that she will feel only regret. Laws based on these lies aim to shame women and make abortion more stressful and difficult to obtain.

In truth, the overwhelming majority of women feel their abortion was the right decision for them, and made their decision prior to making an appointment with a provider. And increasingly, women have been speaking out about this truth.

We all need to speak out about our truth and our views. In states across the country, lie after lie is becoming law after law. It has to stop – and it will only stop if we all demand that lawmakers end the lies about women’s health.

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