Seventy percent of all abortion restrictions passed in the last year by legislatures are based on information that is demonstrably untrue, according to a study from the National Partnership for Women and Families. The study breaks down specifically which type of abortion laws use what false information.
For example, TRAP laws like the Texas law now in front of the Supreme Court are based on the false assumption that legal abortions are highly dangerous procedures when in reality abortion being legal is exactly what has assured their medical safety for the past several decades. Lawmakers can then claim they are trying to protect women from a dangerous procedure when in reality they are simply restricting access to common reproductive services.
Another example researchers use is a New York bill (believe it or not sponsored by a Democrat) that would require abortion providers to tell women abortion increases breast cancer risk despite that myth being being debunked. Other bills the study say are based on false information are even more obvious to point to as examples, such as forcing women to view ultrasounds before they make a decision on abortions or mandating arbitrary waiting periods.
Hopefully the study (and news about it) will be put to good use dispelling the numerous myths Americans have about abortions; Americans today believe abortions are more rare and more unsafe then they actually are. Related to the problem, Americans think teen pregnancy is on the rise, though that is also false.
The problem is the misinformation is growing leaps and bounds faster then the truth. Laws restricting abortion are more numerous in more states than they were even just two years ago, most of those being so-called “bad-medicine” laws that ignore medical consultation and are founded on pseudo-scientific thinking. What’s worse is almost every state that’s passed one type of restrictive abortion law has passed another type as well.
Only thirteen states do not currently have restrictive abortion laws based on false assumptions on their books, and even that may change soon. Fully three hundred and fifty three anti-abortion bills have been proposed from January 1st to February 22nd, with at least 251 of them on shaky if non-existent medical foundations. And one third of all information abortion providers are forced to distribute under these laws is inaccurate, according to a Rutgers University study.
Many anti-choice laws are built on the assumption that women will regret terminating pregnancies after the procedure. And for a very small minority of women in special circumstances that may be true, but a study last year found that the “overwhelming majority” of the nearly 670 women sampled felt they made the right choice in having an abortion.
But none of this evidence has stopped the march of anti-abortion pseudo-science. Just recently, in fact, the Oklahoma House passed a bill requiring anti-abortion rhetoric to be taught as legitimate material in schools.
The truth is that a dangerous bipartisan consensus is forming around abortion misinformation and anti-scientific thinking. It is dangerous because it ignores the advice of medical professionals, it deliberately misleads women and endangers their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and it encourages anti-scientific thinking as a solution to other sticky political problems.
This is a frightening example of how a crazy and completely false belief can become a consensus if not opposed strongly enough.
Featured image via Flickr