A Woman’s Right To Know…How Biased This Pamphlet Is

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Even after Monday’s judicial smackdown of our state’s most notorious anti-abortion law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Texas is still able to enforce several laws designed to impede access to this constitutionally-protected medical procedure.

One requirement? At least 24 hours before an appointment, a patient must be given a state-mandated and authored publication, A Woman’s Right to Know.

Here’s what you have the right to know: the Texas Department of State Health Services has revised the booklet, and wants your feedback.

Any chance you are interested in letting a state agency headed up by none other than Dr. John Hellerstedt know what you think about state-mandated propaganda that contains demonstrably false information?

The draft version of “A Woman’s Right to Know” was published online June 28, 2016. Proposed revisions are available for stakeholder comment for 30 calendar days after posting. Comments provided by stakeholders that pertain to the proposed revisions will be considered. Revisions to the booklet will be guided by peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature, resources from professional medical organizations, and government health sources.

Comments should be emailed to WRTK@dshs.state.tx.us comment by Friday, July 29, 2016.

Please go right now to register your strenuous objections about this unscientific, misleading, and insulting piece of government propaganda. You can email comments to the address above, or use this form to submit your thoughts.

Need help decided what to write about?

First, look at the proposed draft, in PDF format on the website:

WRTKbooklet

(If you instead browse through the links on the website itself, you are reading the old version of the booklet which the proposed draft would replace. Very similar, but some slight differences.)

There are so many inaccuracies you can take your pick.

The dishonest and scare-mongering myth that abortion causes breast cancer?

To be clear: it does not. The state materials frame the issue as though they are presenting both sides of a story: “There is agreement that this issue needs further study.”

To say there are studies that prove a link is like saying there are studies that show it could snow for three days’ straight in Houston in July, and studies that show that it never will, and so it is an issue that needs further study.

Professional medical organizations like these have repeatedly gone on record to state unequivocally that no causal relationship exists between abortion and breast cancer:

American Cancer Society: Linking these 2 topics creates a great deal of emotion and debate. But scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.

National Cancer Institute: Considering the body of literature that has been published since 2003, when NCI held this extensive workshop on early reproductive events and cancer, the evidence overall still does not support early termination of pregnancy as a cause of breast cancer.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: The relationship between induced abortion and the subsequent development of breast cancer has been the subject of a substantial amount of epidemiologic study. Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.

But What About Emotional problems? Infertility? Nope and Nope.

The State of Texas thinks you should consider that you might have some feelings about your procedure, and while it is true that many people have many feelings about abortion, what is not true is that abortion somehow increases the risk of serious emotional trauma.

Our nation’s 13th Surgeon General reviewed the literature—peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature—and testified under oath to Congress about both of these issues. You may remember Dr. Koop as President Ronald Reagan’s pick for Surgeon General. A summary of his conclusions, from a website with the explicit “special focus on Safer Motherhood,” makes it plain that not only are these concerns bogus, but that motherhood itself might pose a greater risk of triggering psychological issues:

Studies and various reports of psychological problems after induced abortion have been criticized because of the difficulty in separating pre-existing conditions and the context of the unintended pregnancy from the effect of the procedure, the bias of many investigators (either toward finding a significant effect or toward finding no effect), and other methodologic problems. The Surgeon General’s report on health effects of abortion on women concluded that the literature was too flawed to draw a conclusion.

The data on major psychiatric illness requiring hospitalization are less subject to investigator bias than are studies of regret, psychological distress, or minor depression. Review of this literature suggests that major psychiatric sequelae after abortion are rare (less than 1%) and less frequent than after childbirth (approximately 10%).

Particularly offensive is the notion that abortion has an outsized risk of causing future infertility. While abortion carries with it some level of medical risk, as do all medical procedures, a thorough and peer-reviewed survey of multiple studies makes clear that abortion itself does not increase the risk of future infertility.

What the literature does suggest is that at times, other complicating factors are at play: “Except when an infection complicates induced abortion, there is no evidence of an association of abortion with secondary infertility or ectopic pregnancy.” The infections in question are pre-existing infections like sexually transmitted infections someone may have contacted before becoming pregnant. But jumping from that to abortion causes infertility is like saying dental visits cause broken bones because two people you know slipped on the marble steps at the same dentist’s office. There may be a correlation, but that’s not causation, no matter what the State of Texas implies.

Fetal Pain?

Legislatures around the country, Texas included, have attempted to pass Undue Burden laws that claim a developing fetus feels pain, and so a pregnancy should not be terminated, or that a person should be treated with different medications for the procedure.

Any legislative gloss on fetal pain is like the Schoolhouse Rock version of manifest destiny.

NBC News provides a very balanced and thorough debunking of the need for so-called fetal pain bills:

And how is it possible that Congress or a state legislature could decide that a one-size-fits-all script constitutes an acceptable way to achieve informed consent when they would never accept such oversimplified, rhetoric-laden boilerplate as adequate from their own doctors?

The answer is simple — abortion politics.

Abortion politics continues to rip at the social fabric of America. That is a fact. When abortion politics are permitted to twist, obscure and ignore the facts about fetal development, fetal pain and the nature of informed consent in medicine, that is a fact that both those who support abortion rights and those who don’t should not tolerate.

I know, shocking to think that politicians would think it advisable to dictate the terms of medical care rather than leaving that up to doctors, but that’s exactly what the State of Texas is doing with this booklet.

Why Do They Keep Talking About the Baby and the Unborn Child?

You may not want to get into the wonky discussion of why a JAMA-published study is more legit than a Bible College of Jesus and His Dinosaur’s term paper, so perhaps you’d like to ask why this document repeatedly refers to babies and unborn children?

The booklet contains a series of developmental milestones during a pregnancy, including this one at the 8-week mark:

WRTK 8 Weeks

And completely disregarding that fact it just said the proper term is now fetus, DHHS goes on calling the fetus your baby or unborn child. Studies regularly show that the overwhelming majority of abortions happen right around the 10-week mark (the CDC in 2009, for example, reported that over 91% happened at or earlier than 13 weeks), so fetus is probably the most medically-accurate term that could be used.

If Texas Values Peer-Reviewed Scientific and Medical Literature, Then What About This?

I know, I know. Isn’t it tedious to keep harping on facts and medical accuracy?  In your comments about the pamphlet, you could express your surprise that they claim they will be guided by peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature, and ask if that means they are going to offer Dr. Rick Allgeyer, who was forced out for participating in a study about abortion published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal?

Reading the booklet, start to finish, you will find repeated distortions of medical facts and risks. You will find manipulative language (your baby your baby your baby). You will find an out-sized emphasis on alternatives to abortion, and a mis-matched accounting of medical risks associated with various procedures compared to pregnancy.

Texans have a right to know that the state is propagating this nonsense on our behalf. Please share your comments before July 29th.

 


While Burnt Orange Report is crystal clear on the fact that people at various points on the gender spectrum might chose abortion, and encourages the use of language that reflects this fact, the State of Texas and some medical literature referenced in this post still uses gender-specific language like motherhood instead of parenthood, and a woman’s right to know instead of a patient’s right to know. That might be another point of feedback to share with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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About Author

Andrea Greer

Andrea, an activist, fundraiser, feminist, writer, and baker, is not as tall as you think she is. She's been at this a long time, and wants to know what you are doing to make the pie higher and raise more hell. Her mother would like you to know she's got a law degree.

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