States Facilitate Abortion Disinformation

12/09/2014 03:12 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

States should provide their citizens with accurate information, including that related to health. Regrettably, this is not the norm when the information concerns abortion. In an important new report, Dr. Amy Bryant and colleagues at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that states are facilitating a broad disinformation campaign.

Background

In most states with "Woman's Right to Know" laws regarding abortion, the mandatory counseling includes advising women of agencies that provide "alternatives to abortion." Known as "Crisis Pregnancy Centers," these agencies attempt to convince women not to have an abortion through coercion and disinformation. The study by Bryant and others confirmed that the deception extends to the Internet as well.

Findings

The researchers examined the "Resource Directories" provided by 12 states with these mandatory waiting periods. A total of 348 Crisis Pregnancy Centers was identified; most had a religious affiliation. The websites of 254 agencies were scrutinized. Overall, 80% of 254 had at least one false or misleading medical claim. Websites commonly made bogus claims of an association between abortion and the following:

1. Mental health risks

Because abortion is so safe, opponents have had to fabricate some new complications. The "abortion trauma syndrome" was viewed by its inventors as "an opportunity to evangelize." The term is not recognized by psychiatrists or standard coding manuals. The American Psychiatric Association, which represents the nation's psychiatrists, determined that psychological problems after abortion are either preexisting issues or related to the conditions leading to the abortion request.

... the TFMHA [Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion] reviewed no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.

2. Premature birth

Women at increased risk for poor obstetric outcomes, e.g., those ill, impoverished,or abused, disproportionately have abortions. If these women later continue pregnancies to delivery, they usually remain at increased risk for poor obstetric outcomes, independent of the abortion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute of Medicine and March of Dimes do not consider abortion a risk factor for prematurity.

3. Breast cancer

While early, flawed case-control studies suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer, high-quality studies over the past several decades have consistently found no relationship. All major medical and public health organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that no link exists.

4. Future infertility

This concern was refuted decades ago by epidemiologists at the CDC; abortion does not impair fertility. Professional organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concur.

Implications

Although most states provide a disclaimer that they do not endorse the views of the agencies to which they refer, inclusion of these "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" on a state "Resource Directory" facilitates the campaign of deception. Moreover, providing medically inaccurate information violates the ethical principles of beneficence and autonomy. States should perform due diligence and delete from "Resource Directories" those agencies that mislead the public. The public deserves better.