On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services published a new edition of the medically-adjacent booklet of misinformation entitled, “A Woman’s Right to Know.”
Per a 2003 anti-abortion law, women considering an abortion must receive “materials designed to inform the woman of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two-week gestational increments from the time when a woman can be known to be pregnant to full term, including any relevant information on the possibility of the unborn child’s survival,” at least 24 hours before the abortion procedure would be performed.
The materials, among other things, must include “color pictures,” and be “objective and nonjudgmental and be designed to convey only accurate scientific information.” But in practice, the brochure is littered with misleading sentences, inaccurate framing, and debunked studies.
The brochure continuously refers to “your baby” instead of using the medically-accurate term fetus (“your baby’s weight is less than 1 ounce,” “your baby’s heart begins to form,”), and includes a section advising women who feel pressured to have an abortion to “talk to your doctor, counselor or spiritual adviser about your feelings, and ask for a phone to call 9-1-1 for immediate help,” which among other things, seems to assume that a woman wouldn’t have access to her own telephone.
A section on fetal pain claims that “babies develop the ability to feel pain while in the womb,” and “in consideration of the potential for fetal pain, Texas law currently limits abortion to under 20 weeks.” It fails to mention that there is actually no conclusive evidence that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks.
Risks of abortion put forward by the pamphlet include death, “physical side effects,” depression, and thoughts of suicide (in that order). It also falsely claims that “if you give birth to your baby, you are less likely to develop breast cancer in the future,” and that “research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer.” The American Cancer Society explicitly refutes that claim, noting, “scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.”
In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled a law that would have established unnecessarily rigorous standards on abortion clinics in the state unconstitutional. But Texas still has some of the country’s tightest restrictions on abortion—this month, the state will put into effect a law requiring all fetal remains be cremated or buried.