The Anti-Choice Movement: "Not Intended to Be Factual"

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RH Reality Check

The Anti-Choice Movement: "Not Intended to Be Factual"

Last week, during the high-drama of the budget crisis and impending shutdown of the federal government, Senator John Kyl took to the floor of the Senate to pillory Planned Parenthood. He had no real evidence with which to do so, so like any good soldier in the ideological war on women, he just made something up, by falsely claiming that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

When confronted by journalists with the actual fact that over 90 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country are comprised of preventive health care services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and the provision of contraceptive supplies, Kyl's office replied as follows:

The Senator's statement on the floor of the Senate was "not intended to be factual."

I am sure Kyl's office did not intend it as such but this is perhaps the most apt and revealing description of the anti-choice movement ever offered by one of its members. 

It is a movement not intended to be factual

In fact, it is based on a foundation of lies so deep I'd recommend regulation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration if I thought they did their job regulating coal mines effectively in the first place.

Here are just a handful of the many and most pervasive lies spread by the anti-choice movement, which can be disputed by facts, yet based on which, increasingly, actual laws and policies are in force or being created and actual women's lives being profoundly affected.

Lie #1: Federal funding of abortion care is widespread. This is perhaps the most pervasive current lie out there.  Because of the 40-year old Hyde Amendment, federal support to low-income women facing unintended and untenable pregnancies is non-existent except in extraordinary circumstances. The Hyde Amendment forbids the use of federal funds for abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother. The obstacles to gaining access to federal funds are so large that even under the exceptions, there is virtually no federal funding for abortion care in the United States.  In 2006, a total of 191 abortions were supported by federal funds in the United States when accounting for all exceptions of the Hyde Amendment. This is out of a total of some 1.2 million abortions each year paid for privately.

Lie #2: Fetuses feel pain. Laws in various states, such as one recently signed in Kansas, seek to limit abortions before viability on the basis of the argument that "fetuses feel pain."  These bills are based on lies because medical experts in both the United States and United Kingdom agree there is no evidence whatsoever that fetuses feel pain.

Lie #3: Pregnancy begins at fertilization.  The medical definition of pregnancy involves the successful implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus.  A fertilized egg that has not implanted or fails to implant can not effectively be detected and there is no pregnancy unless and until said egg implants successfully in the uterus.

Lie #4: Abortion causes, variously, breast cancer, depression, suicide, and miscarriages.  These are the "we-care-about-women" tactics of the anti-choice movement, none of which are based on fact and belie the fact that they don't care about women at all, except in their desire to control them.  There is no proven link between abortion and breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, which, forgive me, is a more valid source on these issues than Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List and LifeSite News, says the following:

In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer. A summary of their findings, titled Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/ere-workshop-report.

A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine and found no links between abortion and mental health problems with abortion as a causal factor.  and depression or suicide, or between early termination of pregnancy and higher risk of miscarriage.

Despite the fact that medical science utterly refutes these claims, South Dakota passed a law mandating that women thinking of terminating an untenable pregnancy be counseled at so-called crisis pregnancy centers which repeat, over and over, these lies.

Lie #5: Planned Parenthood uses federal funds to provide abortions. Untrue. Abortions performed at Planned Parenthood clinics as well as at other clinics in this country are paid variously with the client's own funds, funds raised by the clinics themselves, and/or with funds raised by organizations such as the New York Abortion Fund or the D.C. Abortion Fund to help cover costs for low-income women facing untenable pregnancies but unable to perform an abortion.

Lie #6: Planned Parenthood "targets" African American women for abortion and a disproportionate number of clinics are located in African American communities. This is patently false. Fact: Fewer than one in ten clinics providing abortion are located in African American communities or those that are predominantly black.  The facts are that more clinics are needed in low-income and minority communities because all members of those communities--women, men, and children--struggle for access to health care of all kinds.  African American women in particular urgently need more access to reproductive and sexual health care because they suffer and die at higher rates from treatable conditions.

Again, these are only a few samples of the "not-intended-as-factual" contrived reality of the anti-choice movement.  Others include but are not limited to the contention that abstinence-only-until marriage programs work (not true), that abortion is the root cause of the social security problem, that emergency contraception, which prevents a pregnancy in the first place, causes abortion.

It's past time for the media and the public to stop taking these people seriously.

Jodi Jacobson

Jodi L. Jacobson is a long-time leader in the health and development community and an advocate with extensive experience in public health, gender equity, human rights, environment and demographic issues. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check.

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