More than 70 percent of the abortion restrictions introduced in state legislatures so far this year are based on false information, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families. Because most of the bills cloak their desired outcome—limiting women’s access to abortion—in pretexts about protecting women’s health, legislators have had to justify their proposals on debunked medical claims and assumptions about abortion regret.
Of the 353 proposals introduced in statehouses across the country from January 1 to February 22, the National Partnership found, 251 bills in 37 states stand on wobbly foundations. Medical lies crop up in 150 of the bills, including one in New York that would require abortion providers to tell their patients that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an allegation that has been roundly discredited by the American Cancer Society. (This is no aberration—a recent study from Rutgers University found that one-third of all information abortion providers are forced to distribute under “informed consent” laws is medically inaccurate or misleading.) Two other bills in Florida, which would instate the same requirements for admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center standards that are currently under review in the Supreme Court, rest on disingenuous claims about the dangers of abortion, one of the safest procedures in modern medicine.
The National Partnership also notes that 101 of the abortion restrictions proposed this year are based on deceptive, paternalistic claims about women’s decision-making capabilities. Laws that mandate waiting periods and compel doctors to describe ultrasound images to abortion-seeking patients infer that women cannot be trusted to make informed choices about their own bodies and futures without legal interference. Legislators rationalize these bills under the guise of protecting women from rash decisions or regret, despite the fact that, as a nationwide study reported last year, 95 percent of women who have an abortion still believe they made the right decision three years after the procedure. Anti-choice activists often claim that the U.S. abortion rate has dropped in recent years because women are turning against the procedure, but a new Guttmacher study disputes that narrative: Due to increased contraceptive use, the U.S. rate of unintended pregnancies saw a precipitous drop, necessitating fewer abortions.
That 353 pieces of anti-abortion legislation sprouted up in all but four states in just the first 53 days of 2016 speaks to the hyperactive atmosphere of anti-choice one-upmanship in today’s Republican Party. Just this week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill that would require public high schools to teach students that “abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy.” The National Partnership’s analysis is ominous, but it’s even more frightening to consider how soon it’ll be outdated.