In the past few years, under the banner of "a woman's right to know," a number of states have passed laws mandating that women seeking abortions be told that going ahead with the procedure would expose them to mental health risks, including post-traumatic stress and a greater danger of suicide.
Such warnings might sound like a good idea. The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be difficult, and some women end up regretting it. It's commendable to help women make an informed choice. But an informed choice requires accurate information. And these laws mandate that women be misled.
Rigorous U.S. scientific studies have not substantiated the claim that abortion, compared with its alternatives, causes an increased incidence of mental health problems.
- 6 states say that abortion may cause breast cancer (it doesn't);
- 10 states require the woman to be informed that the fetus may feel pain (unlikely before the third trimester, says the Journal of the American Medical Association);
- 7 states say abortion may cause long-term mental health consequences (the American Psychological Association found no such link [PDF]);
- and 10 states offer information on the availability of or requirement of an ultrasound (something that does nothing to sway a woman away from having an abortion).
And now, after last Tuesday's elections, states around the country have elected the most anti-choice state legislators than they have in 80 years. It's extremely likely these legislatures will begin passing legislation that targets women seeking abortions, going further than they already have. Some of the most anti-choice legislation in the last year has come out of Oklahoma, which has just elected Mary Fallin. Fallin boasted of her 100 percent rating from Oklahomans For Life on her campaign website.
Jamelle talked earlier today about the fact that many state budgets will simply dig themselves deeper into financial hardship through state budget cuts, but it's important to remember that states will also be busy passing much socially conservative legislation as well. If you're a woman seeking an abortion, it's likely access to that service will become a lot more limited now.