One-Third Of The Abortion "Facts" Used For Informed Consent Are Inaccurate

Photographed by Brayden Olson.
While many people would argue that legally enforcing informed consent before abortions is problematic in and of itself, it turns out, a shocking number of states are completely misinforming women. According to a new study, one-third of the information in the state-mandated booklets given to women before abortions is medically inaccurate.

For the study, conducted by Rutgers University, researchers analyzed booklets from the 23 states that required informed consent for abortions and made their materials publicly available in 2013. The researchers ranked the booklets' content on two scales: whether or not the statements were true and whether or not they were presented in a misleading way. Certain facts could be technically true, but also deceitful (like if a statement exaggerated the significance of an organ's development, for example). The researchers only deemed statements "medically accurate" if they were not at all misleading and completely true. (That's not too high of a bar for medical information, right?)

And the results were jaw-dropping: About a third, or 31%, of all the information provided in these booklets was found to be medically inaccurate. More alarmingly, however, was the distribution of these mistakes. By a large margin, most of the inexact information pertained to the first trimester of a pregnancy — when most abortions are performed, as lead author Cynthia Daniels, PhD pointed out in a statement. When it came to information about the first trimester, a whopping 45% of the statements were medically inaccurate. This percentage dropped to 29% and 13% for imprecise statements about the second and third trimesters, respectively.

Another factor also affected whether or not a woman would encounter misinformation: which state she lived in. Medically inaccurate statements were most prevalent in booklets from Michigan, Kansas, and North Carolina — more than 40% of the info provided in these states was inaccurate. The most common error in these states involved implying that fetal development (like the growth of fingers and limbs) or "baby-like" features (like breathing, crying, and feeling pain) began earlier than they actually did. Booklets in these states were also more likely to contain words like "baby" or "unborn," in lieu of "fetus."

These disturbing findings suggest that many states violated a key principle of informed consent laws — you know, providing women with real facts. Perhaps Dr. Daniels put it best: "These laws may produce 'misinformed consent' and may require the court to rethink the constitutionality of abortion-related informed consent laws as a whole."

If you're in a state that enforces informed consent, at the very least, you may want to consider double-checking those booklets before allowing them to influence your decision. For trusted information on abortions, check out Planned Parenthood.

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