Women who wish to obtain abortions in Texas begin the onerous three-day process by receiving a booklet called “A Woman’s Right to Know.” The state compels women to read this strange little pamphlet before moving forward with the procedure in an effort to dissuade them from terminating their pregnancies. Recently, the Texas Department of State Health Services—the same agency that wrote the rules forcing women to bury or cremate their aborted or miscarried fetuses—issued a revised version of the booklet. As usual, it is filled with propaganda and misinformation designed to terrify women out of getting an abortion, including repeated references to embryos and fetuses as “your baby.” But three especially risible lies stand out.
1. Getting an abortion increases your risk of breast cancer.
The booklet declares that “doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer,” and it strongly implies that research already indicates that obtaining an abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Although anti-abortion activists vigorously promulgate this canard, it is simply not true. Extensive studies and analyses have thoroughly refuted this myth—yet embarrassingly, Texas continues to peddle it in an official health brochure.
2. Getting an abortion increases your risk of infertility.
Terminating a pregnancy, Texas insists, may cause “future infertility.” This assertion is wildly misleading. Today’s most common abortion procedures are extraordinarily safe and effectively eliminate the possibility that a patient will become infertile. The only methods of abortion that might interfere with a woman’s future potential to conceive occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks are banned in Texas.
3. Getting an abortion makes women depressed.
A lengthy portion of “A Woman’s Right to Know” claims that, following an abortion, many women experience “depression or thoughts of suicide,” “grief, anxiety, lowered self-esteemed, regret, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of emotional attachment, flashbacks and substance abuse.” Hilariously, this section does not even attempt to cite any medical literature, likely because it is simply false. The overwhelming majority of women who obtain abortions in the United States do not regret their choice to terminate the pregnancy.
But perhaps the worst thing about the Texas booklet is what it doesn’t say: that abortion is exponentially safer than childbirth. The risk of death from with childbirth is about 14 times higher than the risk of death from abortion—a fact that “A Woman’s Right to Know” conveniently omits. Instead, the booklet lists a parade of (extremely rare) horribles that, it states, could result from an abortion, including “injuries to the internal organs, blood clots or serious infections,” “hemorrhaging,” “emergency hysterectomy,” “injury to the bowel or bladder,” “embolism,” and “death.” The booklet notes that some of these can occur during childbirth as well—but fails to mention that they are vastly less likely to occur during an abortion.
What can we learn from the mendacity in “A Woman’s Right to Know”? Fairly little, actually. We already knew that Texas does not trust women to make their own informed decisions and that the state would happily lie to women in order to trick them into carrying a pregnancy to term. We knew that the state government rejects science and women’s autonomy with equal zeal. We knew that Texas’ ballyhooed libertarian instincts are limited to opposing business regulation and do not stop the government from compelling women to read propaganda or denying them bodily autonomy. We knew that the state doesn’t really care about saving women’s lives. All we learned from “A Woman’s Right to Know” is that Texas’ endless stream of anti-abortion bullshit has survived its latest Supreme Court defeat and continues to affront the intelligence of every human being forced to share a country with this misogynistic hell hole.