The Federal Abortion Expansion Act Deceptively Packaged to Appeal to Women, but Designed to Exterminate Protective Laws
By Anna Franzonello and Mary Harned, AUL staff attorneys
Holding a hearing on S. 1696, deceptively titled “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary heard many myths from abortion proponents about the “need” for S. 1696’s evisceration of all life-affirming legislation. Essentially this is FOCA 2.0, another federal attempt to expand abortion policy, while also destroying pro-life legislation and blocking new life-protecting efforts.
Below are a sampling of myths along with the truth about the radical and dangerous impact of S. 1696.
Myth: Life-affirming laws are enacted “…under the false pretext of health and safety.”
Fact: A substantial body of peer-reviewed scientific literature documents that induced abortion is associated with significant risks and potential harms to women. Time and time again, the abortion industry has proved—at the cost of women’s lives and health—that it places profit as its top priority and it should not be left to self-police its dangerous practice.
The pro-life movement cares about both mothers and their babies and therefore supports the health and safety standards contained in the laws that S. 1696 would strike down and prohibit.
Whether accomplished by an invasive surgical procedure or by taking a combination of potent drugs, abortion carries inherent physical risks of harm for women. Numerous, well-documented studies in peer-reviewed international medical journals have found increased risks after abortion.
Even the nation’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood, acknowledges on its website the undisputed risks of immediate complications from abortion including blood clots, hemorrhage, incomplete abortions, infection, and injury to the cervix and other organs. Abortion can also cause missed ectopic pregnancy, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, renal failure, metabolic disorder, or shock. Immediate complications affect approximately 10 percent of women undergoing abortions.
History shows that unregulated abortion, or unenforced abortion regulations, sets the stage for substandard clinic conditions to compound these risks.
The babies and women killed and injured by abortion are not mere data points. They are more than simple statistics. Life affirming legislation aims to protect these real mothers and their children who are all human beings with human dignity.
The truth is that S. 1696 would invalidate hundreds of life-affirming laws under the false pretext of “health and safety.” The only thing it would accomplish is to shield the abortion industry from efforts to protect women and their unborn children.
Myth: “[D]ata show that abortion, even after the first trimester, carries a lower risk of serious complications than vaginal births, cesarean sections, and even plastic surgery procedures such as facelifts and liposuction.”
Fact: Abortion is always deadly for at least one person, the baby, and data shows that risks to women increase with gestational age.
The “abortion is safer than childbirth” myth relies on U.S. abortion data that is incomplete and unreliable. Unlike abortion-related deaths, pregnancy-related deaths are systemically sought, identified, and investigated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has cautioned medical professionals not to make comparative statements based on CDC data.
The comparison is also misleading because abortion-related and pregnancy-related deaths are simply not counted the same way. Consider the following: a woman who undergoes a first trimester abortion, experiences profound depression, and four weeks later commits suicide would not be counted as an abortion-related death. However, because any death that occurs during or 6 weeks after a pregnancy is considered pregnancy-related, a woman who carries a pregnancy to term, similarly suffers depression and commits suicide would be considered a pregnancy-related death.
Even according to pro-abortion advocates, abortion complications are known to be under-reported for other reasons, including barriers in state reporting requirements, stigma.
It is undisputed that the later in pregnancy an abortion occurs, the riskier it is and the greater the chance for significant complications. Gestational age is the strongest risk factor for abortion-related death. A woman seeking an abortion at 20-weeks (5-months) is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester. At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester.
Myth: “Global evidence indicates that where abortion services are restricted and unavailable, abortions still occur and are mostly unsafe.”
Fact: Studies have shown that where abortion is restricted, maternal mortality rates have decreased.
For example, a May 2012 study out of Chile that examined trends in maternal death both when abortion was legal in Chile and after abortion was prohibited found that death rates did not increase after abortion was made illegal. While abortion was the leading cause of death for a pregnant woman between 1957 and 1989–the time period in which abortion was legal– maternal mortality decreased from 41.3 deaths per 100,000 live births when abortion was legal, to just 12.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births after abortion was made illegal. Today, Chile has a lower maternal mortality rate than the United States and it has the lowest maternal mortality rate in all of Latin America.
Another study that compared maternal mortality rates in Ireland (where abortion is illegal) to England and Scotland (where abortion is legal) found that maternal mortality rates were much lower in Ireland than in England or Scotland. Specifically, in Ireland, there are 1-2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, whereas in England/Wales there are 10 deaths per 100,000 live births, and in Scotland there are 10-12 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The “global” comparison that the abortion lobby wants to draw is misleadingly based on countries with overall poor medical care. These women around the globe deserve help with improving true medical care, not “legal” abortion as a substitute to addressing their and their babies’ real health needs.
Myth: “Ob-gyns who perform miscarriage completions in their office practices are not subject to these onerous requirements, despite the fact that they are performing the same medical procedure as abortion providers…”
Fact: As Dr. Monique Chireau testified, induced abortion differs significantly from dilation and curettage in a non-pregnant patient for a variety of reasons, including differences between the pregnant and non-pregnant uterus, the presence of the fetus, increased risk for perforation, bleeding and infection, and the consequences of incomplete evacuation of the uterus.
Myth: Admitting privileges laws are “not medically justified” and “do not promote women’s health or safety, and run counter to sound medical practice and opinion.”
Fact: As Dr. Chireau explained, all too often women with induced abortion complications are told to go to an emergency department by a practitioner who not only does not live in the area, or have admitting privileges to a local hospital, but also has no clinician backup, or transfer agreement in place. This would constitute malpractice in any other scenario. Physicians practice within a regulatory framework that exists to protect both their patients and themselves. Physicians also are usually part of a professional community.
Benefits of benefits of physician credentialing and a professional community include:
- Admitting privileges imply a level of ethical and clinical competence in the practice of medicine. In order to be credentialed at a hospital, practitioners must have demonstrated competence in their specialty. The credentialing process helps identify practitioners who have a trail of injured patients, actions by state medical boards, history of criminal behavior, substance abuse problems, or adverse malpractice actions.
- Hospital credentialing helps protect patients from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.
- Physicans to physician communication (handoffs) improves outcomes. Handoffs are one of the most frequently identified causes of poor patient outcomes. The analogy is to a baton being passed correctly in a relay race.
- Admitting privileges allow for physician discipline where needed.
- Physicians who are part of hospital staff are willing to backup their colleagues.
There are 4 main reasons why abortionists and abortion activists oppose credentialing.
- It subjects abortionists to scrutiny of their clinical practice.
- Many abortionists can’t meet the ethical and clinical standards required for hospital credentialing.
- They are not part of a medical community and can’t get references.
- They do not want to undergo peer review and possible discipline.
Myth: “Mandatory performance of an ultrasound is not an accepted medical practice or standard of care…this practice does not add to the quality or safety of the medical care being provided.”
Fact: Ultrasounds serve the essential medical purpose of confirming the presence, location, and gestational age of a pregnancy. Ultrasounds also help to diagnose ectopic pregnancies that, if left undiagnosed, can result in infertility or even fatal blood loss.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) lists “undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy” as one of “[t]he main complications” of chemical abortions. Notably, NAF states that “providers must remain vigilant to detect this complication,” and explains that “experienced sonographers using a transvaginal probe” are an important means to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
A study on early abortions (prior to 6-7 weeks gestation), published in 2003, surveyed 113 abortion providers including 74 Planned Parenthood affiliates that performed abortions, and found these clinics routinely use vaginal ultrasounds before an early abortion. The study even credits “vaginal ultrasonography” as one reason that “early abortion” has become what it considers a “safe and practical option.”
In Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey,the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2011 Texas ultrasound law, finding that performing an ultrasound and checking for fetal heartbeat are both “routine measures in pregnancy medicine today” and viewed as “medically necessary” for the mother and unborn child.
Unfortunately, as the following example from a Virginia Board of Medicine demonstrates, not all abortion providers have followed the medical standard:
“Without performing diagnostic tests to ascertain the gestational age of the fetus, instead relying only on a bimanual pelvic examination, that he believed showed a twelve (12) week fetus, Dr. Abofreka began a termination procedure on Patient A. After applying suction several times, Dr. Abofreka realized that the pregnancy was greater than the twelve (12) weeks gestation he estimated on examination. He then stopped the procedure and performed a sonogram which showed the gestational age was approximately twenty-four (24) weeks…” Abofreka v.Virginia Bd. of Med., 2007 WL 2301727 (Va. Ct. App).
Pregnant women have experienced complications from abortion procedures due to the abortion provider’s failure to perform a timely ultrasound.
Myth: Ultrasounds and their descriptions are “cruel and inhumane” and treat women “like second class citizens”
Fact: Allowing women the opportunity to view their ultrasounds serves an important role in providing informed consent, enabling women to exercise true choice.
Upholding the Texas ultrasound law, the Fifth Circuit noted,
The point of informed consent laws is to allow the patient to evaluate her condition and render her best decision under difficult circumstances. Denying her up to date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.
The disclosure of the ultrasound, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are, as the Fifth Circuit ruled, “the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.”
Moreover, when asked if they would prefer having an ultrasound examination before an abortion, at least one study found that the majority of women would choose to have an ultrasound and simultaneously view the image. See Bamigboye et al., Should women view the ultrasound image before first-trimester termination of pregnancy? 92 So Afr Med J. 6, 430 (2002). Another study found that most women (86.3%) who chose to view the ultrasound found it a positive experience. See Wiebe et al., Women’s perceptions about seeing the ultrasound picture before an abortion, 14 The Eur J. Contracept & Repro Health Care 2, 97 (2009).
Myth: Life-affirming laws are “seeking to make an end run around public opinion.”
Fact: Public opinion supports the common sense, common-ground laws this bill would eliminate. The truth is S. 1696 is the end-run around public opinion.
A 2013 Gallup poll found that “perception that pro-choice position dominates contrasts with even split in actual views.” But even the percentages of Americans who would self-describe as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” when asked a general question fail to tell the full story. When asked specific questions about abortion and abortion legislation, a truer picture of a pro-life America emerges.
The vast majority of Americans believe that abortion should be either illegal in all circumstances (20%) or legal only under certain circumstances (52%). Only 26% believe that abortion should be legal under any circumstances.
It has been clear for more than two decades that most Americans support common sense limits on abortion. For example:
- Polling consistently shows that strong majorities believe abortion should be illegal in the second three months of pregnancy (64-71%) and last three months of pregnancy (80-86%).
- 69-78% support a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours before having the procedure done.
- 69-74% support parental consent.
- 87% support informed consent laws, requiring doctors to inform patients about the possible risks of abortion before performing the procedure.
- 86-88% support a law requiring doctors to inform patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure.
Myth: “Year after year poll after poll shows that a strong majority of Americans favor retaining the protections of Roe v. Wade.”
Fact: As explained above, polls clearly demonstrate that Americans strongly disapprove of Roe v. Wade’s “abortion-on-demand” regime. But there is a second pernicious myth contained in this statement, that S. 1696 would merely codify Roe. In truth, S. 1696 is far more radical than the highly criticized Roe opinion, excluding the possibility of the life-affirming legislation which polls show the American public overwhelmingly supports.
The controversial 1973 opinion has been modified by subsequent cases, but even Roe itself is not as radical as the proposed legislation. Roe recognizes as a legitimate state interest the protection of unborn human beings; S. 1696 makes absolutely no mention of the unborn.
The Roe Court also found that the State’s legitimate interest in regulating abortion to protect maternal health, “obviously extends at least to [regulating] the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that may arise.”
Preceded by the phrase “at least,” these examples clearly set a floor, not a ceiling, of the “obvious” interests a State has in protecting maternal health. Notably, the Roe Court’s list of the minimum “obvious” examples of measures advancing women’s health goes beyond regulating the abortion procedure itself and extends to regulations that would ensure the availability of post-abortive after-care treatment and emergency care in the case of complications.
The abortion “right” announced in U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Roe, is not a right to the existence of abortion clinics. In fact, Roe expressed concern with what it called “abortion mills,” noting that their reported negative impact on women’s health “strengthens, rather than weakens, the State’s interest in regulating the conditions under which abortions are performed.” Roe, 410 U.S. at 150.
Elevating mere “access” to an abortion clinic over the long-recognized State interest in protecting maternal health does the reverse. It virtually immunizes abortion clinics from regulation if their failure to comply would close their doors.
In the over forty years since Roe, there are numerous examples demonstrating that regulation of abortion clinics is necessary. The trial of now-convicted murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell brought some attention to the tragic impact that the “legal” abortion industry has had on women’s health. Gosnell’s clinic was not an aberration. In fact, since 2009, abortion providers in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas that have enacted admitting privileges requirements, along with other states, have faced investigations and/or have been cited for violating state laws governing the provision of abortions.
However, states would be impeded from enacting new legislation or even enforcing existing laws that protect women against these dangerous providers if S. 1696 were enacted, predicating the legality of a health regulation upon its impact on mere “access” to abortion clinics.
Contrary to the assurances made in Roe, and subsequent cases Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, S. 1696 would permit abortion clinics, particularly in states with a limited number of abortion clinics, to run unregulated practices and perform abortions through all 9 months of pregnancy.