Texas is lying to pregnant minors about their options.

Alexa Garcia-DittaLast week, the Department of State Health Services closed the public comment period for the latest revisions to a booklet titled “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” This booklet, which the state of Texas requires pregnant minors to read, contains gross misinformation about the possible risks of abortion such as breast cancer, depression and future infertility. Even though these claims have all been debunked by various medical organizations, DSHS decided to include them in the latest revision of the booklet.

The state has no business interfering in the doctor-patient relationship by providing lies and misinformation to pregnant minors considering their options. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas submitted public comments on the booklet revisions to the Department of State Health Services. The full comments are available below.

 

April 11, 2018
Department of State Health Services
Austin, TX

Sent via email to [email protected]

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the revisions to the “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” booklet.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas opposes state interference with the doctor-patient relationship and in a minor’s decision about her pregnancy. In publishing lies about abortion and using inflammatory language, this latest version of the “So You’re Pregnant, Now What?” booklet shames and stigmatizes abortion care and provides scientifically inaccurate information designed to mislead pregnant minors.

The booklet shows extreme bias against abortion when covering the risks of abortion vs. the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term. The health risks of carrying a pregnancy to term far outweigh those of elective abortion. And death is listed at the top of the list of risks, although abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures and far safer than childbirth, which carries a risk of death 14 times higher than abortion.[1]

Much like the error-riddled “A Woman’ Right to Know” pamphlet, this booklet refers to a pregnancy at any stage as “your baby” throughout, even though it disclaims this language by noting that the correct term at certain stages of development is embryo and fetus.  In fact researchers have found that more than one third of the statements about embryonic development are inaccurate.[2]

Further, the revisions to the booklet include strong links between abortion and breast cancer, a claim that has been thoroughly debunked by major medical organizations.[3] And the emotional effects of abortion are skewed toward the negative, although other studies[4] have concluded most women feel abortion was the right decision for them and negative feelings are more accurately associated with shame and stigma, which, ironically, this booklet appears to perpetuate. As peer-reviewed studies have determined, the so-called research from those such as the repeatedly discredited Vincent Rue is not replicable and this “post-abortion syndrome” has been debunked and discredited.[5]

Moreover, the revised booklet goes on to list physical risks, mental health risks and future infertility as risks of abortion. Recent nonpartisan research has debunked these claims and found that abortion has no impact on a minor’s future fertility or likelihood to experience mental health disorders. The research also found that it is medically unnecessary anti-abortion regulations that put patient health and safety at risk.[6]

Informed consent is a vital component of ethical healthcare, but this booklet does not contribute to a patient centered decision making process.  It is misinformation intended to coerce minors and perpetuate fear and stigma. This booklet has been influenced and driven by political ideology, not medicine or science, and we believe that pregnant minors deserve better than this.

Informing pregnant minors in a pamphlet published by the state about risks that are not scientifically supported and are in fact invalidated by scientific research violates the public trust. Texas and the Department of State Health Services should not produce pamphlets with inaccurate information for distribution to Texans, no matter their age. Pregnant people deserve unbiased, medically accurate information so that they can make decisions about their health and their lives free from coercion, fear or shame.

We respectfully ask that you revise it to be an objective, unbiased resource that does not attempt to unduly influence patients. All information contained therein should be supported by the National Institute of Health and mainstream medical and psychological groups, such as the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychological Association.

Signed,

Alexa Garcia-Ditta
Communications and Policy Initiatives Director
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas

 

[1]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270271

[2] http://informedconsentproject.com/states/texas/

[3]  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/is-abortion-linked-to-breast-cancer

[4]  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128832#sec013

[5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027795361000729X

[6] https://www.nap.edu/read/24950/chapter/1

New report reaffirms that the Healthy Texas Women program is still failing Texans

Blake RocapBy Blake Rocap, interim executive director and legislative counsel

Motivated by Texas’ alarmingly high maternal mortality rate, North Texas-based East Dallas Persistent Women activists investigated the providers listed on a state website as participating in the Healthy Texas Women program. Their findings, released in a report last week, affirm what our student-led research at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and other organizations have consistently uncovered about Texas’ state-funded family planning programs—thousands of phone numbers are duplicates and therefore give an inaccurate picture of provider capacity; a wide range of health care providers listed as participating in the family planning program don’t actually provide reproductive health services, while others confirm that they don’t participate in the program at all.

This latest report is further evidence that the HTW program is inaccessible to the Texans who need it most because anti-abortion legislators, in decimating the program year after year, continue to prioritize politics over women’s lives.

Gov. Greg Abbott and his yes men at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have failed in their attempt to recreate a once successful program that received a $9 to $1 match of federal dollars before funding was slashed and effective community based providers were kicked out in 2011. HHSC now touts this third iteration of the program as a success but inflates the number of providers and can’t provide an accurate list of participating doctors. The agency also points to a client enrollment number inflated by auto-enrollment as a sign of success without any data that successful public health programs and researchers use to evaluate programs such as: unduplicated patient numbers, services provided, and a population level analysis of other costs avoided by providing preventative healthcare. Further, the agency has violated its own policy by awarding a significant amount of Healthy Texas Women funding to an ideological anti-abortion organization, the Heidi Group, with no experience providing medical care in an ongoing attempt to legitimize anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers over actual medical providers.

Despite a consistent outcry about the litany of problems with Healthy Texas Women, politics and ineptitude have allowed the dysfunction to continue while thousands of Texans go without health care. Let’s be clear—this is the direct result of the decisions made by Gov. Abbott, LT. Gov. Dan Patrick and the anti-abortion contingent in the Texas Legislature. If we change the decision makers this November, this failing program can be reformed to the success it once was.

Get involved this year by signing up to receive updates on 2018 legislative races and take this 30-second survey to help us get out the pro-choice vote!

Inside an Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center

By Laura Gorsky and Breanna Wenke, 2018 NARAL Pro-Choice Texas interns

On March 9 we visited a local Austin crisis pregnancy center. CPCs are fake women’s health centers that intentionally lie about abortion and deceive pregnant people, manipulating them into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. What’s worse, the Texas Legislature is funding them with our tax dollars to the tune of $9.1 million a year.

The two women who spoke to us never disclosed their role in the clinic, and therefore for someone who is not familiar with these clinics, it is not made clear that these women are not medical personnel. The two women conducting the consultation asked a lot of personal questions about family, faith, and background to try to dissuade me from getting an abortion. They asked about the father, and even when we disclosed that he was not in the picture, and would be disinterested, they encouraged us to tell him about the situation. In addition, even when I stated that I was not Christian, the woman insisted that God had a plan for us, and that I needed to ask why he had put us in this situation.

When discussing our options, the women told stories about the negative emotional “side-effects” of abortion, in an obvious attempt to dissuade us. They talked about how abortion causes emotional distress, however the American Psychological Association’s task force on mental health and abortion found that women who choose abortion are at no greater risk for mental health problems than those who carry an unintended pregnancy to term. They also used fear-mongering and graphic imagery to discourage abortion, implying that the procedure was very painful, and that we would “hear the vacuum sucking the fetus out.” In addition, they showed us pictures of the tools used during surgical abortions to show how painful the procedure would be for both the woman and the “zygote” after it was “scraped out of the uterus.”  However, the most alarming aspect of the consultation was the amount of misinformation we were given about the procedure. We were told that 90 percent of women who have abortions are infertile afterwards, which is not a scientifically proven fact.

Additionally, the women gave false information surrounding the abortion pill, and instead described it as Plan B, stating that the pill acts to stop the sperm from implanting in the woman’s body. As the session concluded, the women encouraged us to make an appointment for an ultrasound, and to take the weekend to really consider all of the options.

Crisis pregnancy centers like the one we visited are putting people’s health at risk. These centers divert pregnant people away from necessary medical care and provide false information with no medical basis. It is especially disturbing that the Texas Legislature continues to give millions of taxpayer dollars to these fake women’s health centers that mislead and lie to pregnant Texans while the state is in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacts black women. We need to end the lies that fake women’s health centers are spreading to Texans, and ensure women are able to access timely and trusted reproductive healthcare.

Learn more about crisis pregnancy centers in Texas by clicking here

U.S. Supreme Court Could Prevent Fake Women’s Health Centers in Texas from Lying to Pregnant People

Emily MartinBy Emily Martin, program director

On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law intended to regulate crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, which operate nationwide under the guise of full service women’s health clinics but in fact deceive pregnant people and lie about abortion. The law in question requires that California’s CPCs provide accurate information about state reproductive health programs and that the unlicensed centers publicly notify visitors if no licensed medical professional works on site. The high court’s ruling, expected no later than this summer, could have national implications and could pave the way to prevent Texas’ CPCs from deceiving pregnant people seeking medical care.

For more than a decade, the Texas Legislature has allowed these fake women’s health centers to operate with no accountability and little oversight and continues to tout them as actual health care providers. This is especially disturbing, as our state grapples with addressing the rising maternal mortality rate.  Since 2005, the Legislature has been funneling millions to unlicensed and unregulated fake women’s health centers that intentionally mislead pregnant people and function primarily to dissuade them from accessing abortion care, but provide no prenatal care. That year, the Legislature created the Alternatives to Abortion program, siphoning money away from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant and other public health programs like family planning and redirecting that money to non-medical, biased organizations that lie and manipulate to keep pregnant Texans from getting an abortion. The 2018-19 two-year budget, which went into effect last year, includes $9.1 million in taxpayer funding annually for fake women’s health centers.

The lack of clarity and truth about crisis pregnancy centers is exactly what allows them to thrive, especially in Texas where many clinics have closed and where many residents aren’t aware of the current abortion restrictions. Through NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ investigative work into fake women’s health centers, we have evidence that the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are aware of the knowledge gap and take full advantage of it to lure unsuspecting pregnant people seeking legitimate medical care to their centers. Once inside, pregnant people are often subjected to coercive and religious counseling, bad science, fake medicine and misinformation about pregnancy, abortion, and contraception, creating a delay in accessing real health care. It is especially sickening to delay care as Texas’ maternal mortality rate—the highest in the country and developed world— continues to rise.  

These fake women’s health centers that advertise and represent themselves as health care professionals should not be allowed to deceive patients, lie about medical facts or pretend to be real medical facilities. Each of us should have access to licensed medical care when we need it, not ideological coercion, and regardless of the outcome of this case NARAL Pro-Choice Texas remains committed to exposing their deceptive practices and ultimately defunding them in Texas.

Learn more about CPCs in Texas by clicking here.

Release Alejandra Now!

On this International Women’s Day, we call for an end to injustices in our country against immigrants and demand the immediate release of powerful immigrant and reproductive justice activist Alejandro Pablos, who the U.S. government unjustly detained this week. Alejandra’s arrest follows a pattern of retaliation against immigrants’ rights organizers. Immigrant justice is reproductive justice and activists should never be detained for speaking up for the concerns of their community.

Although her immigration status should not matter, according to the petition from Mijente, Alejandra is a legal permanent resident who was placed into deportation proceedings after an arrest and she spent two years in detention. Alejandra has credible fear of being deported to Mexico based on dangers she would face as a political organizer and is currently in the process of seeking asylum. As Mijente reports, while leading chants at a peaceful protest in Virginia in January, Alejandra was abruptly detained. One of the Virginia agents called her deportation officer in Tucson and this week during her check-in with ICE in Arizona, she was held without the possibility of release or bond without a judge’s order.

Alejandra is not only a fierce advocate for immigrants’ rights, but a community organizer with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and a We Testify abortion storyteller. We urge all our supporters to let the U.S. government know that we will not tolerate the unlawful detention of activists. Please take a moment to send a message of support for Alejandra’s release.

For more on Alejandra’s story, check out this Rewire article.