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THREATS TO ABORTION RIGHTS/Biased Counseling/Waiting Period Bills


A popular form of anti-choice legislation is the biased counseling bill. Biased counseling bills are often misleadingly titled "Women's Right To Know Act" or "informed consent" bills, and are accompanied by waiting period requirements.

Examples

Numerous states have introduced bills so far in 2007 addressing the availability of ultrasound images. Two states, Idaho and Mississippi, have enacted bills requiring providers to offer ultrasound imaging to patients. South Carolina went one step further and considered a bill that would require women seeking abortion care to view ultrasound images, even though the South Carolina Attorney General expressed doubt about its constitutionality.

In 2005, Arkansas, Georgia and Minnesota enacted legislation specifically requiring that women be given information about the possibility of the perception of pain in the fetus after 20 weeks' gestation. Oklahoma enacted similar legislation in 2006 which adds information on fetal pain to the state's biased counseling materials. However, Arizona Governor Napolitano vetoed similar legislation in 2006, stating that the legislation "represents an unwarranted intrusion by politicians into the doctor-patient relationship." Read more about legislation regarding the perception of pain in the fetus.

What They Do

Biased counseling bills generally require that abortion providers give their patients materials developed by the state, including pictures of fetal development, information about "abortion alternatives," and information about the risks of abortion (but not, in most bills, an equal amount of information about the risks of pregnancy and childbirth).

The state materials often require abortion providers to give patients misleading or inaccurate information pertaining to a false link between an increased risk of breast cancer and abortion and the psychological effects of abortion. Despite a significant body of scientific evidence showing no link between an increased risk of breast cancer and abortion,1 and no legitimate scientific recognition of so-called "post-abortion syndrome," such requirements continue to be implemented by biased counseling bills.

In addition to dictating what information health care providers give to abortion patients, the bills generally also impose waiting periods on women, which may require them to wait 24 hours, 48 hours, or even longer between reviewing the state-mandated information and receiving medical care.

Dangers Of Biased Counseling Bills

Biased counseling bills are medically unnecessary and insulting to women. Abortion providers already provide women with the accurate medical information they need to make fully informed decisions. Biased counseling bills do not respect a woman's decision to have an abortion.

In addition, the waiting periods often imposed by such bills could, ironically, force women to seek abortions later in their pregnancies, exposing them to increased health risks and added expense. The delays caused by waiting period requirements disproportionately harm low-income women, young women, and those who do not live close to a clinic.

Finally, biased counseling bills violate the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. They attempt to replace the professional judgment of physicians with the subjective opinions of politicians. For example, biased counseling bills often force health care providers to use a government-approved script which may contain medically inaccurate and misleading information1 regarding abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, the psychological effects of abortion, and other issues.

References

  1. Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, National Cancer Institute, http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancerinfo/ere-workshop-report

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