Advice Abortion

Much Ado About Nothing: Pro-Life Misconceptions About Contraception

Cristina Page

There's no evidence that any birth control method prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. Why isn't that a relief to pro-lifers?

One of the most amazing things about the stir caused by the recently leaked HHS proposal is how little, make that no, effort has been made to investigate whether the claim by the anti-abortion establishment about the mode of action of hormonal birth control is even true. A subsequent draft of the regulations without the redefinition of abortion has been released, but the underlying question — can contraception prevent implantation? — still stands.

Now, of course, for pro-choice people, this is a moot point. Even if hormonal birth control could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, that’s not abortion because pregnancy doesn’t begin until implantation. To enter into this discussion is to first set aside the medical and legal definition of pregnancy and indulge the extremists. That’s why this discussion never really happens. But what would we find if we did indulge them?

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Institutes of Health, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg implants in the womb. Until it affixes to the woman’s womb a fertilized egg can not receive nutrients from the woman’s body, which is essential for it to grow. Implantation is also the only way in which a pregnancy can be determined, there is no test that can tell when an egg has been fertilized—there is no way of knowing whether or not this has happened.

Implantation is what sets in motion all the signs that pregnancy has begun. On this one point, science, medicine and the law agree: implantation is the moment at which pregnancy starts. The only dissenting group is the pro-life movement, which dismisses this definition. It, instead, would like pregnancy to start at the unknowable moment the sperm fertilizes an egg. Once sperm meets egg, any effort to prevent the egg from implanting in the womb is considered an abortion by the pro-life movement. This is one of the arguments they offer up as justification for the campaigns to keep women from using birth control. Their claim is that most birth control methods prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, which to them, though not to science, is an abortion. But even that is not true. There is no evidence that birth control methods actually do what pro-life groups claim.

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Prompted, in part, by the growing efforts of anti-abortion groups to define birth control as abortion, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1999 reviewed the available research on “the mechanism of action” of the contraceptive methods that so dismay pro-lifers. The authors take up the pro-life concerns directly writing, “Recently, some special interest groups have claimed, without providing any scientific rationale, that some methods of contraception may have an abortifacient effect.”

After reviewing the available literature, the authors conclude that hormonal contraceptive methods (oral contraceptives, the patch, the ring, the shot) cause a number of changes in a woman’s body which prevent
pregnancy. Primarily, what they do is simply prevent ovulation. In other words, take the pill and in almost all instances a woman won’t release an egg. No egg, no chance of pregnancy. The secondary way these contraceptives function, the authors report, is by preventing fertilization. So, on the very slim chance that a woman using a hormonal method does produce an egg another mechanism of action kicks in. Hormonal contraceptives also thicken the mucus lining of women’s reproductive organs which hamper the ability of the sperm to even get to the egg. And if a rogue sperm reaches the egg, hormonal contraceptives prevent it from penetrating the egg. Specifically, they stop the shell encasing the egg from disintegrating so a sperm can’t actually do the deed of fertilization. This is what is known about how hormonal birth control works.

What gets pro-lifers so worked up is that they insist on believing that a fertilized egg can be stopped from implanting in the womb. First off, hormonal contraceptives stop fertilization. What if, through some extraordinary, unknown, and seemingly unknowable process, an egg got fertilized? The researchers
consider the question and report , “No direct evidence exists showing that implantation is prevented by progestin-only methods” and “The evidence does not support the theory that the usual mechanism of action of IUDs is destruction of fertilized ova in the uterus,” say the authors. After reviewing all the research available on the modes of action of all contraceptives in question the authors summarize their report by explaining that “Even though the precise mechanism of action of modern contraceptive is not yet fully known, scientific evidence suggests the main mechanisms of action for each method. Inhibition of ovulation and effects on the cervical mucus are the primary mechanisms of the contraceptive action of hormonal methods. Evidence indicates that the primary mechanism of action of IUDs is the prevention of fertilization.”

“All of these methods, directly or indirectly, have effects on the endometrium [the lining of the uterus] that might prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum,” the researchers acknowledge. But as they quickly point out, “So far, no scientific evidence has been published supporting this possibility.” There’s just no evidence that any birth control method prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb, even though that’s the basis for the pro-life claims.

What’s most striking about all this, is that, really, it should be a relief to pro-lifers. Birth control doesn’t have any effect on the egg once fertilized. The primary and secondary ways in which these methods work should be completely acceptable by the pro-life movement. In fact, though, they’ve taken just the opposite stance. Their argument usually sounds like this: We can’t really know for sure that in some cases, however rare, a
fertilized egg isn’t kept from fulfilling its God decreed destiny of implanting in the womb. And the dutiful scientist, limited by the research facts, must acknowledge that though there is no evidence to suggest that such a thing happens, it’s impossible to rule it out. So there! Says the pro-lifer. It can’t be ruled out. You can’t prove a negative. It’s a little bit like deriding gravity as a hypothesis. Yes, the last ten times you dropped that spoon, it crashed down on the table. But what about the eleventh time? Or the eleven  hundredth? Or the eleven millionth? There is also know way of knowing how breast feeding works as a means of birth control, which it does in the exact way hormonal methods menitioned above do, or whether fertilized eggs to breast feeding women are prevented from implanting. Applying the same exact standard here, pro-lifers would even be against the birth control method God designed. They propagate “education” campaigns, with great vehemence and assuredness, about the “abortifacient” method of birth control—all this, because while there is no evidence to show these methods actually prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, there is also no evidence to show they do not. “Insufficient evidence exists on whether cellular or biological changes in the endometrium could actually prevent implantation,” say the authors. However, their point is that it doesn’t matter. “The possibility of fertilization during combined oral contraceptive use is very small. Hence, endometrial changes are unlikely to play an important role, if any, in the observed  contraceptive effectiveness of combined oral contraceptives.” Thus pro-life campaigns against birth control are based not on scientific evidence, but rather on wishful thinking. Indeed, on a slim hypothetical chance, the pro-life movement has successfully opposed legislation that would have provided millions of women access to effective birth control methods. If the science isn’t on your side, then, the pro-life side seems to believe, ignore it.

Even some pro-life physicians, sparked by the recurring actions by the pro-life movement as a whole against birth control, stepped in to offer their medical views on the concerns their fellow pro-lifers raise. In 1998, twenty-two pro-life Ob/Gyns published an analysis entitled “Birth Control Pills: Contraceptive or Abortifacients?” and four of these pro-life physicians followed up with a more detailed paper on hormonal
contraceptives in general. The physicians open their statement boldly warning, “Currently the claim that hormonal contraceptives [birth control pills, implants (norplant), injectables (depoprovera)] include an abortifacient mechanism of action is being widely disseminated in the pro-life community. This theory is emerging with the assumed status of “scientific fact,” and is causing significant confusion among both
lay and medical pro-life people. With this confusion in the ranks comes a significant weakening of both our credibility with the general public and our effectiveness against the tide of elective abortion.” The authors explain that any effects on the uterine lining that the pro-life movement uses to support the claim that fertilized eggs are being prevented from implanting would be insignificant and has no role in the ability for a fertilized egg to implant. Fertilized eggs are able to implant in much more hostile conditions than those resulting from the mode of action from the pill. They report “The presumption that implantation of a blastocyst is thwarted by “hostile endometrium” is contradicted by the “pill pregnancies” we as physicians see. Pill company literature estimates 3 to 5 pregnancies per l00 women per year for pill users. Many of these women take the “pill” an additional month or two before finding out they are pregnant. These pregnancies generally progress with no more difficulty than non-pill pregnancies. To our knowledge, there are no studies showing that the spontaneous abortion rate in these cases is any greater than in pregnancies with a “friendly endometrium.” The pro-life physicians conclude that there is no evidence to support that the contraceptive methods in question act in the ways that would be unacceptable to the pro-life individual who
believes life begins at fertilization. They state it as plainly as they can, “the ‘hormonal contraception is abortifacient’ theory is not established scientific fact. It is speculation, and the discussion presented here suggests it is error” and continue “if a family, weighing all the factors affecting their own circumstances, decides to use this modality, we are confident that they are not using an abortifacient.”

Yet, their campaigns against birth control continue today with more intensity than even before this  intervention from the most expert on the pro-life side. Of course, arguing over inconvenient biological truths is, in many ways, besides the point when it comes to pro-life disenchantment with birth control. Don’t be
misled. This fracas is not caused by a simple scientific misunderstanding. Otherwise, they’d rush to support birth control methods that don’t ’cause abortions,’ even in their implausible view. Like the diaphragm, condom, cervical cap, and spermicides. But the pro-life forces aren’t on record anywhere in favor of methods that keep sperm and egg apart. It appears impossible to find a single instance in which a pro-life group has anything good to say about any birth control method except natural family planning—a technique most notable for its high failure rate. Remember, even the lowly condom disturbs them.

News Law and Policy

Texas Lawmaker’s ‘Coerced Abortion’ Campaign ‘Wildly Divorced From Reality’

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice groups and lawmakers in Texas are charging that coerced abortion has reached epidemic levels, citing bogus research published by researchers who oppose legal abortion care.

A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.

White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy. 

“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.

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White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.

Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.

“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”

White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.

During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.

There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.

‘Extremely common but hidden’

“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”

Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.

“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said. 

There were 54,902 abortions in Texas in 2014, according to recently released statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The state does not collect data on the reasons people seek abortion care. 

White and Parker referenced an oft cited study on coerced abortion pushed by the anti-choice movement.

“According to one published study, sixty-four percent of American women who had abortions felt forced or unduly pressured by someone else to have an unwanted abortion,” White said in a statement.

This statistic is found in a 2004 study about abortion and traumatic stress that was co-authored by David Reardon, Vincent Rue, and Priscilla Coleman, all of whom are among the handful of doctors and scientists whose research is often promoted by anti-choice activists.

The study was cited in a report by the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, an anti-choice organization founded by Reardon. 

Other research suggests far fewer pregnant people are coerced into having an abortion.

Less than 2 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 2004 reported that a partner or parent wanting them to abort was the most important reason they sought the abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.

That same report found that 24 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 14 percent surveyed in 2004 listed “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” as one of the reasons that “contributed to their decision to have an abortion.” Eight percent in 1987 and 6 percent in 2004 listed “parents want me to have an abortion” as a contributing factor.

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.

“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.  

White sponsored or co-sponsored dozens of bills during the 2015 legislative session, including several anti-choice bills. The bills she sponsored included proposals to increase requirements for abortion clinics, restrict minors’ access to abortion care, and ban health insurance coverage of abortion services.

White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.

The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.

State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’

White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”

There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.

“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”

A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.

Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.

‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’

TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”

One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”

The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.

“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”

“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.

Among the other resources that TJF provides is a document produced by Life Dynamics, a prominent anti-choice organization based in Denton, Texas.

Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”

Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.

Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.

“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.

Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.

“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”

“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”