Eight Is Not Enough? The Big Families We Love to Hate

Kathryn Joyce

After a brief moment of "miracle news" coverage when the successful delivery of the California octuplets was first announced, criticism of the mother and her doctors began to mount from across the ideological spectrum.

It’s often a funny thing when right and left agree, as did
many vocal commentators across the ideological spectrum this week in condemning
Nadya Suleman, the mother of the California octuplets conceived by in vitro
fertilization and delivered last week by a team of 46 doctors and nurses. Such
a large number of multiple births is so rare, many media reports pointed out, that
only one previous example of octuplets exists in U.S history. It’s also so rare
that Microsoft Word’s spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word "octuplet," as
several online commenters reported. This response in itself, speaking to the
volumes of Internet opinionating the octuplets have inspired, gives some indication
of how completely the controversy has transformed from a story based in solid facts
– of which there are still very few so far – into the latest projection screen
for fertility and childbirth controversies.  

Big Families We Love, and Love to Hate

Nadya Suleman’s interview with Ann Curry on the Today Show

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Suleman’s newborns were delivered, as it were, into a pop cultural moment of preoccupation with large
families. Reality TV shows about families with many children abound on TV’s TLC
channel, most notably with the chronicles of the 18-child Duggar family. That the Duggars are grounded in and motivated by the pro-patriarchy Quiverfull movement, with its
emphasis on female submission and male headship, is breezily dispensed with in
favor of dwelling on the sentimental and zany experiences of life in a
20-person family. "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," another reality TV show about a
large family – this one the result of sextuplets born to a mother who, like
Suleman, chose not to selectively reduce the number of embryos that "took"
during an IVF treatment – is less burdened by the extremist ideology that
undergirds the Duggars’ convictions, but still presents a traditional picture
of large family life, with married heterosexual parents and a stay-at-home
mother. Though it’s now impossible to separate the public reaction to Suleman’s
delivery from the swirl of facts and speculation about her motivations and
mental health, it seems clear enough that much of the ire directed at her is
due to her unorthodox family situation and her singleness most of all. While
many observers are concerned with her apparent inability to support such a
large family, the fact that she is unmarried has alone been cause enough for others
to declare her family a situation of de facto child abuse. 

Finding the Facts

Probably most readers know what there is to know about the
story so far – what there is to know limited by the fact that Suleman hasn’t talked
publicly about her pregnancy. What is left are slivers of information from interviews
with family members and neighbors. Nadya Suleman, a single mother and unemployed
student with a degree in child and
adolescent development, was an only child, and always wanted a large family.
According to some, she aimed for 12 children in total, or maybe, after the six
she already had through IVF, just one more girl. Her parents apparently
recently declared bankruptcy, and moved with Suleman into a 3-bedroom house
they’d bought for her, where they helped her care for her already-large family.
When controversy erupted, Suleman quickly retained a spokeswoman, which, with
her reported target of a $2 million appearance on Oprah, sealed her public
persona as American villain rather than American sweetheart. Sadder facts of
the story include the interviews with Suleman’s mother, Angela Suleman, who has
hinted at possible mental illness in her daughter by venting her frustration
with her daughter’s "obsession" with children. Another poignant detail is the
report that Suleman’s father, reportedly a Palestinian-born linguist, may have to
return to a contract position in Iraq to raise money for the care of his
daughter’s 14-child family. 

When "Miracle News" Sours

After a brief moment
of "miracle news" coverage when the successful delivery was first announced,
criticism of Suleman and her unnamed doctors began to mount from across the
ideological spectrum. The hospital where she delivered reported receiving
numerous calls demanding that their medical license be revoked and even several
from people wishing the Suleman babies wouldn’t survive. More common were the
concerns, on the left, that the children would be neglected or that they
constituted an environmentally hazardous selfishness, and on the right, the
charge that Suleman was the end result of a culture that condones single parenthood and
glorifies individual choice above all other considerations. 

Individual choice
didn’t seem to be a particular concern throughout the debate though, which has
been marked by highly moralistic overtones in discussing whether or not
Suleman’s pregnancy should have been "allowed" to take place. On liberal websites, a surprising hostility to Suleman’s right to have made such reproductive decisions has been common, taking issue with whether Suleman was entitled to choose to have so many children in her circumstances, seeming to embrace a sort of anti-choice rhetoric. (Though it’s worth noting that OB-GYN Amy Tuteur, writing on Salon, makes a convincing argument for limiting “right to choose” analogies, as endless comparisons to abortion rights only serve to distort discussions of medical ethics.) And on some conservative websites, there has been an equally surprising insistence that
Suleman should have been forced to abort some of the embryos. A number of
fertility doctors contacted to give expert opinions seemed to rush to distance
themselves from what one bioethicist, M. Sara Rosenthal, called an "outrageous"
breach of medical protocol. While the implantation of eight embryos, if it did
occur – and this seems up for debate as well, as
Angela Suleman told the AP that "far fewer" than eight embryos were implanted
in her daughter, and that they then apparently multiplied – would certainly be beyond the pale by almost
all medical standards, some of the pronouncements of fertility ethics had an
unsettling whiff of paternalism. One article discussed how responsible doctors
may have to "simply
[say] no
," to women seeking multiple implantations in order to "be a strong
and responsible advocate for moms and babies." In an interview with CNN,
Rosenthal raised the neonatalist theory that women may not have the emotional capacity to make proper decisions when informed about
the risks of premature births due to the distress such news may cause them. 

What’s Desirable vs. What’s Allowed

This sort of language and
reasoning, at least taking place as a debate in the non-expert arena of the
media, seems too familiar for
, echoing the sort of anti-abortion rhetoric Justice Anthony Kennedy
relied upon in the 2007 Carhart case:
that abortion is not a crime women commit, but one they need to be protected
from by those who know better. The danger of slipping into that territory, of
empowering doctors to determine women’s reproductive best interests, seems
enough justification to allow for cases that offend public sensibility. As Sean
Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, explained,
"A number of commentators are saying a woman with six
kids should not be allowed medical treatment to have additional ones, and I
think, at a common sense level, that makes good sense. However, to make that
work, that means someone is going to start deciding for other people how, when
and why they can have children. That’s a very big step and one that we might
not be prepared to take." 

But in contrast to
that reasonable estimation of the difference between what’s desirable and
what’s allowed, is the overlap of criticism between camps that would normally
be at ideological ends. Both conservative and liberal commenters loudly
wondered who, in this moment of financial meltdown, was going to pay for all of
this. Right-wing California shock jock Bill Handel declared the births
"freakish," and announced
that people were "ready to boycott any corporations that help the octuplets or
their mother." Likewise, commenters
discussing the story on liberal site Huffington Post suggested that if Oprah
did host Suleman on her show, viewers should boycott Oprah as well. (Neither side
should likely worry, as the AP reported on the snubbing response of Pampers and
Gerbers officials, who donated little or nothing to the Suleman family.
Television station TLC has said that, while it has contacted the Sulemans about
television opportunities, it’s holding off any production decisions until they
determine how "TV-friendly" the family proves.) A comment thread
title on Yelp summed up the sentiment of many: "Octuplets born in
Bellflower, she better not be on Welfare!!" 

Indeed, a number of
feminist writers remarked on how closely the outrage over Suleman mirrored old
"welfare queen" tropes, where large families weren’t seen as miraculous or a Cheaper By the Dozen adventure – as more
traditionalistic large families are often portrayed on TV and in popular media
– but as burdens to the state, brought on by an irresponsible mother. Lynn
Paltrow, Executive Director of the National Advocates for Pregnant
Women, told Salon’s Broadsheet
that perceived race of mothers was often a key component of how stories of
large families were treated in the media. "When the pregnant woman is not brown
or black and the drugs/technologies are provided by big pharma, the discussion
focuses on questions of ethics. But if the issue is childbearing by low-income
women of color, and the drug is homegrown/illegal then the debate is a
question of punishment through the criminal justice or civil child welfare

This angle was sadly
confirmed by some blog
comments speculating whether the name "Suleman" had a "very ethnic ring to it –
Middle Eastern in fact." Conservative blogger Phyllis Chesler took these
insinuations a few
steps farther
, swiftly dispatching with the makeup of America’s most prominent
pronatalist activists – complementarian conservative Chrsitians – to hang the
mantle of over-the-top procreation on fundamentalist Mormon polygamists and
Muslims (whom she refers to as "outlawed, break-away Mormon and law-abiding
Muslim men," in case her meaning isn’t clear). After noting that "Osama bin
Laden’s father had 57 children," Chesler wonders whether Suleman’s ethnicity is
determining her family size, writing, "Once this gets out-will she become a
poster child/mother for….free baby formula and diapers? Or for Jihad?" 

More commonly, the
indictments were more subtle, as characterized by Townhall conservative
columnist Mona Charen, whose reaction was to blame the octuplets on
as-yet-unmarried California Representative Linda Sanchez, who announced her
pregnancy last November. 

Different Judgments for Different Families

, a veteran anti-choice activist who opposes IVF, condemned Suleman
as well, albeit somewhat reluctantly. "The question I’m hearing often asked,
‘Can one have too many children?’" she wrote, "is wrong. No, one cannot.
But God didn’t intend for human mothers to give birth to litters, particularly
with no husbands in sight. It’s unnatural on all levels." 

Some of Stanek’s ardently
anti-abortion readers were harsher, with one declaring that "[Suleman’s] mentality is abortion mentality: ‘I will
decide who lives, who dies, when I have children.’ I bet she isn’t even
infertile!" the writer continued, "Just hates men!" This level of vitriol
sparked Stanek to defend Suleman, and to come to the surprising defense that "sexism
at play here. Were Suleman married, no one would be questioning her motive for
becoming pregnant with multiples." 

That’s not quite true. The large families promoted most ardently by the pronatalist “Quiverfull” wing of the anti-abortion movement strongly emphasize the importance of not planning one’s family – either by limiting it or artificially enlarging it – viewing such self-determination, even in the interests of growing a family, as the root of the reproductive choices they condemn. Though certainly many would be more accepting of a large family that had IVF children than they are of those who choose contraception or abortion, most hold, as one of Stanek’s commenters writes, that "If one believes as I do that God determines fertility, then one believes that in a proper husband-wife relationship God will supply a large family’s needs."

Among the movement
of purposefully very large families in the U.S., this is the predominant conviction, almost universally accompanied by an extreme traditionalism in marriage roles that holds women’s prolific fertility up
not as one option to choose but as the only righteous path for true believers.
Suleman’s family size may approximate that of the Duggars and other families at
the forefront of a theological movement that stresses traditional gender roles
above all other concerns, but that is likely where the resemblance ends. In
terms of reproductive matters of national concern, one woman’s idiosyncratic
and likely tragic choices seem to pale beside a movement that insists on
similarly large and labor-intensive broods of children for women and raises
daughters to see this as the only blueprint for their lives. It says something
about where we are as a country that the former isolated case attracts more
concern than the existence of the latter as a growing movement.

Analysis Law and Policy

Indiana Court of Appeals Tosses Patel Feticide Conviction, Still Defers to Junk Science

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled patients cannot be prosecuted for self-inducing an abortion under the feticide statute, but left open the possibility other criminal charges could apply.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday vacated the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who faced 20 years in prison for what state attorneys argued was a self-induced abortion. The good news is the court decided Patel and others in the state could not be charged and convicted for feticide after experiencing failed pregnancies. The bad news is that the court still deferred to junk science at trial that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside the womb, and largely upheld Patel’s conviction of felony neglect of a dependent. This leaves the door open for similar prosecutions in the state in the future.

As Rewire previously reported, “In July 2013 … Purvi Patel sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding, telling doctors she’d had a miscarriage. That set off a chain of events, which eventually led to a jury convicting Patel of one count of feticide and one count of felony neglect of a dependent in February 2015.”

To charge Patel with feticide under Indiana’s law, the state at trial was required to prove she “knowingly or intentionally” terminated her pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus.”

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, attorneys for the State of Indiana failed to show the legislature had originally passed the feticide statute with the intention of criminally charging patients like Patel for terminating their own pregnancies. Patel’s case, the court said, marked an “abrupt departure” from the normal course of prosecutions under the statute.

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“This is the first case that we are aware of in which the State has used the feticide statute to prosecute a pregnant woman (or anyone else) for performing an illegal abortion, as that term is commonly understood,” the decision reads. “[T]he wording of the statute as a whole indicate[s] that the legislature intended for any criminal liability to be imposed on medical personnel, not on women who perform their own abortions,” the court continued.

“[W]e conclude that the legislature never intended the feticide statute to apply to pregnant women in the first place,” it said.

This is an important holding, because Patel was not actually the first woman Indiana prosecutors tried to jail for a failed pregnancy outcome. In 2011, state prosecutors brought an attempted feticide charge against Bei Bei Shuai, a pregnant Chinese woman suffering from depression who tried to commit suicide. She survived, but the fetus did not.

Shuai was held in prison for a year until a plea agreement was reached in her case.

The Indiana Court of Appeals did not throw out Patel’s conviction entirely, though. Instead, it vacated Patel’s second charge of Class A felony conviction of neglect of a dependent, ruling Patel should have been charged and convicted of a lower Class D felony. The court remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment against Patel for conviction of a Class D felony neglect of a dependent, and to re-sentence Patel accordingly to that drop in classification.

A Class D felony conviction in Indiana carries with it a sentence of six months to three years.

To support Patel’s second charge of felony neglect at trial, prosecutors needed to show that Patel took abortifacients; that she delivered a viable fetus; that said viable fetus was, in fact, born alive; and that Patel abandoned the fetus. According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state got close, but not all the way, to meeting this burden.

According to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state had presented enough evidence to establish “that the baby took at least one breath and that its heart was beating after delivery and continued to beat until all of its blood had drained out of its body.”

Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded, it was reasonable for the jury to infer that Patel knowingly neglected the fetus after delivery by failing to provide medical care after its birth. The remaining question, according to the court, was what degree of a felony Patel should have been charged with and convicted of.

That is where the State of Indiana fell short on its neglect of a dependent conviction, the court said. Attorneys had failed to sufficiently show that any medical care Patel could have provided would have resulted in the fetus surviving after birth. Without that evidence, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded, state attorneys could not support a Class A conviction. The evidence they presented, though, could support a Class D felony conviction, the court said.

In other words, the Indiana Court of Appeals told prosecutors in the state, make sure your medical experts offer more specific testimony next time you bring a charge like the one at issue in Patel’s case.

The decision is a mixed win for reproductive rights and justice advocates. The ruling from the court that the feticide statute cannot be used to prosecute patients for terminating their own pregnancy is an important victory, especially in a state that has sought not just to curb access to abortion, but to eradicate family planning and reproductive health services almost entirely. Friday’s decision made it clear to prosecutors that they cannot rely on the state’s feticide statute to punish patients who turn to desperate measures to end their pregnancies. This is a critical pushback against the full-scale erosion of reproductive rights and autonomy in the state.

But the fact remains that at both trial and appeal, the court and jury largely accepted the conclusions of the state’s medical experts that Patel delivered a live baby that, at least for a moment, was capable of survival outside the womb. And that is troubling. The state’s experts offered these conclusions, despite existing contradictions on key points of evidence such as the gestational age of the fetus—and thus if it was viable—and whether or not the fetus displayed evidence of life when it was born.

Patel’s attorneys tried, unsuccessfully, to rebut those conclusions. For example, the state’s medical expert used the “lung float test,” also known as the hydrostatic test, to conclude Patel’s fetus had taken a breath outside the womb. The test, developed in the 17th century, posits that if a fetus’ lungs are removed and placed in a container of liquid and the lungs float, it means the fetus drew at least one breath of air before dying. If the lungs sink, the theory holds, the fetus did not take a breath.

Not surprisingly, medical forensics has advanced since the 17th century, and medical researchers widely question the hydrostatic test’s reliability. Yet this is the only medical evidence the state presented of live birth.

Ultimately, the fact that the jury decided to accept the conclusions of the state’s experts over Patel’s is itself not shocking. Weighing the evidence and coming to a conclusion of guilt or innocence based on that evidence is what juries do. But it does suggest that when women of color are dragged before a court for a failed pregnancy, they will rarely, if ever, get the benefit of the doubt.

The jurors could have just as easily believed the evidence put forward by Patel’s attorneys that gestational age, and thus viability, was in doubt, but they didn’t. The jurors could have just as easily concluded the state’s medical testimony that the fetus took “at least one breath” was not sufficient to support convicting Patel of a felony and sending her to prison for 20 years. But they didn’t.

Why was the State of Indiana so intent on criminally prosecuting Patel, despite the many glaring weaknesses in the case against her? Why were the jurors so willing to take the State of Indiana’s word over Patel’s when presented with those weaknesses? And why did it take them less than five hours to convict her?

Patel was ordered in March to serve 20 years in prison for her conviction. Friday’s decision upends that; Patel now faces a sentence of six months to three years. She’s been in jail serving her 20 year sentence since February 2015 while her appeal moved forward. If there’s real justice in this case, Patel will be released immediately.

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.”