National Abstinence Education Association Throws Bristol Palin Under the Bus

Jodi Jacobson

Now that Bristol Palin has dared to use her own voice to speak out about the challenges of early motherhood, the fact that "abstinence-only-until-marriage" is unrealistic, and the need for real sex ed, the far right is throwing her under the bus.

During the presidential campaign, the far right glorified Bristol Palin as a teen who got pregnant and "chose life." 

Now that she has dared to use her own voice to speak out about the challenges of early motherhood, the fact that "abstinence-only-until-marriage" is unrealistic, and the need for real sex ed, they are throwing her under the bus.

These guys are serious about their fundamentalist ideologies.

"The Cold Hard Facts Melt Myth That Abstinence Is Unrealistic" is the title of a statement by the National Abstinence Education Assocation (NAEA) responding to Bristol Palin’s interview on Fox with Greta Van Susteren. 

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Which left me wondering: Which cold hard facts are they talking about? 

The statement says:

During Sarah Palin’s recent vice- presidential bid, her unmarried teen daughter Bristol’s pregnancy became a hot campaign topic. As a follow-up report on this compelling human interest story, Fox News Commentator Greta van Susteren, asked Bristol Palin about abstinence. Bristol shared her view that “abstinence is….not realistic at all”. It is suspect that media, seemingly devoted to science based research, is quick to claim Bristol Palin’s experience as proof positive that abstinence education for all teens should end.


First, let’s put aside the very generous description of Fox as "media seemingly devoted to science-based research."  It is too distracting.

The main point: I have not heard anyone, anywhere, suggest that "abstinence education for all teens should end."  Rather, many have said before me,  and I have argued here (indeed just this week) that federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage education should end.

As soon as possible.

In making this statement, I am safely within the majority of the public health and advocacy communities and of U.S. public opinon

The difference is about teaching only abstinence (which, combined with misleading information about sex, birth control, sexual identity, and the roles of women is what members of NAEA do) or using accurate information to encourage real outcomes of abstinence and sexual delay while also equipping teens with safer sex skills for when they do become sexually active.  The former have failed, the latter work.  I won’t reiterate here all the evidence, because it is extensively laid out, documented and linked in my earlier blog, and on the websites of well-respected organizations such as SIECUS, Advocates for Youth, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Guttmacher Institute and many others.

But NAEA does what they and other groups who focus more on ideology than evidence do best: They twist words and facts to fit their fantasies.

First they claim the following:

And a growing body of research shows that well-executed abstinence education programs are demonstrating impressive results. 

Huh?  Request to folks at NAEA: References please!  Since they craftily only say part of what they mean, because their members all run abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, they confuse the debate and mislead by not referring to the evidence examining the very programs they support.  Again, see this week’s blog post for a wealth of independent evidence that refutes this statement.

The NAEA statement goes on to say:

While Bristol’s story makes for an interesting human-interest story, her comment should not be the basis to form public policy on the complex issue of teen sex especially if we look at the facts regarding the teen sexual activity.  According to the CDC, the percentage of teens that have chosen not to have sex has risen from 45.9% in 1991 to 52.2% in 2007. Incredibly, this success is in the midst of an increasingly sexualized culture that paints premarital, casual teen sex as exciting, without consequence, and expected behavior. 
The fact is most teens are abstinent.   There are millions of teens for which abstinence is not only realistic, but is their chosen lifestyle. An honest look at the statistics confirms this fact.

Oh…I see.  I guess it was ok that "Bristol’s story" be used to promote public policy when she made the choice to keep her baby, a choice that worked for her but that instantly made her the poster child for the political ambitions of her mother and of the far right in the abortion debate.  In fact her mother couldn’t resist interrupting the Fox interview to "set the record straight" on what Bristol really meant.  (Now that Bristol’s a mom can she speak for herself??)  I am sure Bristol’s honesty doesn’t help her mother’s drive to be queen of the ultra-right in 2012.  I imagine public appearances for Bristol may be few and far between in the near future.  In fact, Bristol may have been sent to her room indefinitely.

Indeed, NAEA gives another zinger to Bristol by saying:

The cold hard fact coming out of Alaska is that not all teens choose
abstinence but we should be encouraged by the fact that the majority

Whoa.  Harsh.  Bristol clearly has lost friends.  She is no longer the girl who "made a mistake and made the choice for life," but an "unmarried teen" who couldn’t keep her clothes on.  Like I said yesterday, this girl has guts.  And she will need them.

But back to NAEA’s assertion that "most teens are abstinent."  Here again, they engage in the usual pretzel-twisting of words and concepts. 

The question is: which teens, at what age?

It is true that age at first sexual intercourse has increased. According to data compiled from various sources by the Guttmacher
Institute, teens are indeed waiting longer to have sex than they did in the
past.  Some
13% of females and 15% of males aged 15-19 in 2002 had had sex before
age 15, compared with 19% and 21%, respectively, in 1995.

This is a very good thing.

But it is not true that "most teens are abstinent" unless you are talking only about teens ages 16 and under.

Let’s look at the facts:

Older teens are much more likely to be sexually active.  Again, according to Guttmacher:

  • Nearly half (46%) of all 15-19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once.
  • By the time they reach age 19, seven in 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.

Because most young people have sex for the first time at about age 17, but do
not marry until their middle or late 20s
, young adults
are likely to be sexually active before marrying for nearly a decade.  This means they need protection from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  Some may never marry; some are not legally able.

Some may choose to be abstinent until marriage.  That is their right and their prerogative.  Others will choose to engage in sexual activity.  

Should we just throw them all under the bus?

Or do we equip them early on with good negotiating skills, medically accurate information, and access to birth control (including condoms) that can prevent either one or both of unintended pregnancy and infection.  

And let’s be real here folks: people use contraception within marriage to delay, space or prevent pregnancy, and under many circumstances may need to prevent infections for life.  So we are not talking about skills for teens.  We are talking about skills for people having sex throughout their lifetime.  These are not some other species of being.  These people are all of us.  You and me, our kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, foster children, god-children.  Everyone.

More actual facts:

•A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.

•The condom is the most common contraceptive method used at first intercourse; it was used by 66% of sexually experienced females and 71% of males.

•Nearly all sexually active females (98% in 2002) have used at least one method of birth control. The most common methods used are the condom (used at least once by 94%) and the pill (used at least once by 61%).

•At most recent sex, 83% of teen females and 91% of teen males used
contraceptives. These proportions represent a marked improvement since
1995, when only 71% of teen females and 82% of teen males had used a
contraceptive method at last sex.

So we know that given the right information and training, the majority of sexually active teens and young adults who do engage in sex will make good judgements about protecting themselves.  Our job is to encourage protective behavior when they do engage in sex, not to stigmatize protection.

Yet, to recieve federal funding under current program definitions, according to the ACLU:

Abstinence-only programs must have the
"exclusive purpose" of teaching the benefits of abstinence. They may
not advocate contraceptive use or teach contraceptive methods except to
emphasize their failure rates.

Thus, recipients of federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds
operate under a gag rule that censors vitally needed information.
Grantees are forced to omit any mention of topics such as
contraception, abortion and AIDS or to present them in an incomplete
and therefore inaccurate fashion.

Indeed, many of them use fear-based tactics to drive their message across.  The NAEA site proudly features a link to this commentary by a conservative Idaho group:

In many states, including Idaho, sex outside marriage is against the
law, and that includes consensual sex between teenagers. Sex outside
marriage, whether "fornication" or "adultery" from a legal standpoint,
is punishable by both a fine and imprisonment.

Yet, educating teens about the legal risks they run if they become
sexually active before marriage is a topic that is rarely if ever
discussed in sex ed classes.

I’m guessing educators show less restraint in making students aware of
the legal risks of drunk driving or possession of drugs, but common
sense dictates that making young adults aware that their behavior is
not only dangerous but also illegal ought to be a part of a thorough

Says a former Georgia district attorney, "We do a disgraceful job of
educating kids about the very real consequences that they face." He
will soon publish a book entitled, "Ignorance Is No Defense: A
Teenagers Guide to Georgia Law."

One educator in Sugar Land, Texas brings a police officer in to teach a
class on sex and the law to her high schoolers, and says it is probably
her most popular class. "The kids are really engaged and ask a lot of
questions," she says. "And most of them are completely amazed that they
could actually be arrested."

Sex SWAT teams?  Do they need a warrant?

But now comes the real issue.  NAEA exists in large part to secure federal funding for disproven programs.  And their financial survival depends in large part on membership dues from state and local organizations receiving federal funds to carry out their work.  In the FAQ section of their website, NAEA states:

Q: Can our organization join NAEA since we have lobbying restrictions as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization?

Yes. Public charities may use up to 20 percent of their budgets for
lobbying purposes. However, since the NAEA membership fee is
significantly less than 20 percent of most organizational funds, your
membership fee will fall well within the legal guidelines for nonprofit

Q: Can we use federal grant funds to join the NAEA?

Federal Circular A-122 permits grant funds to be used to join
professional associations such as NAEA. NAEA estimates that 50% of
membership dues will be used for lobbying activities; however no
federal funds can be used for lobbying. Therefore, 50% (or $75) of an
organizational membership fee should come from non federal grant funds.
If this is not possible, please contact NAEA and your dues will be
segregated from any lobbying expenditures.

So NAEA is feeding at a trough filled until now by your taxpayer dollars. NAEA clearly is afraid that given the overwhelming evidence against the kinds
of programs for which they receive federal funding, the Democratic
White House and Congress, and a national mood for eliminating wasteful
spending, it may be faced with a loss of funds. 

Their statement says that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs:

Only receives about $175 million a year – an amount that is considered mere pocket change by members of Congress,who hold our purse strings.

Pocket change?  Does John Boehner agree?  He and his colleagues got their knickers in a twist about the non-existent $200 million for family planning in the stimulus.  What does he say about $175 million for programs that have been completely discredited?

Finally, NAEA includes a "call to arms" among adherents of abstinence-only-until-marriage, asking members to participate in the 2009 "Abstinence Day on the Hill."

Most Members of Congress base their views of abstinence education around misinformation they read in the media or hear from special interest groups opposed to abstinence. They rarely see or hear from abstinence providers or youth who have benefited from the approach. This year, every state must be represented to insure that every Member of Congress hears the compelling story of youth who have chosen to be abstinent.

Which is why I reiterate: You need to take action now to ensure that Congress does the right thing.  We just had an election in which the candidate who won–President Obama–promised to base policy and funding on evidence, and to get rid of programs that don’t work.  Everyone of us who believes that teens deserve non-biased, medically accurate information need to mobilize to make sure Congress hears our collective voice.

Take action: See Advocates for Youth
here, and SIECUS here.

Pass it on.  

And send Bristol good thoughts.  It is getting awfully cold in Alaska. 


Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.

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.”