Get Real! I’m Hopping Mad About Herpes

Heather Corinna

Many people have oral herpes but don't know it, and don't know that cold sores are a symptom. Most get it in childhood and don't remember their first sores; some people will never see a sore again, though they have and can possibly transmit Herpes.

This column appears as part of a partnership with Rewire and Scarleteen.

Sunlitx asks:

I’ve been reading Scarleteen since I was at
least 16, and the vital knowledge has kept me safe thus far…
UNFORTUNATELY after getting through high school and college completely
unscathed and mostly responsible, I finally dropped my guard for a
nice, geeky, Christian boy who’d never kissed a girl EVER. And now I
have oral herpes. I’m pissed. Really, really pissed. One day he greeted
me with a kiss and when he pulled back I noticed his lips were a bit on
the gross side. When he said, "Oh, I just have a cold sore," I
completely freaked. Apparently his whole family caught it from his
parents and they never made it clear to them that A) Cold sores/Fever
blisters ARE Herpes and B) they can be spread to others. They act like
it’s completely normal. The last time I went to his house I saw a BULK
sized bottle of Lysine on the kitchen sink. When my boyfriend asked his
mom about why they never warned him, she replied that I was simply
overreacting and that I should get over it.

I want to know how I can get through this without hating him and his
generally very nice family. He’s a great guy, and he didn’t do it on
purpose (I’ve never met anyone who has), but I’m just so pissed at him
and at myself. I feel dirty, ashamed, and like I should have known
better.  Thanks, Newly Blistered Sister

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Heather Replies:

When I was in high school, I was — as I still am now — in the
habit of hugging friends and warmly kissing them on the cheek, the
sides of their mouth or on the mouth entire when greeting them, passing
them in the halls, or just because I loved them and liked to
demonstrate my affection. You can imagine how much everyone loved me
during the week we all found out the hard way that I had mononucleosis
and had spread it to nearly the entire junior class in the span of
around fifteen minutes of kissy-greetings.

I couldn’t have known I had mono, mind you, because I hadn’t had
symptoms yet, and even if I had, I likely wouldn’t have been able to
figure out that’s what it was until I was sick for a week or more,
despite growing up with a healthcare professional. But too, mono is so
common, and chances are good that if it wasn’t me who passed it around,
someone was going to eventually and most of us were going to get it.
It’s very common in young adult populations, it’s highly contagious,
and people who get mono usually don’t know they have until after they
have already been in the most contagious period.

Oral herpes is a lot like this, despite the fact that cold sores or
"fever blisters" are a common symptom and are sometimes present and
visible among those with Herpes. I can’t begin to tell you how many
people in the world don’t know that they have oral Herpes, and don’t
know that cold sores are a symptom of oral herpes. Most people get it
in childhood and have no memory of sores (some won’t have them at all)
back then when they contracted it, and some people will never see a
sore again, even though they have and can possibly transmit Herpes.
Chances are very good this is not even your first exposure to HSV-I:
you’ve probably already been exposed to it many times in your life
before this without even knowing, and for all you know, you already had
it yourself and are only seeing a sore now due to re-exposure. And if
your whole family had it, you might very well have the same attitudes
about it as his do.

Getting mad at laymen about this only makes so much sense to me,
even though I understand your disappointment at contracting a virus you
can’t ditch.

Plenty of doctors will refer to oral herpes as "cold sores,"
and not explain that those sores are Herpes symptoms, and that the
emergence of those sores — and the time just before — also signals
the period of the highest risk of transmission. Plenty of doctors do
not tell people with oral Herpes about potential risks of genital
transmission (in part likely because some really aren’t comfortable
talking to people, especially young people, about oral sex, nor are
many people comfortable talking about sex with their doctors, either).
Of course, for doctors to even have these kinds of responses at all,
they have to either see a sore when a patient has a visit with them or
be asked by a patient about cold sores, so we can only hold doctors so
responsible, too. Often a doctor won’t see active sores or be asked
about them by their patients. But when even healthcare pros and others
in the know don’t pass this information along to laymen, we can only
hold laymen so responsible.

Some of that "Oh, it’s nothing," stuff comes from the fact that oral
Herpes is one of the most common and benign viruses out there. As many
as 80% of people in the U.S. people have it, and most contract it in
childhood from casual, everyday contact. If people act like it’s
normal, it might have to do with the fact that it is normal: more
people have Herpes than not, and it’s pretty safe to say that
all of us have been exposed to it in life, usually multiple times
before we’ve even started being worried about cooties, let alone Herpes.

As a regular reader of Scarleteen, I hope I don’t have to tell you
the this guy’s (lack of) sexual experience, his geekiness or his
religion have squat to do with any of this, and that we can’t figure
someone is somehow free of illness based on things like this. There is
no one kind of person who has — or does not have — Herpes or any
other virus. For sure, it’s sound to figure our risks of, say, Syphilis
are very minimal if we have sex with someone who has never had any kind
of sex with anyone else, because that’s an infection that is often only
sexually transmitted.

But oral Herpes isn’t Syphilis, not when it comes to its epidemiology, and also not when it comes to the possible severity of effects it can have on your life. Heck, for most people even Syphilis isn’t Syphilis anymore in that respect.

Oral herpes really isn’t likely to be that big of a deal when it
comes to your health and the health of others. I swear. Yes, you can
transmit it easily (and often it is passed around in families
nonsexually as happened with this guy and his folks), and yes, there
can be a risk of transmitting oral Herpes genitally. However, that is
relatively uncommon: genital Herpes, or HSV-2, is usually the type of
herpes one gets and transmits genitally.

Let me share some basic information with you from the American Social Health Association on this, as well as what you need to know now so far as protecting yourself and others:

Oral herpes is transmitted through direct contact
between the contagious area and broken skin (a cut or break) and mucous
membrane tissue (such as the mouth or genitals). Herpes can also be
transmitted when there are no symptoms present. There are several days
throughout the year when the virus reactivates yet causes no symptoms
(called asymptomatic shedding, viral shedding, or asymptomatic
reactivation).

If a person is experiencing symptoms orally, we recommend abstaining
from performing oral sex and kissing others directly on the mouth until
signs have healed and the skin looks normal again. Because most adults
have oral herpes, we do not advise that a person stop giving or
receiving affection altogether between outbreaks (when there are no
signs or symptoms) simply because they have oral herpes. However, using
a barrier (such as a dental dam) or condom when performing oral sex
(even though there are no symptoms present around the mouth) can reduce
the risk of contracting genital herpes.

By performing oral sex on someone who has genital herpes, it would
be possible to contract oral herpes – but this is rare. Most cases of
genital herpes are caused by HSV-2, which rarely affects the mouth or
face. Also, and even more importantly, most adults already have oral
HSV-1, contracted as a child through kissing relatives or friends.

(A geeky aside of my own: ASHA, originally called the
American Social Hygiene Association, was the first official sex
education organization in the United States. Around the turn of the
century, despite some profound differences in attitudes around
sexuality and sex ed, the ASHA was basically Scarleteen for Victorians.
)

In many ways Herpes really IS no big deal for most people. In
immunosuppressed (in case it’s not obvious, people whose immune systems
are suppressed, or not functioning well) people, Herpes, like many any
virus, can present some serious health risks. Having herpes — though
more often this is about genital herpes, rather than oral — can also
up the risks of us acquiring other infections sometimes. But for the
most part, not only is there nothing dirty about it, there’s not
usually anything dangerous about it either. It’s unlikely to impact
your health or your life, though how you think about it can certainly
have an impact.

You say that you feel dirty and ashamed, despite the fact that the
virus you contracted has nothing to do with cleanliness, and is about
as common as the common cold. It is no more or less dirty than cold
viruses, leukemia, the flu or chicken pox (which is in the same family
as the Herpes virus). I understand why you feel that way, but only
because our culture has stigmatized some viruses rather than others,
often based on all kinds of isms and phobias, and in this case, based
on the fact that Herpes viruses can be sexually or intimately
transmitted, which is the case for a ton of illness including, again,
things like colds and flus.

We can probably factor in, too, that
looksism is a factor, as Herpes sores are visible. Sure, it makes sense
in some degree for all of us to want to be healthy, and not have
illnesses, and to view illness as something we want to avoid. But if
you didn’t feel this way if and when you got the chicken pox, and don’t
feel this way when you get the seasonal sniffles, I think your feelings
about this illness probably have more to do with stigmatization coming
from a not-so-great place than with worries about your health. I’m not
wagging fingers at you, by the way: none of us are immune (no pun
intended) from these attitudes, and we do live in a world where we have
to deal with these notions.

I’d implore you to do what you can to diffuse your anger about this:
I’d say those feelings are more likely to bum out your life than a cold
sore now and then, or than letting someone know you’ve got oral Herpes
like most people do. Stress presents more health risks than HSV-I does.
I’d also try to let go of your anger towards him, his family and
yourself. None of you did anything wrong, nor is there anything wrong
with you besides being human and being people who don’t live in a
plastic bubble. We pick up viruses in life, and while there absolutely
are plenty of things we can do to reduce our risks, there really is
nothing we can do to remove those risks completely. This is just the
world we live in, whether we have never kissed anyone before or we
volunteer to run the kissing booth every year without fail.

You say you should have known better, but what I wonder is what you
mean when you say that. How would you have behaved instead? I think
it’s safe to say that most of us don’t ask everyone we kiss, be it
romantically or platonically — and that would include relatives and
friends — if they have ever had a cold sore before we kiss them. We
don’t also tend to give people we’re used to kissing a super-close
inspection of their mouth before we kiss them. And I think we all know
how often a friend will have us taste something they’re drinking, or we
share water bottles, without many of us giving it any thought at all.
Now, if Herpes was very dangerous to us (and again, for some groups of
people it is), it would make sense to do and ask things like that,
though we’d likely also be asking then if they had been sick with
anything else lately, too, if it was safe for us to have that close of
contact at all. But a lot of why we don’t tend to engage in those kinds
of behaviors is because it’s usually not dangerous, because our quality
of life (which includes relaxed affection with people) is also a factor
in the choices we make, and because in a lot of ways, there is just
very little we can do to avoid being exposed to oral Herpes, and we’re
either going to get it or not, which is also often based on pretty
random factors.

My advice to you at this point, beyond trying to adjust your
headspace on this, is just to talk to you own doctor about oral Herpes.
You absolutely can discuss and consider treatments, if you like, which
reduce outbreaks for you. There are also some support groups out and
about on the web for people with either type of Herpes who are having a
tough time adjusting, so if this stays hard for you, you might want to
seek one of those out for yourself.

An etiquette point: I don’t know what "freaking out" is for you, but
when I say I freaked out on someone, I’m usually talking about some
pretty high-key behavior on my part where I am not being particularly
sensitive to the feelings of others. If that’s what it means for you,
too, and it involved any shame or blame to this guy or his family about
their Herpes, I would personally say an apology is likely in order. It
feels pretty crappy to be treated like a leper, even if you have
lepracy, and all the more so when you don’t. I don’t know what your
feelings are per if this is still a relationship you want to pursue,
but whether you do or you don’t, I’d make some peace. After all, you
clearly don’t like how you’re feeling right now, so you can imagine how
they probably don’t like feeling that way, either.

Okay? You’re not dirty, and neither you nor this guy have anything to be ashamed of. Seriously, this will
be okay, and if you let yourself, I think you’ll get okay with it, too,
in fairly short order. I’m going to leave you with a few extra links I
hope can help you get there:

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

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.”