To Induce or Not To Induce – Is That The Question?

Amie Newman

A new study finds that induction of labor is on the rise in the United States but that evidence does not support the many reasons providers give for using various methods. What should pregnant and laboring women believe?

Are there "good" reasons for inducing labor through medical
intervention? It’s a loaded question for which different providers may give you
different answers. Even amongst like-minded communities of midwives – CPMs or
CNMS, or more traditional medical providers like ob-gyns, there will be
differences of opinion as to when artificial induction of labor is called for;
and which methods are safe, or safer than others. In some hospitals, it is more
common to induce electively, what Lamaze International calls "those done for
convenience rather than for medical reasons."  In other hospitals, labor
induction can only be done under strict guidelines, for specific medical

interventions in childbirth have risen over the last 10 years so it makes
sense that artificial labor induction would as well. In fact, the rate of labor
induction in this country has increased and now stands at 41 percent of all births, according to a study published in
April 2009 in BJOG
, the
peer-reviewed journal of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Distressingly, the study found that the "best
available evidence" does not match most of the reasons that providers give for
artificially inducing labor.

According to
Childbirth Connection, the investigators for the published study found that
evidence supports inducing labor under particular conditions such as when a
woman is at or beyond 41 weeks of gestation or when a woman’s membranes break
before her body is in labor. Conditions under which there is not good evidence
to support labor induction? When the baby is "large", when a woman is pregnant
with twins, has insulin dependent diabetes or has low levels of amniotic fluid.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Ellen Mozurkewich, admits however "More research
is necessary to clarify the risks and benefits of induction in these

One of the
reasons more studies are needed and more attention must be given to this issue
is because labor induction leads to increased medical intervention including
cesarean sections – making childbirth more dangerous for mother and baby.

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Connection’s Director of Programs, Carol Sakala cautions, "Starting labor early
can lead to negative outcomes for the woman and/or the baby."

Xena Harris Eckert, childbirth educator and doula, notes

"Induction dramatically increases the likelihood of cesarean birth, the
risks of which are often underestimated. As a doula, I am always sad if she
agrees to be induced, when the baby or mom’s health are not compromised by
waiting, because I know that if she desires to have a natural birth that
possibility is severely compromised by
the use of pitocin [one of the commonly used drugs given to induce labor]."

One of the ways induction "dramatically increases the
likelihood of having a c-section?"  Inducing labor for "having a large baby."
According to Lamaze International’s recently released "Healthy
Birth Practices" paper on labor induction
, "Studies have shown that
inducing labor for macrosomia (large baby) almost doubles the risk of having
cesarean surgery without improving the outcome for the baby."

Despite the fact
that labor induction is not recommended simply because "the baby is large",
this is precisely a reason given to women, by providers, for artificially
inducing labor. Susan King, a mother of an 11 year-old girl and now pregnant
with her second, told me,

"I was induced at 41 weeks, with pitocin and then
later breaking my water, because they thought she was going to be "too
big" for my tiny frame to handle if I went any longer past my due date,
which is just ridiculous. My daughter was 7 lbs 9 oz, so pretty average.
There were no other medical concerns – movement was fine, fluid levels fine, etc. In retrospect I feel
it was unnecessary and regret not being able to experience a normal start to
labor. I wouldn’t care terribly if I were induced again if it was
actually necessary
, but I really don’t
think their reasoning was valid." 

Lamaze’s paper on labor induction admits,
"many women are confused about when induction is truly necessary" and
identifies (artificial) labor induction as "one of the most controversial
issues in maternity care today."

It’s no wonder.

If providers cannot always agree on when labor induction is
medically appropriate and when it’s not, how do we expect pregnant and laboring
women to understand the scope of knowledge and information needed to make the
best decisions on behalf of themselves and their newborns?

For example, in addition to the reasons given above for why
induction may be necessary, the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also lists
"health problems that could harm you or your baby" as a potential reason for
induction. But even then the conditions vary from woman to woman; and from one
decision to induce, many other choices need to be made.

Alex Allred gave birth last year to a beautiful baby girl.
Since then, she’s mulled over the conditions leading up to her cesarean section
and is not sure her induction was necessary:

"I was induced when my blood pressure spiked at 38 weeks and
I was technically "full term" so the doctor and my midwife agreed that I was
heading towards pre-eclampsia and needed to deliver her. My labor started very
slowly, even with the maximum dose of pitocin for 10 hours…I think she just
wasn’t ready to be born and inducing was a mistake. She hadn’t descended and I
wasn’t dilated at all and the monitoring of her showed that she was fine. I
think if I had gone home to bed rest and lots of slow walks around the
neighborhood we could have encouraged her to come on her own."

She adds, however, "All’s well that ends well, though. She
and I are happy and healthy."

Debbie was diagnosed with gestational
diabetes with her first child and her doctor told her she would need to be induced because they
thought her daughter "might be too big if I went late."

ACOG, however, notes that in women with gestational
diabetes, "Labor…may be induced earlier than the due dates if problems with
the pregnancy arise

Was Debbie induced because of pregnancy complications or
because her doctors assumed she may have a larger than average baby? It’s difficult to say now but her story points to how unclear the decisions
regarding induction made by doctors on behalf of their patients can seem:

"I wound up having an emergency c-section under general
anesthesia. My recovery was a nightmare and A. only weighed 8 pounds 3 ounces
– I could have delivered her. I then had 2 VBACS [Ed. note: vaginal birth after cesarean
section], which were great. No problems and easy recovery. My third daughter
was huge, 9 pounds 12 ounces, and I had a great delivery and an amazing

And even when the decision to induce is deemed medically
appropriate, by what method should women agree to be induced?

ACOG lists
the methods by which labor can be induced. They include: prostaglandins,
"stripping the membranes", rupturing the amniotic sac (‘breaking the bag of
water"), and oxytocin (pitocin). One such prostaglandin is a drug sold under
the name "Cytotec", known as misoprostol. 

Cytotec is still used by ob-gyns in hospitals to bring on
labor – despite not being approved by the FDA for this use. Misoprostol is used for a variety of purposes – including in early, medication abortions. In a 2003 article
in Mothering Magazine, Marsden Wagner, former Director of Women’s and
Children’s Health for the World Health Organization, writes that Cytotec is not
approved by the FDA for labor induction,

"…because of insufficient scientific evaluation of risk–a
warning often ignored by doctors…New scientific data show that inducing labor
with Cytotec causes a marked increase in uterine rupture…"

Rachel McAuley, a mother of two, planned for a
midwife-assisted homebirth for her older son but at 42 weeks, when she hadn’t
gone into labor and with rising uric acid levels and potential symptoms for
pre-eclampsia developing, her midwife suggested an in-hospital birth.
Unfortunately, at the hospital, her midwife had little authority to make
decisions on behalf of Rachel’s health:

"When I went in, I was immediately strapped to the fetal
stress monitor, and the nurse came in with a pill.  She explained what she
was doing, but not what the drug actually was, except that it would
"relax" my cervix…"

After experiencing an entire day without labor symptoms, she
was given another round of cytotec and the doctor then needed to break her

"With the doses of cytotec in my system, paired with my
water being broken, I had no transition at all. It was very surreal…

…If I had known what cytotec was, I would have probably
opted for the pitocin. At least it can be gauged in doses. Cytotec is powerful,
and given in a way that is not for its intended use."

Henci Goer writing on Science & Sensibility
– the blog of Lamaze International – dismantles many of the myths surrounding
the safety and "appropriate use" of misoprostol for labor induction and
concludes that with the difficulties gauging doses given to laboring women, and
what kinds of long term adverse health consequences there may be for the fetus
and mother, there isn’t much to sell about Cytotec.

"Cytotec’s real benefits are convenience for obstetricians
and helping the hospital’s bottom line. For women and babies, though, it’s a
roll of the dice. Most times things go fine, but sometimes the dice come up
snake eyes."

Is it the method, then, that is at issue or the decision
to induce?

Childbirth Connection’s book, A Guide to
Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth
suggests, "The most important decision to be made when considering the
induction of labor is whether or not the induction is justified, rather than
how it is be achieved."

As with any and all decisions regarding childbirth, it’s
important that women are fully aware of the consequences of any decisions made
during pregnancy and labor, because women need to be their own advocates,
engaged fully with their experiences. Think you know about all of your options?
Make sure you know what’s out there – focus on the birth experience you plan to
have but know what your options are in case you are faced with something

What would Rachel say to another woman?

"Be informed.  I was very informed about pitocin and
what I didn’t want in the context of a hospital birth.  But when I ended
up with a hospital birth, I was not aware of other drugs that could be
administered. I had never heard of it [cytotec] before this experience.

I wish I had the opportunity to let my body do its
thing…In the end, though, I had a healthy baby!"

Questioning the conditions under which labor induction may
be necessary is a critical step towards empowering women in their birth
process. As long as women are fully informed – and understand when and how
induction may happen they can make the decisions they feel are best, on the
road towards bringing their babies’ into this world.

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

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The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.

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.”