The Ellsworth Amendment: Dems Set to Compromise on Abortion Care in Health Reform, Again

Jodi Jacobson

A vote originally set for tomorrow on the House health care bill may be delayed until next week, even after months of drama to arrive at this point. And to get to yes, Democrats are set to make another compromise on abortion care.

A correction was made to this article at 3:28 pm on Saturday, November 7th.  The article originally stated the Congresswoman Lois Capps was working with Congressman Ellsworth to find compromise language on federal funding and abortion issues.  This was not correct; Congressman Ellsworth worked with the House Majority Leadership on that language.

A vote originally set for tomorrow on the House health care bill (HR 3200) may be delayed until next week, even after months of drama to arrive at this point.  And to get to yes, Democrats are set to make another compromise on abortion care.

If there is one thing this process has revealed it is that there is no real way to find common ground on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights with today’s Republican party, or with the majority of the so-called Democrats for Life, who for all intents and purposes under the leadership of Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak are currently acting as the legislative arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These folks don’t even support access to contraception for the purpose of reducing unintended pregnancies, never mind abortion even to save the life of the mother, so "compromise" on an issue of such profound implications for women is an idealized concept to say the least.

And in fact passage of the current bill remains in question in part because of demands by Stupak and anti-choice forces for language that would completely eliminate coverage of abortion care even in private insurance plans

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

As noted here before, a Guttmacher Institute study has found that 87 percent of typical employer-based insurance policies cover abortion care. So under Stupak’s proposed amendment to the bill, women would actually lose coverage under health reform.  It seems Minority Leader John Boehner had it partly right when he talked about health reform as a threat to freedom, but he was confused because it is the anti-choice amendments to this bill that threaten the freedom of women to choose private insurance plans that meet their needs.

These problems were supposed to be avoided by the first compromise, known as the Capps Amendment (see "The Truth About the Capps Amendment") which was included in the House Energy and Commerce bill this summer and has been incorporated into the final House bill.  Authored by Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), a strong pro-choice and women’s rights advocate, the amendment was intended to create an "abortion neutral" platform and pass a good health reform bill as expeditiously as possible.

In other words, with this amendment, abortion was supposed to be off the table as a lightening rod for efforts to upend the reform process.  The pro-choice side (read: the women of the United
States) would not gain any additional provisions expanding coverage for
abortion care under health reform.  And the anti-choice side (read:
largely male, largely ultra-conservative, largely Catholic) would not have to
suffer either expansion of abortion coverage or any loosening of
current restrictions on federal funding of abortion embodied in the
Hyde Amendment.

The key elements of the Capps Amendment are that it:

  • Clarifies that the government could not mandate
    nor prohibit coverage for abortion services for plans in the insurance exchange.


  • Ensures that patients will have access to at least one plan that does cover
    abortions services and one that does not, thereby providing more choices to those who are pro-life since as per above most
    private health insurance plans cover abortion services regardless of whether or
    not enrollee wants it.

  • Also expands the “Conscience Clauses” (i.e., permission for providers to refuse to provide abortions),
    including the one known as the Weldon Amendment), which is in fact expanded under Capps.

  • Clarifies that public funding may not be used to pay for abortion
    services.  Under Capps, private funds (generated by patient premiums) can still be used to
    pay for these services.  These private funds must be kept strictly
    segregated from any federal funds.

  • Does not interfere with the Hyde Amendment (which
    says no Federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in the case of
    rape, incest, or life of the woman).

 

The Capps amendment also does not interfere with or preempt any state laws
regarding abortion (i.e. laws regarding parental notification, waiting periods, and so on.)

To call this a compromise or "abortion neutral" is generous, since even given the best intentions of Congresswoman Capps and her desire to move the process forward, the amendment bends over backwards to appease anti-choice groups by expanding conscience clauses that are already more than sufficient and that many consider unethical on their face, and by taking off the table any discussion of expanded abortion coverage for poor women specifically.

But this is about politics, and the Democrats need to pass health reform, so I digress.

The problem?  It turns out not everyone is down with the Capps amendment nor the abortion neutral position, however, least of which are the Catholic Bishops and the conservative Republi-crats hiding out in the Democratic party.  Stupak, for example, is not satisifed with segregating federal funding from private premiums for abortion within insurance plans.  So he and others in his caucus have promised to withold votes unless they get their way and unless they are assured a vote on his amendment during debate on the bill.

Pro-choice groups are of course rallying hard to defeat Stupak’s proposal (see Planned Parenthood’s action page here), and off-the-record conversations with several Hill staffers indicated that his amendment is a "deal-breaker" for many members in any case. 

But the stakes are very high, things can change quickly, the infighting leaves the leadership short on ayes in the 11th hour, the pressure is on the Obama Administration to deliver and there already is talk of the vote being delayed.  Given these realities, the underside of that bus so familiar to women when politics collides with reproductive rights appears to be lurking ominously around the corner.  Still, House leaders are furiously counting votes, and are also working on yet another compromise on abortion in an effort to secure enough votes to pass the bill.

The new compromise language under consideration is an amendment by Congressman Brad Ellsworth, a pro-life Democrat from Illinois with a zero rating on votes from Planned Parenthood.  As of this writing the final language was still a work in progress, and negotiations were underway between Congressman Ellsworth’s office and House Leadership.  However, a memo from the Congressional Research Service and analyses by both Hill staffers and advocacy groups suggests that if passed as currently written in draft, the Ellsworth proposal would essentially do the following:

  • Ensure no federal funds can ever be used in the Health Insurance Exchange proposed in the House bill: The Capps Amendment states that no federal subsidies to individuals in the form of Affordability Credits can be used to pay for abortion coverage. According to a memo drafted by Third Way, "the Ellsworth Amendment expands this ban to apply to any and all ‘other federal funds’ that do now or may in the future fund the Exchange. This means that any additional federal dollars, even those beyond “Affordability Credits,” that may be designated to fund the exchange (i.e. as part of a future stimulus package) will now not be able to fund abortions."

  • Make the Hyde Amendment permanent in the "pro-life" plans in the Exchange:  Under the Capps Amendment, at least one plan in the Exchange must be available that covers abortion services only in Hyde Amendment exceptions (in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment). Managers of this plan can, in fact, choose not to even cover Hyde-approved abortions.  The Ellsworth Amendment ensures that even if the Hyde Amendment is not renewed or is changed, at least one plan in the Exchange will still meet the Hyde Amendment standards by providing abortion only in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment, while still making it clear that this plan need not cover abortions at all.

  • Ensure there is no discrimination against health insurance plans that do not provide abortion.  The Capps Amendment specifically bans abortion coverage from inclusion in the minimum essential benefits package for insurance plans whether in or out of the Exchange. Ellsworth tightens this provision by ensuring that plans that do not cover abortion are not penalized in any way by the the commissioner who administers the day-to-day workings of the Exchange. It also bans discrimination against pro-life plans wanting to get into the exchange after the first required pro-life plan has filled that “slot."

  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to hire a private contractor for handling funds that can be allocated out of private premiums for insurance coverage of abortion and strengthens the means through which those funds remain segregated.


Reaction to the Ellsworth Amendment has been mixed.  Laurie Rubiner, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood stated that:

Planned Parenthood is concerned about Representative Brad Ellsworth’s proposed legislative language on abortion care in health care reform. Representative Ellsworth has a zero percent rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and has never been a supporter of women’s health and rights.   



Representative Ellsworth’s language purportedly seeks to amend a carefully-crafted and balanced compromise that should have put this issue to rest months ago. The Capps compromise assures that access to abortion care is neither mandated nor prohibited and that women will not lose the health care benefits they have had for decades.  It also stipulates that no federal funds can be used for abortion care. We are concerned that this new language could tip the balance away from women’s access to reproductive health care.


Others agree that the Amendment "tips the balance" though some claim only slightly so.  Third Way’s analysis of Ellsworth’s Amendment states:

Supporters of health care reform have been determined not to let the delicate issue of abortion trip up comprehensive legislation. The key to that effort has been to seek the goal of “abortion neutrality,” which means that the legality, cost, and availability of abortion, as well as the federal role in abortion, is no greater or no less than if there were no bill. Our close read of the language offered by pro-life Rep. Brad Ellsworth finds that his proposed amendment moves the bill in a pro-life direction but still achieves the goal of abortion neutrality.

Others have said that this proposal provides a way to "bold and underscore" the segregation and non-use of federal funds for abortion care, while allowing individuals to exercise their rights to this legal procedure under private plans with their money paying the premiums.

The stricter segregation of funds, the creation and protection of plans that do not provide abortion, and the other legal assurances created by the Ellsworth Amendment still don’t mollify the far-out right.  National Right to Life committee has called it a "political fig leaf made of cellophane" and the conservative OneNewsNow calls it a "sham."  As noted above, Stupak and the Bishops remain unimpressed.

It’s up to women’s rights groups and women throughout this country to take action now, because the anti-choice movement is in the halls of Congress, literally.  And one thing is clear: The only way to mollify this contingent is to strip half the US population of its fundamental rights.  Any more "compromise" and that’s where we will be.

 

News Law and Policy

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

Teddy Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Extremely common but hidden’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

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

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

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

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

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

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

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.”