Analysis Sexuality

The Clitoris, the Vagina and Orgasm: Feelings and Frameworks

Heather Corinna

Knowing the issues with clitoral versus vaginal orgasms in terms of history and the politics around women and sexuality, how do you rectify when orgasm feels different based on those different kinds of stimulation?

Published in partnership with Scarleteen
lioness asks:

I’m a lesbian in my early twenties and I’ve heard the idea of the “vaginal orgasm” vs “clitoral orgasm” debunked here. But I’m feeling confused about how to reconcile that with my experience that orgasms when I’m stimulated in different ways feel different. Like, when just my clit is being stimulated, I come in one way, and when the walls of my vagina are being stroked, it’s like a different kind of orgasm builds up–from deeper inside. The second kind tends to go on for longer, and be less “piercing” than orgasms where it’s just my external clitoris being stimulated. Generally, those second ones feel more “complete” too. Both kinds feel good–I’m not knocking either one–but saying one feels more clitoral and one feels more vaginal feels like an accurate description. Do other people have this experience?

Also, I know Freud’s idea about “vaginal orgasms” being more “mature” than “clitoral orgasms” is all messed up. But I’ve heard some older women talking about orgasms coming “more from inside” as they got older. Is there any evidence or do you have any reason to believe that this is true for many women?

I guess part of what I’m asking is, “am I imagining this difference?” When I’ve read that the idea of “vaginal orgasms” and “clitoral orgasms” is BS, that’s seemed pretty cool and liberating. And yet, I do seem to experience these different kinds of orgasms. Can you help me understand all this? Thanks a lot.

Heather Corinna replies:

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These are excellent questions, and I don’t think it’s surprising at all that this all feels confusing. We unfortunately have a very, very long history of some profound misunderstandings of sexual anatomy and sexual response and a relatively short history of study and comprehensive education and information about them. You don’t need me to tell you that’s hardly a winning combination for an easy understanding.

I expect that we’re all going to be having conversations like this, and continued education about this for a long time still, which will probably involve a whole lot of saying, hearing, reading and writing the same kinds of things over and over again, as well as potentially revising all of that from time to time, since study about sexual pleasure regarding the vulva and vagina really is still in its infancy. It’s hardly an easy process to move out of the kind of history around all of this, nor an easy process to unlearn poor or inaccurate frameworks and learn and keep adapting new ones.

Before I say anything else, I want to make clear that how any of us experience sex (or heck, anything in life) is… well, how we experience it. We don’t imagine our experiences: what we feel is what we feel; how we feel something is how we feel something. Sometimes our experiences will match or be similar to those of other people. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes our experiences are so varied all by themselves that one set of our own experiences won’t match another, either from one time of life to another, or even from day to day. But I’ve no doubt that what you are feeling and experiencing is what you are feeling and experiencing. These feelings and experiences are subjective — they’re about us, not other people, about our bodies, not everyone’s bodies — and they get to be that way.

I’d say that making more sense of this involves understanding and accepting three primary things:
1) Sexual response and orgasm is about much, much, much more than genitals. In fact, orgasm is, in a very core way, barely about genitals at all, and sexual response is usually only as much about genitals as any sex eliciting those responses is about genitals. Orgasm doesn’t happen in or on the genitals, even though its effects are often felt there in addition to other sites. By all means, orgasms “come from the inside” but not of our genitals. They come from the inside of our brains and central nervous systems, and all the parts of our bodies those things can impact, every time, for everyone.

2) Orgasm can feel all kinds of ways, based on many different variables, and usually quite a few at any given time. One of those variables is what kinds of physical stimulation are occurring and to what body parts. This isn’t about there being different “kinds” of orgasm, though. Orgasm is orgasm is orgasm. Orgasm can feel different ways for different people — or for any one person from one time to another — but that’s not about there being different “types” of orgasm based on body parts. Rather than thinking of orgasm as “vaginal” or “clitoral” it makes more sense — and doesn’t conflict with what we know to be true about orgasm and these parts — to think instead of orgasm as feeling, as you have experienced it, one way for you when it involves or centers on external clitoral stimulation, and feeling another way when it involves or centers around vaginal stimulation, to the degree that you do and can separate those things, which gets us to…

3) A total separation between the vagina and clitoris is mostly artificial, often based on a misunderstanding or an incomplete understanding of what, where and how big the clitoris really is. In a word, that separation is often largely based on thinking the clitoris to be only the clitoral glands and hood — the external portions — when, in fact, those are only two parts of the whole clitoris, and that no part of the clitoris has anything to do with the vagina, and vice-versa, when none of those things are true. We can’t really separate the vagina from that and other anatomy because the internal portions of the clitoris surround the vaginal opening and canal, and most of the vaginal canal has few sensory nerve endings, so a person wouldn’t feel much without those internal portions of the clitoris, as well as the muscles, organs and nerve endings also surrounding the vagina outside of it.

I’ll walk you through more of the details about those core issues now, and how they apply to you and what you’re saying.

The way many people understand sex and think they experience it is about genitals. More people than not define sex as being genital — though that probably has a lot to do with having it defined that way for them — and if genitals aren’t involved (even if sexual feelings and drives and aims are) often don’t consider something to be sex.

I say “think they experience” because it’s actually very, very difficult — if not impossible — if we’re just talking about body parts, to engage in sex that ONLY involves genital stimulation. Think about it: even if you’re masturbating alone, using your fingers to stimulate your genitals, your fingers are at least being stimulated (and fingers have a ton of sensory nerve endings). You might also be touching other parts of your body, too. With a partner, it’s pretty hard not to have contact with anything but genitals when we’re touching each other. Again, hands and fingers are often involved in touch at some point, as often are our mouths, hips, torsos, thighs, buttocks, the works.

Just like genitals, all of those body parts have sensory nerve endings: they feel things, which transmit signals to our central nervous system, which processes and then returns signals to the rest of our bodies, like to our endocrine and cardiovascular system, and then they keep going back and forth in their game of sexual and sensory ping-pong that both responds to and co-authors what we feel physically and emotionally and intellectually.

What orgasm is mostly about and mostly involves are our brains and central nervous systems. If it wasn’t, every time someone touched our bodies in the same place or a similar way, it’d feel the same. A visit to your OB/GYN may involve some of the same things a girlfriend does, but it usually feels very different. Our response to sexual assault — not just emotionally, but physically — is often (not always, but most typically) very different. We respond differently to sexual stimulation when we’re rested than when we’re not, when we’re more or less emotionally open, when we have different feelings about what’s going on or with whom it’s going on. And sometimes we may have a bigger sexual response to a kiss or being stroked on the neck than we do to any kind of genital touching. All of this is because our sexual response is about so much more than just genitals or about having a given part of our genitals touched.

A young sex educator I like a lot simplifies all of this very well by simply saying that orgasm is about brains and skin.

When I present sex ed lectures, my favorite question to ask participants is: “What are the two largest sexual organs?”

The answer? Brain and Skin. Stimulating skin sends signals to the brain, which processes the sensations and releases the appropriate neurotransmitters. That’s an orgasm. No clits, vaginas or G-spots to define it.

In other words, orgasm is about our brains and central nervous systems, and then about all the ways those things can be triggered by and respond (or not) to any and all of our body parts where gazillions of nerve endings are. This gets a little trickier when we’re talking about sex where there is no physical touch at all, mind, so for now, let’s just stick to sex where some kind of touching is happening.

Orgasm is an autonomic physiologic response to various kinds of stimulation; often that stimulation is a kind which someone experiences or perceives as sexual, but not always. To translate that for you, that means it’s an event mostly about our autonomic nervous system, a system which engages SO much of our bodies, including the organs in and on our pelvises. It’s also not a system we can really control. Most typically, orgasm is recognized as happening in a medical sense when a series of contractions occur in and around the pelvis and some of its organs, like the uterus and testes, but that’s only one thing that tends to happen with orgasm, not the only thing (and that also has a good deal to do with the way people define and study sex as being about genitals).

When people orgasm and respond sexually otherwise (like by getting more and more aroused), it’s something happening throughout the whole body, usually because of things that have been happening throughout the whole body, often including the genitals, and which also has genital effects, as well as other effects to our brains and other body parts, like increased sensitivity or hypersensitivity and often a flood of neurochemicals that make us feel temporarily different during and after orgasm than we did before. To boot, it’s pretty common that the more of our bodies and minds we engage consciously in sex, the more we’re going to feel those whole-body effects. If we focus mostly or solely on genitals, we can be prone to experience orgasm as feeling more specifically genital.

If we wanted to attach one body part to orgasm as is often done with terms like “vaginal orgasm” and be accurate, the only way we could would be to call all orgasms “brain orgasms.”

So, no matter how you slice it, it’s just not very accurate to term orgasm as vaginal or clitoral. Personally, I think that kind of shorthand (which we usually only hear around those body parts, by the way: ever hear someone talk about a penis orgasm?) is one common cultural barrier to orgasm for people and also to holistic sex lives where people can really learn — or rather, not unlearn — how to enjoy their whole bodies and see all body parts as well as feelings as sites of and potential team players in, pleasure. There are so many reasons thinking more along those lines would potentially benefit people. I know as a queer person you can probably appreciate how that could be a support for not conceptualizing queer sex that doesn’t include intercourse as “not real.” Think, too, about how that could impact people with disabilities, especially those which take genital sex off the table, or even helping people to understand the differences between sex that’s about mutual pleasure and abuse or assault.

That said, I think it’s important to recognize that choosing what language to use is a lot more important when you’re working as a sex educator than it is when you’re in your bedroom, in your personal sex life, in your own head or talking to lovers. I don’t want you to get the idea that I think some kind of sexual apocalypse will happen if you choose to call your different experiences with orgasm what you do, or that you’ll somehow be responsible for sexuality going retrograde on us. In our personal sexual lives, we get to choose whatever language feels most true, comfortable (and exciting!) for us, and which hopefully also communicates what we want and enjoy well with any partners. What someone like me says in the context of my work about things like this ideally should apply to as many people as possible: what you or I say in the context of our bedrooms only has to apply to us and anyone we’re sharing them with.

Let’s check in with that anatomy stuff, too. You’ve probably already seen the following articles that explain the accurate anatomy of the clitoris and the vagina, and then how sexual anatomy looks when we’re talking about pleasure, rather than reproduction, but if you haven’t, let me hook you up:

When what you’re experiencing with vaginal stimulation is going to be about the vagina but also, especially when you’re talking about more than the front 1/3rd of it — the internal portions of the clitoris and everything else that can put pressure on the vaginal canal from both inside the body and whatever it is that is inside the vagina at a given time. That not only includes the internal portions of the clitoris, but also a bunch of nerve bundles not part of the vagina, but awfully nearby, and other muscles and organs around it.

It’s likely feeling more “complete” to you and others who voice that because you’re getting stimulus to more than once place, engaging BOTH your vagina and your clitoris, as well as other parts, rather than mostly or only one part of the clitoris.

At the same time, that might maks you then stop and wonder, then, why a majority of women don’t reach orgasm from intercourse alone than from external clitoral stimulus.

When we’re just talking physics, that has to do with the fact that there are WAY more sensory nerve endings in the much-smaller space of the external clitoris than there are in that bigger picture of the whole clitoris and the vagina. That’s also a big part of why most people with this anatomy who can experience orgasm usually won’t reach orgasm as quickly if the external clitoris doesn’t get at least some quality time, either on its own, or in conjunction to vaginal and internal clitoral stimulation. That also can perhaps help you make sense of the difference you feel between “piercing” sensations and feelings that might feel fuller, but less distinct or intense in some ways.

Think about it like wasabi, or something else super-spicy. If you take a dab and mix it in a big pot of something, that dish will probably taste a little spicy, but it’ll be subtle. But if you put the same sized dab directly into your mouth, undiluted, you can burn your freaking mouth off. The whole of the clitoris — and what it surrounds, namely, the vaginal canal — are like the whole pot, whereas the glans is like that undiluted dab.

Of course, it’s probably obvious when you revisit what we were talking about in terms of our brains that we also can’t separate how people feel, emotionally, about what’s happening physically. For example, a lot of people put a very high value on vaginal intercourse, and even if they don’t feel a lot physically from it, might deeply enjoy it, want to engage in it and reach orgasm that way because it is emotionally, spiritually or interpersonally meaningful for them.

Conversely, when we talk about the fact that the majority of people with vaginas don’t experience orgasm from intercourse alone (we might see the same stats with other kinds of vaginal entry, but I’d guess the rate is higher for other sorts), that really is what that means: from intercourse alone, without any, or with very little of, other kinds of stimulation, physical and interpersonal. While some of that issue is going to be about anatomy, some of it is going to be about emotions, conceptualizations of sex and oneself as sexual and what’s going on with partners. If someone is just sticking one body part into another and scooting around for a few minutes, with little to any other kinds of touch, or little to any interpersonal interaction, it’s not going to feel very exciting for most people on the receiving end most of the time. And that is, unfortunately, a reality for plenty of receptive partners.

I linked you up there to a piece where we talk about the bigger picture of someone entering someone else’s body, or people even entering their own, and I don’t think we can dismiss that or discount it’s potential weight. Having a partner be inside our bodies, or exploring inside our bodies is — I’m not sure if I intend a pun here or not — deep stuff. That doesn’t mean external stimulation isn’t, but. The point is that some of those deeper feelings are often, literally and symbolically, deeper feelings, when we’re talking about sex that involves being inside people’s bodies or having someone or something inside our bodies.

You bring up older women talking about this differently. Women outside their teens and twenties often do report different experiences with sex and orgasm compared to when they were younger, and will often say that things like reaching orgasm became easier, orgasm or arousal feel like a deeper or richer experience, or the things that get them to orgasm are less limited than they used to be. But what we know that to often be about isn’t just things like hormones or body parts, but things like improved body image and comfort with — including knowledge of — one’s body, better communication skills and assertiveness with partners, and doing better at choosing partners who are really seeking out mutual pleasure. So, this issue is, yet again, about more than genitals or parts.

So. Where does that leave you?

I think it might leave you pretty much where you started, because I think you had more of a hold on all this than you thought. It leaves you knowing that in a broad way, politically, and when it comes to the accuracy of discussion about orgasm and sexual response, terms like “vaginal orgasm” and “clitoral orgasm” aren’t sound. But it also leaves you understanding — hopefully — that orgasm can feel any number of ways, and one of the variables in the different ways it can feel is often about different kinds of stimulus, but also how we feel about that stimulus, and how we, uniquely, experience that stimulus. The way people experience orgasm is diverse, about way more than just genitals or having a given set of them. Whatever you experience is what you experience, and others may also share similar experiences, while some other folks don’t, and whether what we experience is similar or dissimilar to what others do doesn’t make anyone’s experiences any more or less real.

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.”