News Science

‘Bad Medicine’: Anti-Choice Laws Ignore Medical Evidence

Nicole Knight

Nineteen states require providers to give verbal or written statements that are medically inaccurate or biased. Patients must be told fetuses can feel pain, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

Seventy percent of the 353 state-level abortion restrictions introduced so far this year are based on political pretext, false information, or stereotypes, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families released the analysis as part of its “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign focused on lies about abortion in 2016. The analysis follows on the heels of its report, Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health Care, which lays out the ideological motivations and inaccuracies that the report’s authors say underpin the majority of legislative impediments to abortion care.

Two hundred fifty-one cases of newly introduced abortion care restrictions run contrary to evidence-based medicine, according to the National Partnership’s analysis of data from the Guttmacher Institute.

“Lies about abortion and the women who have them are being turned into laws across the country, and it needs to stop,” Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, said in a statement accompanying the memo. “All women deserve medically accurate information and access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion care.”

Appreciate our work?

Rewire is a non-profit independent media publication. Your tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.


The Bad Medicine report, which includes abortion restrictions in place as of 2015, notes how such regulations force health-care providers to deliver outmoded care, ignore patient preferences, and drive up costs for providers and patients without improving patient health.

The report’s authors detail a growing number of medically unnecessary impediments to abortion care, including:

  • Mandated counseling: 19 states require providers to give or offer verbal or written statements that are medically inaccurate, biased, or false. In 12 of those states, patients must be told fetuses can feel pain, despite the lack of scientific evidence. In nine states, the written statements stress the negative emotional effect of abortion, including depression and suicidal thoughts, even though the American Psychological Association has said the “overwhelming majority” of pregnant people feel relief after the procedure, rather than regret.
  • Mandatory ultrasounds: 13 states have passed laws to require ultrasounds before abortion care, and of those, five include a requirement that the providers display and describe the image even if the patient doesn’t wish to see it.
  • State-sanctioned delays: 31 states have passed laws to delay abortion care, typically 24 hours, with Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah forcing a patient to wait 72 hours in the off chance that pregnant people might change their mind—a common anti-choice argument.
  • Onerous facility requirements: Nearly half of all states require abortion clinics to be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers, despite research that indicates abortion procedures often are safer than wisdom teeth removal, which is performed in a dentist’s office.
  • Medication abortion restrictions: 19 states have passed measures to bar providers from administering medication abortion via telemedicine, with six states having “passed laws preventing providers from administering medication abortion in accordance with the standard of care that reflects the most up-to-date evidence.”

Major medical organizations oppose “this trend of political interference in medical decision-making,” according to the report. And courts have moved to block some of these anti-choice measures pushed by Republican-held legislatures across the country.


The report issues a call for reform, asking lawmakers to reject legislation that interferes with the patient-provider relationship and to repeal laws that ignore medical evidence and science. In addition, the “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign encourages site visitors to take a pledge to fight back against politicians “using lies to push abortion out of reach.”

“The leading medical societies, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are on the record stating that obstacles to abortion care pose a threat to women’s health,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, director of reproductive health programs at the National Partnership, said in a statement. “Abortion opponents need to learn that legislating something doesn’t make it true, and that when they lie we’re going to call them out.”

The American College of Physicians has said in its “Statement of Principles on the Role of Governments in Regulating the Patient-Physician Relationship” that “mandated care may also interfere with the patient-physician relationship and divert clinical time from more immediate clinical concerns.”

In February, a Rutgers University study suggested that people considering abortion care are provided with medically inaccurate information about a third of the time in the 23 states with so-called informed consent laws. Researchers found that more than 40 percent of information in booklets produced by Michigan, Kansas, and North Carolina was medically inaccurate.

Alabama, Alaska, and Georgia had the lowest percentages of inaccuracies, each with less than 18 percent.

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify the data in the National Partnership for Women & Families’ “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign and its Bad Medicine report.

Load More