January 22, 2019 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

In recent years, attempts to limit access to the full range of reproductive healthcare have increasingly relied on ignoring and mischaracterizing scientific evidence. The annual “March for Life” this year tries to claim science is on their side, but it isn’t. Commentators are calling out the contradiction between this science claim and the anti-science stances pushed by organizations that aim to ban abortion.

At Bustle, Shaina Goodman and Gretchen Goldman write:

This claim is part of a continued campaign to block our access to evidence-based care. It is a smokescreen designed to hide the fact that the anti-abortion movement has a long history of mischaracterizing and ignoring science to suit its ideological agenda. In fact, many members of the current administration disregard and distort science, instead pushing radical ideologies that undermine established facts to advance an agenda that is harmful to women’s reproductive health.

… This month marks the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and women still can’t trust public officials to use science appropriately and in service of our access to reproductive health care. Abortion opponents continue to lie about the safety of abortion — ignoring the evidence that proves abortion is among the safest medical procedures. They perpetuate falsehoods about the physical and mental health impacts of abortion. And they help enact laws that force abortion providers to provide scientifically inaccurate information and medically unnecessary procedures to women seeking care, along with hundreds of other anti-abortion laws across the country.

Goodman and Goldman also highlight ways that Trump administration appointees — urged on by organizations that have been working to decrease access to abortion — have taken stances that are counter to scientific evidence. As head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Scott Lloyd tried to push medication abortion “reversal,” which is not supported by the kind of evidence necessary for medical procedures, on an undocumented teen. HHS Deputy Assistant for Population Affairs Diane Foley has pushed the myth of “post-abortion syndrome,” and her predecessor Teresa Manning was infamous for having falsely claimed contraception doesn’t work. Charmaine Yoest — previously HHS assistant secretary for public affairs, now at the Office for National Drug Control Policy — spread the falsehood that abortion increases women’s risk of breast cancer. (For a comprehensive look at the backgrounds of HHS appointees and why they matter for public health, check out Equity Forward’s terrific HHS Watch.)

At Rewire, Laura Huss documents ways the anti-choice movement is making inaccurate claims about research findings in order to advance policies that decrease access to abortion. Huss summarizes the actual evidence on several topics, including the safety of abortion, pain and cardiac activity during fetal development, and the public-health importance of fetal tissue research. Emphasizing such evidence is necessary, she explains, because the March for Life’s movement’s attempts to co-opt the mantle of science “is in line with a strategy and infrastructure that the anti-choice movement has been building for some time.”

In addition to correcting the anti-choice movement’s lies about abortion safety and fetal development, we should push them to acknowledge the growing body of evidence about the ways in which public health suffers when laws reduce abortion access, with disproportionate impacts on adolescents, those with low incomes, and women of color. Policy efforts should be informed by evidence, not lies.

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