Attacks on Informed Consent are Attacks on Women’s Health
This is the second article in a series on a book by Christian author Rebecca Todd Peters called Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice. (For part one, click here.) In this pro–abortion book, Peters argues for legalized abortion up until birth. She also attacks pro-life laws that require women to receive counseling before abortions. On page 58, she says:
Abortion providers, like all healthcare providers, already obtain informed consent and ensure that their patients receive counseling in preparation for their procedures. Nevertheless, 35 states have passed legislation requiring counseling before an abortion procedure can be performed. Analysis of the content of the counseling makes clear that its intent is not simply to ensure that women understand the medical facts and consequences of the procedure, which is the goal of informed consent. Rather, in addition to information about the procedure, 33 states require that the woman be given information about the gestational age of the fetus, 28 states include information about fetal development throughout the pregnancy, and 15 require that women be told that they cannot be coerced into having an abortion.
Putting aside for a moment the question of why Peters has a problem with women being told they can’t be coerced into abortions, her assumption that all abortion facilities offer informed consent and proper counseling is far off the mark.
In a survey done by researcher David Reardon, over 250 women who regretted their abortions were asked if the counseling they received at the abortion facility was adequate. Here were the results:
– 66% said their counselor’s advice was biased
– 5% reported that they were encouraged to ask questions
– 52 to 71% felt the questions were inadequately answered, sidestepped, or trivialized
– 90% said they were not given enough information to make an informed decision
– 83% said it was very likely that they would’ve chosen differently if they had not been so strongly encouraged to abort by others, including their abortion counselors
– 95% of women who had abortions at Planned Parenthood said that their Planned Parenthood counselors gave “…little or no biological information about the fetus which the abortion would destroy”
On pages 61 and 62, Peters says:
Another manipulative tactic currently being pursued in state legislatures is the attempt to villainize abortion providers and healthcare workers to undermine their credibility and again position the state as the protector of women. This tactic is clearly connected to legislation related to state-mandated counseling. The move not only to require counseling but also to mandate its content is based on the unfounded notion that women do not receive adequate information about pregnancy or abortion before having their procedure. The underlying assumption is that physicians and other healthcare workers who provide abortion services are pressuring women into the procedures.…
For example, Alaska’s script reads as follows: “Alaska law requires your doctor to discuss with you the information described in this website before performing an abortion. You must have a chance to ask questions and discuss your pregnancy decision before an abortion can be performed. It is illegal for a healthcare provider to perform any medical or surgical procedure without first obtaining the informed consent of the patient.”
The statement implies that doctors may seek to withhold vital information from their patients and may try to perform abortions illegally without obtaining informed consent, despite no evidence of such illegal practice.
Women say differently. In an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court for the case Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, 3348 post–abortive women answered the question “Did the abortion counselor give you accurate information about abortion and its aftereffects?” From one woman:
I specifically asked if this was a baby and was told “No, it’s a formless blob of tissue.” No one told me that this was a tiny baby who would be ripped apart. I was not informed of potential negative physical, psychological and spiritual consequences. The brochure [given to her at the abortion facility] stated that many women experience relief, without any consequences and it also stated “there may be a BRIEF period of sadness”. . . . The abortion has impacted my life negatively the day it happened and every day since for almost 30 years with unmanageable and powerful emotions of guilt, sorrow and raw pain.
Another woman said:
I was told that my baby was not really a live baby, but that it was only a blob of flesh, and since it really wasn’t alive, I wouldn’t be killing anything. Later, when I saw the sonogram of my second living child, I saw that he was VERY ALIVE . . . and the guilt overwhelmed me.
A third said:
No. It was explained as ending a pregnancy, that the fetus was just a blob of cells, it was minimized for sure. There was never any counseling or mention of the emotional or possible physical harm it could cause. I was rushed and it was obvious they weren’t interested in me but in getting as many abortions done as fast as possible. I ended up hemorrhaging after the abortion and they told me that they “thought” the doctor gave me a blood thinning rather than a blood clotting medication. I have no idea the cause. It was very frightening that is for sure.
A fourth woman said:
No. I was told it was just a blob of tissue and that no life was formed. I later, after taking anatomy and physiology in college, realized what I had done and was devastated. Never was I told of the emotional distress it would cause me for the rest of my life. I was a murderer. I took an innocent, helpless life out of the safest place life should be protected in the womb.
Another woman said:
No. I remember distinctly that the “counselor” told me that at the stage of development of my pregnancy, “we’re talking about a lump of tissue.” I imagined it as being like a piece of uncooked chicken fat, and that is pretty much how it was described. To my horror, much later, I came to see actual photographs of children at eight weeks gestation. They are quite distinctly human! Little arms, little legs, little heads and faces! I can’t tell you how difficult it has been at times to view pictures of ultrasounds of friends knowing that I killed my own child who looked just like that. No, [I was not adequately informed of the consequences of abortion]. I only knew that it would terminate the pregnancy. I had no idea it would change my life forever.
Another woman says:
No. The paperwork said I would feel “relief.” They did not tell me ANYTHING about the development of the baby and when I asked about it, they showed me a fuzzy ultrasound where I couldn’t see anything and told me it was “a worm with a head.” I have scar tissue on my cervix and have been tested positive for pre-cancer cells. I was never told abortion could affect my chances of having a healthy pregnancy later. I was never told I might not be able to get pregnant later.
Another woman said:
No. Planned Parenthood staff said it was good to have the abortion early because “it wasn’t a baby yet – only a blob of tissue.” Didn’t inform me of any physical pain, consequences or emotional ramifications. I was not given any information on amount of bleeding, physical pain or other consequences. . . . I had very difficult and long labors with subsequent pregnancies/deliveries. Doctor said this was most likely due to previous abortion.
No. The only “counseling” I received was to ask me if I had any questions. When I replied that I didn’t know but thought maybe it was still just a placenta in there (baby not yet forming), she said “yes, it’s just a blob of tissue.” She actually used those words. I was also led to believe the procedure would involve only some mild cramping. Instead, it was extremely painful and frightening. I was told that it was easy, with no after-effects except bleeding for a few weeks. I was not told that (according to mainstream, peer-reviewed journals) it could lead to low-birth-weight and/or premature births – both of which I experienced a few years later. I was also not told about the terrible decades of guilt, grief and self-hatred I would experience.
A woman named Wendy Beutel wrote:
I was not informed as to any complications or adverse reactions to the abortion, and as a result, when the abortionist did an incomplete abortion, leaving some of the fetal tissue inside my uterus, I was left crying in pain on a cot with someone standing over me waving some type of additional form (probably a consent to waive all rights to me suing their clinic, telling me I had to sign it so they could take me in again and do another “procedure” to “remove the rest of the tissue.” I was told my baby was a “blob of tissue” and not a baby. It was incredibly painful physically and emotionally for me.
Randi Lolli said:
No. I was not told I could end up with a perforated uterus. Nor was I informed that as I lay on the table screaming in pain my “advocate” would tell me to be quiet so I wouldn’t scare the girls that were waiting to have theirs and maybe cause them to want to leave. I ended up with severe endometriosis outside my uterus, needing surgery to get pregnant, only being able to have one child and needing to have a hysterectomy.
Another woman said:
No. I was not told that I would physically feel the pain of the abortion process during the actual procedure. I was told that I would be given a pain medication. . . . The nurse who stood next to me and let me hold her hand – I squeezed her hand so very hard that I almost broke it because the pain was so intense. The doctor performing the procedure said to me, “You are the worst patient we have had today. Ha! Ha!” because I was screaming from pain. The worst of it all was when I sat up from the bed in the procedure room, looked in front of me and saw fetuses lined up in jars with lids on them sitting on the counter. I now knew what a horrible, horrible act I just committed. I don’t feel I was given adequate information about the physical and emotional side of having an abortion as the experience before and after were quite different. Knowing what I know about the abortion procedure and the mental aspects afterwards, I would never ever have an abortion. I have had emotional and mental issues stemming from this choice I made to have an abortion at 22 years of age.
All of these women, and the other 3337, testify against Peters’ claim that there is “no evidence” that doctors commit abortions without informed consent. There are many similar testimonies on Silent No More and ClinicQuotes.
Many women have, in fact, consented to abortions after being lied to, misled, or pressured by abortion facility staff. Pro-life laws that mandate informed consent for abortions are clearly needed. A woman deserves to know about everything that is taking place in her body, and to know the risks of a surgery before it is performed.
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