Women aren’t stupid.
(I mean, on average.)
Over time, we’ve begun to vote, work, sign for our own credit cards, and helm blockbuster movies and society hasn’t collapsed under the weight of our unfettered ignorance. Certainly, given accurate information to work with, we’re capable of making decisions about our own bodies. We’re capable of deciding if we want to have kids, when we want to have kids, and how many kids we want to have.
And that is precisely why so many groups lie their little asses off when the subject of reproductive health arises: because they want to be the ones making the decisions. They don’t like the choices we’re making for ourselves — particularly when it comes to our reproductive health — and because we can no longer legally be leg-shackled to the fridge making horrible things out of Jell-O, they have to resort to manipulation.
If that sounds a little hyperbolic, that’s… because it’s my writing style. But it’s also real. When women are given accurate information about their health and are allowed to use it, they make good decisions and life gets better. But if you have a different agenda, manipulating that information is the way to go.
Crisis pregnancy centers’ business model hinges on lying to women. Many pretend to be medical facilities, even going so far as to dress their staff in lab coats to lure in pregnant women who are in need of actual medical advice. And the “medical advice” is usually more lies, falsely linking abortion to depression, breast cancer, and infertility. They frequently set up shop close to actual, legitimate reproductive health centers to intercept women — one CPC in New York is located across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic and has a banner saying, “Plan Your Parenthood.”
If your services really are beneficial to women — the best choice they can make during a really difficult time in their life — you should be able to sell them on their merits. If the success of your business relies wholly on actively deceiving women in crisis, you are the worst kind of scum.
Of course, the big winner in the “liar” category has to be our own government. In 26 states, doctors are legally required to recite a litany of misinformation to their patients in the name of informed consent. A lot of it echoes the lies told by CPCs (breast cancer, infertility, depression) with some new classics like PTSD, “post-abortion syndrome,” and fetal pain.(The newest hit? Four states have passed a law requiring doctors to tell women about an untested and scientifically unsound procedure that purports to reverse medical abortions.) Usually, the lies are told at the beginning of a 24- or 48-hour waiting period to give pregnant women time to stew over the bullshit provided by their trusted doctor, in the hope that they’ll be scared away from the procedure.
Some doctors do their best to mislead their patients as little as possible, peppering their monologues with “the state requires me to tell you” and “there’s no scientific evidence” and “the thing I have the most problem having to tell you.” But some states are determined to deliver nothing but unvarnished lies to pregnant women — a Planned Parenthood clinic in South Dakota, for instance, was found in violation of informed consent laws for providing too much information. How much is too much? The clinic prefaced the mandated lies with the phrase “Politicians in the state of South Dakota require us to tell you.”
Physicians, to whom we’re supposed to be able to go for medical guidance, and who promise to first do no harm, are required to lie to their trusting patients or risk legal action.
Lies by omission
When it’s not outright lying, it’s withholding information. In the U.S., 26 states mandate abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education. (“Abstinence plus” means that contraception can be mentioned, but the curriculum is mostly passing an unwrapped candy bar around the classroom and telling girls not to be sluts.) Eleven states require abstinence-only sex ed (which really calls for scare quotes at that point — “sex ed”). Only 13 states give teenagers the comprehensive information they need — and deserve — about their own bodies.
Abstinence-only education doesn’t reduce the rates of teen pregnancies or STIs. It doesn’t even reduce the number of teenagers prematurely gettin’ down. All it does is make sure that when said kids eventually start doin’ it, they don’t know how to do it safely.
The next part gets even more depressing, so I’m going to warm you up with this video of a Mississippi teacher teaching students the safest way to put on a… sock.
Don’t forget to pinch the air out of the tip of the… sock before rolling it on.
Arguably the most pernicious example of this is the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy). The Global Gag Rule prevents the U.S. from providing global health assistance to any NGO that so much as mentions abortion to patients. Not just providing abortions — acknowledging them at all. If, for instance, a teenage girl comes in with pregnancy complications (the second leading cause of death for adolescents 15 to 19 worldwide), her doctor can’t even acknowledge that terminating her pregnancy is something that exists.
Under previous incarnations of the rule, clinics have had to reduce staff, reduce services, or close altogether. So if the girl doesn’t die from her complications, she’ll die because all the local healthcare providers shut down for lack of funding. But at least she didn’t get an abortion, right?
Actual, true things that aren’t lies
Here are some actual facts that people are omitting and flat-out lying about:
- There is no link between abortion and breast cancer.
- “Post-abortion syndrome” isn’t a thing, and any negative emotional reactions are generally commensurate with any other life stress. (In fact, for women obtaining legal abortions, the distress is usually greater before the abortion than after.)
- The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is 23.8 per 100,000 live births. (It actually increased 26.6 percent between 2000 and 2014.) The mortality rate for abortion is 0.5 per 100,000 in the first trimester, up to 6.7 per 100,000 at 18 weeks or later.
- A fetus isn’t capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks — per ACOG, that doesn’t happen until the third trimester.
- Abstinence-only education doesn’t decrease pregnancy, STIs, or early sexual debut. Comprehensive sex ed does.
- The abortion rate is at 14.6 per 1,000 women of childbearing age — that’s the lowest since Roe v. Wade and down from 29.3 per 1,000 in 1980.
- Getting an abortion has no effect on your future fertility. (Neither does using hormonal birth control.)
If you can’t sell your message by its merits and have to resort to misleading, equivocating, misdirecting, omitting, and flat-out lying, your message is shit. If you are comfortable misleading, equivocating, misdirecting, omitting, and flat-out lying to women — and teenagers, and people of all genders and ages in developing countries — you are shit. If you’re willing to leave teenagers in the dark so they can go off and do risky stuff because no one told them the truth, you’re shit. If you’re an elected official and you’re comfortable lying to your constituents because that’s the best way to control their bodies, you’re shit.
Be honest. Show integrity. Have a spine. Be a marginally decent human being. Tell the truth.