You’ve just made one of the hardest decisions of your life. You’re sitting at your clinic waiting for a procedure that in all cases you are dreading when the nurse hands you a stack of papers to fill out during your mandated wait period.
On the top of the pile in many states you will find a form indicating that the procedure that you are about to have performed may increase your risk of cancer. You stop and think for a second, choose against it and walk out of the clinic.
This is the picture that conservative states such as Mississippi and Texas envisioned when they passed legislature to mandate that women seeking abortions be informed that it may increase their risk of cancer. They forget to mention, however, that scientific research has concluded that such a risk is nonexistent.
Anti-abortion lobbyists, who are pushing similar measures in 14 other states, say they are simply giving women information to consider. Abortion supporters however see things differently.
Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America says to the Associated Press: “In my experience, this inaccuracy is going to dissuade few women from going ahead and having the abortion. What it does do is put a false guilt trip and fear trip on that women.”
Studies conducted by a panel of scientists of the National Cancer Institute reviewed available data last year and concluded that there was no link between abortions and any form of cancer. In addition, a review in Lancet, a British medical journal came to the same findings questioning the methodology of earlier testing that concluded otherwise.
Still, information suggesting a link is being given to women during a mandatory wait period before abortions. In some cases, the information is on state’s websites.
An effort to write the mandate into state law began in the mid-1990s when a few studies suggested a possible connection but the brochures circulated mentioned the issue required further investigation.
The warnings are currently mandated in Texas and Mississippi and issued voluntarily in Kansas and Louisiana.
“They can do further research on their own and determine which of these studies they should put most attention on,” said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “We’re just trying to provide all the information it’s possible to provide.”
This year, bills to adopt such a mandate are up for debate in Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Pro-choice activists continue to lobby against these efforts.