As part of the massive omnibus Arizona bill known as the “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” the state has set up a web page dedicated to coercing women out of terminating pregnancies by providing alleged informed consent information ranging from drawings of fetal development in two week increments to a litany of issues a woman could potentially face if she terminates her pregnancy.
That the information is posted as an attempt to talk the pregnant woman out of an abortion isn’t in doubt. The sponsor of the bill, State Representative Kimberly Yee told the Arizona Sun “she believes that the site will persuade some women considering an abortion not to go through with it.”
As for the medical drawings, existing law provided a woman with the right to view the ultrasound image of the fetus. Yee said some women – and, in some cases, expectant fathers – decided at that point against proceeding. She said, though, that the medical drawings, which are in full color and much more detailed than any ultrasound, may give some prospective parents additional reasons to reconsider their initial decision to terminate the pregnancy.
The website information in Arizona isn’t a first. Minnesota has used many of the same materials in their own “Woman’s Right to Know” informational pack, which women seeking an abortion must obtain 24 hours prior to termination, and many of the two week development drawings are from the same source (Minnesota also uses photographs for fetal development, while Arizona does not). Still, there are some very distinct differences.
Perhaps the most glaring is the use of language on the Arizona site, where the state has substituted the phrase “unborn child” for fetus in a few sections. Compare descriptions of a D&C abortion to a D&E abortion and you can see exactly what is occurring:
Dilation and Curettage (D&C) with Vacuum Aspiration
This is a surgical procedure generally used in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. Unless there are unusual problems, this procedure may be done in a doctor’s office or a clinic.
The doctor first opens (dilates) the cervix and then empties the uterus with suction. After suctioning, the doctor may scrape the walls of the uterus to make sure the embryo/fetus, placenta, and contents of the uterus have been completely removed.
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)
This procedure is generally used after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure will generally be done in a doctor’s office or clinic, but may sometimes be done in a hospital. The doctor will often use ultrasound to determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.
To prepare for the procedure, the doctor will open (dilate) the cervix. Most women experience some pain, so the doctor may give you a painkiller – either locally by shots in the area of the cervix or by a general anesthetic – or a sedative (which will leave you conscious). The uterus will be scraped and the unborn child and placenta are removed. After 16 weeks, the fetus and placenta are removed, using forceps or other instruments. This procedure will take less than an hour. [emphasis added]
“Unborn Child” phrase is scattered all throughout the characteristics of fetal development page, which is invested in its own quest to emphasize “personhood” from the moment of conception.
At fertilization (when the male sperm enters the female egg), the unborn child has his or her own unique set of DNA material – or genes – half from the mother and half from the father. The DNA is the blueprint for growth and development of all cells throughout life. DNA determines all of the baby’s physical characteristics such as gender; the shape of the nose and ears; and the color of the hair, eyes, and skin.
The state department of health knew that it would specifically be held responsible for any language on the website, according to committee meeting notes prior to the vote on the law. In the February 15th Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Colby Bower, Director of Government Relations for the Arizona Department of Health Services is on record stating that:
“a fiscal note indicates staff time costs associated with requirements for the DHS website, but DHS has information technology staff that can develop the websites. He will find out if the state will be liable if the information on the website is not up-to-date or contains faulty information.”
So what made the department decide when the phrase “unborn child” should be substituted in? According to Assistant Director for Public Health Prevention Services Sheila Sjolander, the material for the site came primarily from other “Right-to-Know” state sites, such as those in Virginia and Texas. Sjolander told RH Reality Check:
“The Arizona Department of Health Services Maternal & Child Health staff reviewed information from several other state health departments which have similar legal requirements for posting this type of information on a website. We acknowledge contributions for this publication from text excerpts from the Texas Department of State Health Services,” Woman’s Right to Know” website and text excerpts from” Fetal Development Understanding the Stages”, Virginia Department of Health. In addition, all of the content was reviewed by our chief medical officer as well as OB/GYNs outside of ADHS.”
As for the decision as to whether the words fetus were used, or unborn child would be substituted, Sjolander said that it was due more to the combination of the different sources than a directive or political statement. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, just more of a result of reviewing so many different websites,” explained Sjolander.
The Arizona Department of Health Services Maternal & Child Health staff may not being saying that the emphasize on “unborn child” terminology in their health materials was purposeful, but other states are jumping aboard the bandwagon when it comes to using “informed consent” documents as a chance to emotionally manipulate women into reconsidering abortion. Kansas has already begun putting 4-D ultrasound images and video on their own website to show embryonic and fetal development, and Nebraska is paving the way to follow suit. Kansas Right to Life has even gone as far as to claim that the site itself is responsible for preventing thousands of abortions. “Nearly 2,700 women never stepped inside a Kansas abortion business, due to their access to a state informed consent website!” Kansans for Life legislative director Kathy Ostrowski told Lifenews. No evidence is provided to support the claim.
Are state mandated websites really responsible for thousands of women a year deciding against having an abortion? Likely not. But don’t expect that to stop states from continuing to pass laws requiring them in 2013.