Indiana Governor Misleads Voters About The Science Of First-Trimester Abortions

On Wednesday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed a measure that is solely intended to shut down abortion clinics, and will almost certainly force one of the state’s Planned Parenthood health centers to stop providing abortion care. And as the governor added his signature to the legislation, he justified his support for the new clinic restrictions by repeating a scientifically inaccurate talking point about early abortion services.

Indiana’s new law is part of a broad national trend to indirectly limit women’s reproductive access by attacking abortion providers, imposing unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics under the guide of “protecting women’s safety.” So it’s no surprise that Pence justified his decision to sign the anti-choice bill into law by relying on this type of logic.

But the governor went a step further, asserting that the tightened clinic rules are necessary because the mifepristone abortion pill — a method that allows women to safely terminate an early pregnancy without undergoing a surgical procedure — is actually a “dangerous” medical practice. “Abortion-inducing drugs can be very dangerous, and must be prescribed under conditions that ensure proper medical care,” Pence said in a statement. “This new law helps accomplish that goal. I applaud both chambers of the General Assembly for passing this legislation.”

That assertion is not actually based in scientific fact. The abortion pill is an FDA-approved medication that has been used safely around the world since 1981. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends mifepristone as a “highly effective” method of terminating a pregnancy within the first 9 weeks. Several studies have found that the rate of complications for this type of early abortion service is less than two tenths of a percent.

And medical experts agree that unnecessary abortion clinic regulations, like Indiana’s new law, don’t actually accomplish the goal of keeping women safer — in fact, they actually do just the opposite. “Anyone who talks about the dangers of abortion is just blowing smoke,” Dr. David Grimes, the former chief of abortion surveillance at the CDC, recently told Bloomberg Businessweek. “These kinds of regulations do nothing to advance women’s health. All they do is drive up the cost of care and cause women to delay, which drives up the risks.”

Nevertheless, abortion opponents have worked hard to obscure the scientific realities of abortion by conflating illegal, incredibly late-term surgical procedures with first-trimester medication services. Anti-choice activists often attempt to play to Americans’ emotions by making the case that every single abortion procedure is a violent, invasive act — even though that’s not actually rooted in fact, since nearly 90 percent of all abortions occur in the first trimester.