Health

Missouri Wants To Make Women Watch Anti-Choice Propaganda Before Getting An Abortion

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Under a proposed bill advancing in the Missouri legislature, women would be required to watch an anti-choice video created by the state department before they’re permitted to proceed with an abortion.

House Bill 124 is designed to dissuade women from choosing to end a pregnancy. The video would include information about alleged abortion risks — “including, but not limited to, infection, hemorrhage, cervical tear or uterine perforation, harm to subsequent pregnancies or the ability to carry a subsequent child to term, and possible adverse psychological effects” — as well as alternatives to abortion.

The measure, which was approved by a legislative committee this week, comes on top of several restrictions that are already in place for women seeking abortion services in the state. Currently, if a pregnant person wants to have an abortion in Missouri, they have to attend an in-person counseling session that includes similar information about abortion risks. Then, they have to wait a full 72 hours before they can return to the state’s only abortion clinic to have the procedure performed.

The state lawmaker spearheading HB 124, Rep. Linda Black (R), believes a video would “enhance” Missouri’s current counseling law, which requires doctors to impart this type of anti-abortion message both verbally and in writing. She says it would offer women with disabilities, and particularly blind women, another opportunity to hear the state-mandated information.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Children and Families easily passed HB 124, and it now heads to the full House. It marks the first anti-abortion bill that the Missouri legislature has advanced this year.

Last session, lawmakers proposed more than 30 separate bills aimed at further regulating the state’s lone clinic. Particularly now that Missouri Republicans have historic majorities in the legislature following the most recent midterm elections, the trend appears to be continuing again this year. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, more than a dozen proposed abortion restrictions have been introduced so far.

Across the country, states have enacted dozens of so-called “informed consent” measures under the assumption that women need just a few more facts before making such a serious decision. These measures often violate the health care system’s understanding of informed consent by including scientifically inaccurate claims about abortion, or requiring doctors to repeat what is essentially state propaganda.

The tactic isn’t very successful. Research has confirmed that state laws designed to dissuade women from having an abortion — like forced counseling sessions, days-long waiting periods, and mandatory ultrasounds — don’t change patients’ minds. Nearly 90 percent of women are “highly confident” about their decision to end a pregnancy when they first seek out a clinic.

That makes sense when you consider the realities about who seeks abortion services, and why. About 61 percent of the women who have abortions already have at least one child — they’re not ignorant to the realities of pregnancy, and can make up their minds without the help of the state. Women also report that they decide to end pregnancies for reasons that aren’t likely to change: Because they can’t afford a child, because they don’t have a supportive partner, or because they need to focus on their current children.