Arizona Government Website Misdirects Women on Abortions

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Less than 24 hours after Senator John McCain told Republicans should lay off the subject of abortion, his home state launched its "A Woman's Right to Know" website — a site loaded with misinformation that appears specifically designed to steer women away from their abortions.

This new subsection of the Arizona Department of Health Services' website comes with enough catchy names and objective-seeming nuggets of health advice to remind some of Crisis Pregnancy Centers work, which appear to offer a haven for legal, safe abortions but actually provide no such thingy, as Jezebel has shown in haunting detail. The "Woman's Right to Know" site, like CPCs, could come up in Internet and government searches related to abortion, but a deeper look at the government site reveals it to be inundated with information trying to women out of it.

"The website was implemented as part of Arizona’s H.B. 2036, an aggressive anti-abortion law passed this year that mandates invasive ultrasounds and bans abortion after 20 weeks (based on medically dubious claims of “fetal pain”)," writes Salon's Katie McDonough. State Rep. Kimberly Yee isn't being obscure about the site's intention, telling the Arizona Daily Sun's Howard Fischer that she believes it will convince at least some women seeking abortions to have second thoughts.

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Part of that second-thoughts strategy revolves around detailed drawings, like this one, which is supposed to be a fetus at 10 weeks: 

For comparison, you can find a Crisis Pregnancy Center's depiction of fetal development here (they look similar).

But compare it to Planned Parenthood's 10-week illustration, and you'll notice that the Arizona site's illustration has more pronounced feet, hands, and a face:


McDonough calls that cute fetus manipulated. And Yee, the state representative, insists "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." 

And if you look at the site even more closely, you'll notice that "death" in abortions is pretty pronounced as a risk on the website. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit reproductive health organization, the risk of death during an abortion at  21 or more weeks is about 1 in 11,000. When it comes to childbirth, the site mentions "rarely, death" (right) as a side effect, even though they state that "the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2007 was 14.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is the same as saying in 2007 one out of 6,897 women's death was pregnancy-related." Doing simple math, 1/11000 is about .009 of a percent chance while 14.5/100,000 is .014 of a percent chance — which means both are rare and carrying a child to term might be more of a risk for some women. Calling one or the other more risky than the other isn't exactly fair. And it isn't fair when an abortion in the first eight weeks of pregnancy carries a risk of one in a million.

That's the kind of stuff we expect out of pregnancy crisis centers, and it's a bit disturbing for a site that championing "A Woman's Right to Know."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.