Texas health officials are under fire for releasing a booklet suggesting that having an abortion could increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, despite research showing no such link.
State law requires that the pamphlet, called “Women’s Right to Know,” be given to women at least 24 hours before a scheduled abortion. It includes detailed information about a developing fetus and cites potential risks of the procedure, as well as complications associated with giving birth.
But one of the risks it lists is drawing particular criticism — a section that suggests having an abortion carries an increased risk of breast cancer compared with giving birth. The section also says that researchers are studying the potential link between abortion and breast cancer. But according to the American Cancer Society, “the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”
The pamphlets “serve no medical benefit and do nothing but impose an undue burden on Texans seeking abortion care,” NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said in a statement on its website.
Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said in an email that the pamphlet was written to be “helpful, user friendly and medically accurate, and we carefully studied the medical and scientific research available to us along the way.”
The commission also took into consideration the nearly 13,000 comments that were filed in recent months in response to an earlier draft of the pamphlet. She said there will be an initial run of 30,000 pamphlets in English and 5,000 in Spanish. According to state law, women must be given hard copies or shown an electronic version before obtaining an abortion.
“In the end,” Williams said, “it’s about making sure pregnant women have access to the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves.”
The breast cancer guidance is just one of the controversial parts of the 24-page booklet, which was released this week after being revised for the first time in 13 years. It links abortion to depression and suicide, and cites state law that bans the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy “in consideration of the potential for fetal pain.” Most experts believe fetuses develop the ability to feel pain later.
It is the latest abortion controversy to envelope Texas, which has been a testing ground for regulations around the procedure and the clinics that provide it. Most significantly, the state passed a sweeping bill in 2013 that included regulations on abortion providers that rights groups said were so onerous that they led to the closure of dozens of clinics.
The Supreme Court this year struck down the law, calling it an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion. Shortly thereafter, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, at the governor’s direction, proposed new rules requiring the remains of aborted fetuses be buried or cremated rather than disposed of like medical waste. Rights groups said the rules were medically unnecessary and could pose an untenable financial burden on abortion providers. Nevertheless, they are scheduled to go into effect later this month.