The new version of a booklet that Texas produces for women considering an abortion is being criticized for suggesting that terminating pregnancies can lead to heightened risks for breast cancer and depression.
State law has mandated since 2003 that doctors provide women mulling an abortion with a booklet called "A Woman's Right to Know." Woman also must wait 24 hours after being given the booklet before undergoing the procedure.
This year marks the first new version in 13 years, and a public comment period to evaluate it ends Friday. It's a sensitive time in the state, which saw the U.S. Supreme Court strike down key portions of its 2013 law that created some of the nation's tightest restrictions on abortion.
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The Department of State Health Services will evaluate comments before publishing the final version, though there's no timetable on how long that will take, spokeswoman Carrie Williams said. But the agency will only consider comments on its revisions, not the booklet as a whole -- and many of the most controversial sections aren't new.
Alexa Garcia-Ditta of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said her organization and other abortion rights groups statewide have teamed up to generate more than 5,000 comments criticizing the latest draft.
"This is driven by political ideology and not science," Garcia-Ditta said Thursday. "It requires doctors to give their patients misinformation."
Unchanged in the latest version is language saying giving birth, rather than having an abortion, makes women "less likely to develop breast cancer in the future."
"Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer," it reads. But the American Cancer Society refutes that on its website, saying "scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer."
The booklet also says women can become depressed or have thoughts of suicide after an abortion.
It also says that "we know babies develop the ability to feel pain while in the womb," and, in a section that's new this year, adds the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature in 2013 banned abortion after 20 weeks due to "consideration of the potential for fetal pain." Peer-reviewed medical studies say fetal pain is likely not felt until closer to 30 weeks into pregnancy.
Williams wouldn't detail how many total public comments have been received but said via email Thursday, "There is clearly interest in this draft booklet." She added: "We'll evaluate the feedback and make revisions as needed to make sure the booklet is clear and accurate for pregnant women."