Testimony Summary for Dan McConchie
Before the House Judiciary Committee
On House Bill 1659—Women’s Right to Know Act
January 24, 2012
I am Dan McConchie, Vice President of Government Affairs at Americans United for Life, a national public interest law firm with a practice in abortion and bioethics law. Our legal staff has extensive experience in constitutional law and abortion jurisprudence, including the constitutionality of laws requiring informed consent before abortion. I am submitting for the record today testimony of Mailee Smith, Staff Counsel at Americans United for Life, whose expertise in the area of informed consent laws includes legislation and litigation. Her written testimony details the constitutionality of House Bill 1659, as well as discusses the documented physical and psychological harms from abortion that HB 1659 seeks to avert.
I am also testifying on the significant need for HB 1659 in New Hampshire.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated in no uncertain terms that informed consent legislation is constitutional. Specifically, the Court has upheld the following:
- 24-hour reflection periods
- Information on:
- The nature of the procedure
- The health risks associated with abortion
- The gestational age and characteristics of the unborn child
- The consequences to the unborn child
- Materials describing:
- The unborn child
- Medical assistance for childbirth
- Child support from the father
- A list of agencies that provide abortion alternatives
Second, HB 1659 seeks to avert medically documented harms that follow abortion. As the Supreme Court has concluded, informed consent laws ensure that women receive the information they need and want to make a truly informed “choice.” Without information, there is no “informed consent.”
Women need to be informed of the physical and psychological risks inherent in abortion and allowed time to consider those risks before abortion. Moreover, studies reveal that women want this kind of information before choosing abortion.
Women need to be informed of the physical risks. Well-documented medical evidence in peer-reviewed journals confirms that abortion carries both short- and long-term risks. Without adequate information on these risks and time to consider that information, there is no true “informed consent” and no “choice.”
The undisputed short-term risks of surgical abortion include blood clots in the uterus; incomplete abortion (part of the pregnancy is left inside the uterus); infection; injury to the cervix or other organs; and undetected ectopic pregnancy. Even Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s largest abortion provider, acknowledges these risks on its website.
In addition, drug-induced abortions, such as those utilizing RU-486, carry certain risks as well. A 2011 report issued by the FDA accounts for 2,207 adverse events in the U.S. related to the use of RU-486, including hemorrhaging, blood loss requiring transfusions, serious infections, and death. Among the 2,207 adverse events were 14 deaths, 612 hospitalizations, 339 blood transfusions, and 256 infections (including 48 “severe infections”).
Women need to be informed of these risks and have time to consider them before choosing abortion.
In addition, women need to be informed that there are certain long-term risks associated with abortion.
For example, there are currently 114 studies showing a statistically significant association between induced abortion and subsequent pre-term birth. Because most women who abort do so early in their reproductive lives and desire to have children at a later time, they would benefit from knowing of the substantial increased risk of subsequent pre-term birth. In 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality.
Other medically documented health risks include an increased risk of placenta previa in subsequent pregnancies. Further, it is undisputed that a first full-term pregnancy offers a protective effect against subsequent breast cancer development. Aborting a first pregnancy before 32 weeks eliminates the protective affect against breast cancer for that woman.
And finally, women should be informed that at least 54 of 67 epidemiological studies now demonstrate a direct link between abortion and breast cancer.
Women deserve to know of these risks and have time to consider them before choosing abortion.
Peer-reviewed studies also demonstrate a direct link between induced abortion and dangerous subsequent psychological effects, including depression, anxiety, and suicide and suicide ideation.
Significantly, a new meta-analysis of studies examining the mental health of women following induced abortions, examining and combining results of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009, affirms that these women face an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems. One of the leading studies, led by a pro-abortion researcher in 2006, found that 42 percent of women who aborted reported major depression by age 25, and 39 percent of post-abortive women suffered from anxiety disorders by age 25. That same study found that 27 percent of women who aborted reported experiencing suicide ideation, with as many as 50 percent of minors experiencing suicide or suicide ideation.
Women deserve to know that other women have suffered greatly following their abortions and have time to consider the psychological risks before choosing abortion.
In summary, HB 1659 will work to ensure that women have all of the information they need—and time to consider it—before choosing abortion.
Finally, it is important to note that a majority of states have laws requiring some form of informed consent before abortion. Currently, informed consent laws are in effect in 31 states:
- 24 states require informed consent with a one-day (typically 24-hour) reflection period: AL, AR, GA, ID, IN (18 hours), KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA, WV, and WI.
- 7 states require informed consent with no reflection period: AK, CA, CT, FL, ME, NV, and RI.
- 3 states states explicitly require a physician to inform a woman seeking abortion of the link between abortion and breast cancer: MN, MS, and TX.
- 4 states include information about the link between abortion and breast cancer in the state-mandated educational materials that a woman must receive prior to abortion: AK, KS, ND, and WV.