Sex, lies, and government health literature for young women

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Can young women trust government reports on women's health? This month's issue of Glamour magazine says "No." In an article entitled "The New Lies About Women's Health," the magazine reports that the federal government has posted inaccurate information on federal government websites used widely by young women and that states are now passing laws requiring doctors to give inaccurate information to young women seeking birth control and abortions.

Four states, according to Glamour, have passed so-called "Women's Right to Know" laws: Texas, Kansas, Montana, and Mississippi. Doctors counseling women seeking abortions in those states must give them government-sponsored pamphlets that say the risk of breast cancer is increased by abortion. The magazine says that is a supposedly "scientific" claim made by a researcher funded by the antiabortion movement and thoroughly discredited by the medical establishment. Glamour quotes a Texas doctor who says, "The conversation I have is that, 'This is what is written in the pamphlet. I disagree with it ethically and scientifically, but this is what the legislation has forced upon me. That's all I can say.... If I want to be consistent with the law, I have to lie.' " Twenty-four-hour waiting periods for women seeking abortions are widespread and well-known. But this is the first mention I've seen of state laws requiring doctors to give out inaccurate information.

There's more. Glamour also reminds us about inaccurate information widely disseminated in federally funded abstinence-only sex education classes. It cites a report released last year by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, which found that "nearly 70 percent [of those classes] include 'serious medical or scientific errors' such as claims that 'up to 10 percent of women become sterile after an abortion' and that 'premature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy.' "

In my next entry, the strange world of stillbirth certificates.