Abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Abortion causes depression. Abortion isn't safe.
These claims, repeated ad nauseam by the anti-choice movement, have found their way into legislative debates and even into court decisions.
But they aren’t true. In fact, they’ve been created and spread by a small, tightly knit group of doctors and scientists who have set up nonprofits, cite each other’s false research and provide “expert” testimony to bolster the cases of lawmakers trying to restrict abortion access.
In a new investigation, RH Reality Check’s Sofia Resnick and Sharon Coutts have uncovered the small network of “false witnesses” who are providing a sheen of respectability to the anti-choice movement’s unproven claims.
“What we’re seeing here is the same strategy that was used by big tobacco and by climate denialists,” Coutts said in a conference call unveiling the research this morning. Like in the efforts to deny climate change or cover up the risks of tobacco use, this small circle of activists “create the artifice that there is genuine disagreement” among doctors and scientists about the safety of abortion care, she added.
In the end, she said, “we are making decisions as a society that are based on literally fictional ideas about the dangers of abortion.”
From RH Reality Check’s report:
They create nonprofits, staffed with die-hard ideologues, and set about producing and promoting bogus science, to build the illusion of dissent or doubt over conclusions drawn by peer-reviewed scientific or medical research. They develop their own “research findings” to suit their ideological views. Then they deploy scare tactics, all with the goal of passing laws that suit their agenda.
In this case, the agenda is to promote the theory that abortion harms women’s health—physically and mentally. It’s a strategy anti-choice activists have been working on for decades, but in recent years, sympathetic state attorneys general have been increasingly relying on a cadre of so-called experts who will defend and promote anti-choice laws.
Our investigation reveals the close connections between many of the ostensibly independent “research” groups that feature prominently in the anti-choice movement. Several groups, such as the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Reproductive Research Audit, and the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education, share many of the same officers and experts.
Our work details how the scientific and medical claims of these groups and individuals have been publicly discredited in episodes ranging from lying to the public, presenting false data in scientific journals, and being forced to retract articles that proved to be works of fiction presented as fact. Other doctors and professors catalogued in this gallery carry impressive credentials, appear to be apt in their fields, and are technically qualified to testify on reproductive-health issues. However, fueled by their religious or political beliefs (or both), many of these professionals have testified in support of unproven or discredited theories.
RH Reality Check's profiles of the 14 key "false witnesses" are here.