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Bill wrongly links abortions to premature births 

SB 132 would deliberately misinform N.C. students

Since Republicans took control of the General Assembly and the governor's office for the first time in more than 125 years, they seem intent on making up for lost time, particularly when it comes to interfering with a woman's most private healthcare decisions. They introduced a bill requiring parental consent before a minor could receive pregnancy testing, prenatal care or treatment for STIs; one requiring written consent for sex education; another that would allow any employer to eliminate contraception coverage from their employee health insurance plan; and another to impose medically unnecessary and administrative demands on doctors who provide abortion services.

However, they outdid themselves in May when Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, introduced Senate Bill 132. This legislation mandates that the state's health curriculum on reproductive health and safety "include information about the preventable causes of preterm (premature) birth, including induced abortion as a cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies." The bill passed the Senate and as of press time is in a House committee.

"It's a bill based on science," Daniel said to the Senate Health Committee, in May. "It's not based on political ideology. It's based on the scientific evidence that you will have a future risk of preterm birth if you decide voluntarily to have an abortion. We educate our children on the risks of cigarette smoking, we educate our children on the risks of drinking and other hazardous behaviors." The problem with Daniel's analogy is that his bill is not based on science. While there is an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community about the risks of smoking, the science is at odds with the reasoning behind Senate Bill 132.

Daniel is not a doctor. He is a lawyer who was elected to the state Senate in the Tea Party wave of 2010. However, he and SB 132 supporters use Dr. Marty McCaffrey, UNC School of Medicine associate professor of pediatrics, to make their case. After calling the evidence of a link between abortion and preterm births "immutable," McCaffrey added: "It's been estimated abortion may be responsible for 31 percent of preterm births in North Carolina."

Who exactly made this "estimation" is a mystery. McCaffrey's opinion runs counter to that of every medical and health organization that has weighed in on this supposed immutable link, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association. All of these respected medical institutions have uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity.

McCaffrey is also at loggerheads with his UNC colleague Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Grimes, former director of abortion surveillance efforts at the CDC, called the bill "unnecessary and uninformed" and said that the claim asserted in the bill is "scientifically false."

So, precisely how did McCaffrey, Daniel and the bills' co-sponsors Jerry Tillman and Shirley Randleman get the science wrong? By working really hard at it! For years, anti-abortion activists have papered the General Assembly with suspect studies that link premature births to past abortions. This is just one of many measures introduced during this legislative session aimed at restricting abortion rights. It is also part of an ongoing disinformation campaign meant to scare women and to deprive them of their right to make their own private healthcare decisions. How else can you explain the specious assertions that abortion causes breast cancer and sterility?

Daniel says that this bill is an effort to reduce pre-term births and increase healthy birth outcomes. But in his short time in the Senate, Daniel has a history of introducing legislation and voting against the very things that would improve infant health and reduce infant mortality. He introduced a bill to prevent the expansion of Medicaid even though the federal government would pick up the tab. The bill also would prohibit the state from establishing an insurance exchange that would allow North Carolinians to purchase insurance as part of a group. Currently, more than one in five women in the state between the ages of 18 and 64 are uninsured.

High blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism, drug use, obesity, poverty, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are all proven and universally recognized causes of premature births. If we give these women access to health insurance, and therefore access to quality prenatal and healthcare, we can reduce those conditions and premature births.

Legislation should never be based on discredited science. This misinformation campaign will not educate young people or promote healthy pregnancies, but it will allow Daniel and his co-sponsors to insert their personal bias into the most personal decisions a woman can make. I truly hope that there are enough Republicans in the General Assembly who recognize this Trojan horse for what it is — and stop it in its tracks.

Newsome is an award-winning freelance writer and former chairwoman of the Friends of Planned Parenthood of Charlotte.

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