There is a difference between informed consent and slick marketing.
A few weeks ago, Planned Parenthood released a brand new video to tell women what they "need to know" about abortion. For years, pro-life advocates have criticized the nation’s largest abortion provider for failing to provide patients with adequate information about their pregnancy options. Pro-life advocates contend that, like any other medical procedure, women have the right to informed consent.
Merriam-Webster defines informed consent as “permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits.”
Women, pro-life advocates contend, deserve to be given the most accurate and relevant information regarding their pregnancy decisions. To do anything less is to believe that women are incapable of making wise decisions.
Some pro-choice advocates have argued that women do not need informed consent when considering abortion. They argue that telling a woman the stage of her pregnancy, the age of her fetus, showing an ultrasound image, or describing an abortion procedure are all scare tactics that leave a woman feeling worse about her decision.
This debate forms the backdrop of Planned Parenthood’s latest video. As a pro abundant life person, I was happy to hear that Planned Parenthood would be explaining to women what they needed to know if they were considering a surgical abortion. Unfortunately, the video they released does little to explain a woman’s options or her risks.
In the 2-minute video, the narrator discusses an in-clinic surgical abortion. You can watch the video below.
She describes the entire surgical procedure as one where a “doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider, empties your uterus using gentle suction or sometimes other medical tools.” That’s it. No further discussion of how an abortion works.
The narrator suggests a woman may experience cramping or post-abortion discomfort, but does not provide much detail into these side effects. By 1:20, the video stops talking about medical abortion all together and discusses abortion laws, waiting periods, and Planned Parenthood’s abortion “expertise.”
Contrary to Teen Vogue’s review of the video, this is marketing masquerading as informed consent.
Compare Planned Parenthood’s video with Care Net’s Abortion or Baby. Both videos use non-graphic animation to describe medical abortion, but that is where the similarity ends.
Care Net’s video is three times the length of Planned Parenthood’s and discusses all of a woman’s pregnancy options. Planned Parenthood described the entire abortion procedure and potential side effects in about a minute. It failed to mention a woman’s other options in any detail. It also treats all surgical abortions the same. An abortion at 12 weeks is very different than one at 24 weeks. It takes more than "gentle suction" to complete the procedure as the baby grows. Abortion or Baby spends two minutes covering surgical abortion procedures and their risks. Care Net takes this additional time because informed consent requires describing medical procedures and risks in enough detail to be able to make a decision.
As a pro abundant life organization, Care Net believes that women and men facing pregnancy decisions deserve our compassion, hope, and help. Glossing over the difficulties of parenting or pretending abortion is not a legal option is not compassionate because it is not truthful. Likewise, describing abortion as if it were as simple as having a tooth removed denies medical reality. Women can be trusted with the full range of facts regarding their pregnancies and their options.
It is not surprising that Planned Parenthood’s video neglects to mention the option of carrying a child to term. As their annual report shows, they perform 160 abortions for every adoption referral and 16 for every provision of prenatal care. Abortion is the pregnancy related service that drives the most revenue. As an organization, Planned Parenthood is designed to assist with and earn profit from only one set of pregnancy options: those that prevent birth.
Care Net affiliated pregnancy centers, however, empower women with factual, relevant information about the full range of their pregnancy options.
We do this knowing that some will still choose abortion.
We do this without pressuring them to choose life.
We do this regardless of the circumstances that led to their pregnancy.
And we don’t make a cent off any of their decisions.
We have found that trusting women and men with enough information to come to an informed decision leaves them more satisfied with their experience. Our affiliated pregnancy centers have a higher client satisfaction rating than Netflix or the iPhone.
Planned Parenthood and its defenders should stop pretending that their video informs women about the medical realities of abortion. It doesn’t. There is a big difference between marketing campaigns and empowering women to make their best pregnancy decision. Informed consent starts with acknowledging that abortion, like every other surgical procedure, has risks and women deserve to know what they are.