Arizona launches misleading abortion website

A website by Arizona's Department of Health Services tries to manipulate women to keep them from having abortions

Topics: Abortion, Jan Brewer, Arizona, John McCain, War on women, anti-choice, ,

Arizona launches misleading abortion website (Credit: Reuters/Molly Riley)

In a Sunday appearance on Fox News, Sen. John McCain (R. AZ) signaled that Republicans might be ready to reconsider their extreme position on abortion rights. “As far as young women are concerned, absolutely. I don’t think people like me — I can state my opinion on abortion. But other than that, leave the issue alone,” he said. It’s sound advice, and makes for good policy.

Too bad his home state didn’t get the memo.

Less than 24 hours later, the Arizona Department of Health Services launched “A Woman’s Right to Know,” an informational website that uses manipulated ultrasound images and scary (read: medically inaccurate) claims about the risks associated with abortion to keep women from having the safe, legal medical procedure. State Rep. Kimberly Yee (R. AZ) and other Arizona lawmakers have not been shy about the intent of the website, either. As Yee told the Arizona Daily Sun, “the medical drawings, which are in full color and much more detailed than any ultrasound, may give some prospective parents additional reasons to reconsider their initial decision to terminate the pregnancy.”

The website was implemented as part of Arizona’s H.B. 2036, an aggressive anti-abortion law passed this year that mandates invasive ultrasounds and bans abortion after 20 weeks (based on medically dubious claims of “fetal pain”). The provision restricting abortion at 20 weeks has been blocked while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determines if it violates Roe v. Wade, which doesn’t consider a fetus viable outside the womb until 24 weeks. The ruling, expected as early as today, will decide the fate of Arizona’s law. Meanwhile, similar laws exist in 22 other states.

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Medically inaccurate and emotionally manipulative claims about abortion are standard practice among so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which are religiously-affiliated (and sometimes federally funded) organizations that use shame and fear tactics to pressure women out of having abortions. Now this brand of anti-choice rhetoric and pseudoscience is being incorporated into a growing body of legislation and embraced by government health officials.

John McCain might be ready to back away from the extreme anti-choice agenda, but many lawmakers are pushing to restrict access even further. And while anti-choice boogeymen like Rep. Todd Akin (R. MO) and Richard Mourdock may have been defeated at the polls, many less prominent lawmakers are pushing to restrict abortion access in the states.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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