The pro-life movement has advanced legislation requiring women to receive counseling before an abortion and have a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion. These “informed consent” laws mandate that a woman be given information about alternatives to abortion, including programs that can help her if she chooses to have her child, to be informed about collecting child support from the father if she needs it, learn about their medical risks of abortion, and receive information about the unborn baby. Often, she is not required to view this information, but rather needs only to be offered the opportunity to do so at the clinic. A number of states have proposed these measures, and Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups have fought against them, sometimes successfully, every time.
According to the abortion resource handbook, a pro-choice reference guide which is geared towards women considering abortions (5):
In fact, the laws [mandating waiting period] cause many women unnecessary stress and delays, and information in state-mandated lectures and booklets is often biased, inaccurate, and intended to make women feel scared or guilty about having an abortion. … Women who go to pro-choice clinics are already receiving medical informed consent counseling before their abortions.
In reality, the “counseling” at abortion clinics is often either nonexistent or outright deceptive. Catherine Anthony Adair, former Planned Parenthood worker, says this about the counseling in her clinic (6):
In fact, clinic workers would purposefully avoid providing information on fetal development, what the child looked like, the child’s anatomical development and the pain he or she could feel. I was continuously reminded that when referring to the baby, the appropriate terminology was “clump of cells” or “contents of the uterus.”
Planned Parenthood’s mission is to pressure as many women into having an abortion as it can. Those in charge know that that can’t be accomplished if they refer to the child as a “baby.”
Then women would know what is really growing inside them: a little person with a beating heart, functioning nervous system, tiny hands and feet. The child is entirely disregarded. There is no counseling, no care, no waiting and no discussion. Once a pregnancy is confirmed, it is off to termination.
Women are denied the facts about fetal development and alternatives to abortion which would allow them to make an informed choice. They are also rushed through the counseling so that they cannot consider their options carefully. Many abortion clinic websites and publications encourage a woman to make a decision as quickly as she can – and that’s not surprising: studies have shown that the longer a woman waits to make her decision, the more likely she is to have her baby and the less likely she is to abort.
According to one anonymous clinic worker (7):
When a girl called to make her appointment, we’d work her in as soon as possible. If she called on Tuesday, we’d have her in no later than Friday. We wanted to avoid a long waiting period where she’d have time to think about it.
A waiting period after informed consent allows a woman to carefully consider her options in light of the information she has received. In 2006, a study published in Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine has confirmed that waiting periods before abortion actually reduce the suicide rate among women ages 25-64.
It would appear as though waiting periods (and the counseling that usually accompanies them) induce a more reasoned approach to the abortion decision, avoiding rash decisions on the part of the pregnant women. Better decision-making processes presumably lead to fewer regrets later on, lowering the incidence of depression and, ultimately, suicide. These results suggest mandatory waiting periods represent public policies that generate large welfare gains for women faced with unwanted pregnancies.
Pro-lifers care about both unborn children and their mothers. While pro-choice activists claim that informed consent laws and waiting periods are burdensome to women and only delay the abortion process, such laws really are actually, literally, life-saving. Pro-abortion activists do not serve women by encouraging them to rush through their abortion decisions and denying them key information about abortion and its aftereffects.
A new national poll reveals a strong majority of Americans favor state legislation that requires a waiting period before an abortion and they say such laws are effective in reducing the number of abortions.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds 65 percent of Americans support a three-day waiting period and counseling before an abortion while just 24 percent oppose such a requirement and 11 percent are unsure.
“A proposal has been made that would require a three-day waiting period and counseling before having an abortion. Do you favor or oppose such a proposal?” the question asked. “Suppose a law was passed that would require a three-day waiting period and counseling before having an abortion. How likely is it that such a law reduce the number of abortions?”
As to the second part of the question, 65 percent of Americans believe the waiting period and counseling are at least somewhat likely to reduce the number of abortions with 33 percent saying it is very likely to reduce abortions. Just 30 percent say the requirement is unlikely to reduce the prevalence of abortion and just 7 percent say it is very unlikely to do so.
Data on relation of abortion percentages to requirements for waiting period/counseling:
I. Comparison of Western nations
Data here is for nations of Western Europe, the United States, and Canada.
Reason: completeness of statistics; eastern European nations also have complete statistics but abortion rates are affected by very different economic conditions.
Waiting period with counseling:
Waiting period, no counseling:
No waiting period, with counseling:
No waiting period or counseling:
United Kingdom (22.8%)
United States (24.3%) (see note below)
Average abortion percentages for these countries:
Waiting period with counseling, 14.5%
Waiting period, no counseling, 19.1%
No waiting period, with counseling, 17.5%
No waiting period or counseling, 24.3%
Alternately, the average abortion rates per 1000 women aged 15-44 for these countries:
Waiting period with counseling, 9.1
Waiting period, no counseling, 10.4
No waiting period, with counseling, 12.3
No waiting period or counseling, 18.0
Note: policies vary from state to state in the United States, with 28 states having no waiting period/counseling requirement, 6 states requiring counseling only, and 22 states requiring counseling and a waiting period of 24 hours or less.
The policy in Spain is less comparable since abortion is permitted only in limited circumstances; if Spain is excluded, and France is counted to have an insignificant counseling requirement, these average abortion percentages are:
Waiting period with counseling, 13.2%
Waiting period, no counseling, 18.8%
No waiting period, with counseling, 18.4%
No waiting period or counseling, 24.3%
The National Abortion Federation’s position on Counseling & Waiting Periods:
A popular form of anti-choice legislation is the biased counseling bill. Biased counseling bills are often misleadingly titled “Women’s Right To Know Act” or “informed consent” bills, and are accompanied by waiting period requirements.
What They Do
Biased counseling bills generally require that abortion providers give their patients materials developed by the state, including pictures of fetal development, information about “abortion alternatives,” and information about the risks of abortion (but not, in most bills, an equal amount of information about the risks of pregnancy and childbirth).
The state materials often require abortion providers to give patients misleading or inaccurate information pertaining to a false link between an increased risk of breast cancer and abortion and the psychological effects of abortion. Despite a significant body of scientific evidence showing no link between an increased risk of breast cancer and abortion,1 and no legitimate scientific recognition of so-called “post-abortion syndrome,” such requirements continue to be implemented by biased counseling bills.
In addition to dictating what information health care providers give to abortion patients, the bills generally also impose waiting periods on women, which may require them to wait 24 hours, 48 hours, or even longer between reviewing the state-mandated information and receiving medical care.
Dangers Of Biased Counseling Bills
Biased counseling bills are medically unnecessary and insulting to women. Abortion providers already provide women with the accurate medical information they need to make fully informed decisions. Biased counseling bills do not respect a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
In addition, the waiting periods often imposed by such bills could, ironically, force women to seek abortions later in their pregnancies, exposing them to increased health risks and added expense. The delays caused by waiting period requirements disproportionately harm low-income women, young women, and those who do not live close to a clinic.
Finally, biased counseling bills violate the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. They attempt to replace the professional judgment of physicians with the subjective opinions of politicians. For example, biased counseling bills often force health care providers to use a government-approved script which may contain medically inaccurate and misleading information1 regarding abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer, the psychological effects of abortion, and other issues.