In 2013, Cynthia Daniels and a team of researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, founded the Informed Consent Project. Daniels and the researchers assessed the medical accuracy of information within state-authored informational materials for abortion. States give those materials to women who want an abortion, but using their research, the Informed Consent Project found some information from those materials to be inaccurate, misleading, and coercive. The Informed Consent Project gathered a panel of researchers and medical specialists to review the information about embryological and fetal development from twenty-three states’ informational materials. They found that approximately one-third of that information was inaccurate. The work of the Informed Consent Project challenges abortion-specific informed consent laws, highlighting medical inaccuracies in state-authored informational materials as evidence that women’s consent to abortion may be based on false or misleading statements.
As of 2021, twenty-eight US states have informed consent laws for abortion, which is a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, often called Women’s Right to Know laws. Those laws often require the state government to develop informational materials that healthcare providers must give to women before an abortion. Informational materials generally include information about the process of fetal development, accompanied by illustrations or pictures, risks and effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion. Supporters of informed consent laws for abortion argue that such information is important for women to make a decision to have an abortion. Individual states author and distribute those informational materials, which are a primary source of information for people who seek an abortion. Medical expert and abortion rights activists have criticized the materials for providing inaccurate information, making misleading statements, and using coercive language to discourage women from choosing abortion.
In 2019, Americans United for Life, hereafter AUL, published a model legislation, called the Women’s Right to Know Act, in their annual publication Defending Life. The goal of the model legislation, which AUL annually updates, is to help state governments enact enhanced informed consent laws for abortion. The Women’s Right to Know Act requires physicians to provide specific information to women before they may consent to having an abortion. It also suggests that individual US state governments to develop informational materials about abortion and pregnancy that healthcare providers must give to women before they receive an abortion. As of 2020, twenty-eight states have enacted informed consent laws for abortion that resemble the Women’s Right to Know Act. In a larger effort to dismantle legal access to abortion, the AUL’s Women’s Right to Know Act encourages individual states to restrict access to abortion to protect, what the organization calls, the unborn child.
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson was a physician who advocated for abortion rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In November of 1970, Hodgson became the first physician in the U.S. to be convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson deliberately performed the abortion to challenge the Minnesota State Statute 617.18, which prohibited non-therapeutic abortions. Following the legalization of abortion in the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), Hodgson focused on promoting accessible abortion, obstetric, and gynecological care throughout Minnesota. Her name also appears in the Supreme Court case Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990), which challenged the constitutionality of a Minnesota statute that required physicians to notify both parents forty-eight hours prior to a minor being allowed to undergoing an abortion. Hodgson’s career was centered around challenging the legal system to protect and promote reproductive rights for women, including access to abortion.
In the 1980s, researchers at the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf in Paris, France, helped develop a biological compound called mifepristone. When a woman takes it, mifepristone interferes with the function of hormones involved in pregnancy and it can therefore be used to terminate pregnancies. In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also called RU 486, as part of a treatment to induce abortions using drugs instead of surgery, a method called medication abortion. Women can receive medication abortions earlier in their pregnancies than surgical abortions, and medication abortions often result in less severe side-effects than their surgical counterparts. In that capacity, mifepristone has increased women’s access to abortions throughout the world.
The Jane Collective was an underground organization that provided illegal abortion services in Chicago, Illinois, from 1969 until abortions became legal in 1973. Formally called the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, the Jane Collective was a member organization and working group within Chicago Women’s Liberation Union that challenged the Illinois state legislature by providing abortions before they were legal in the US. The organization, commonly referred to as Jane, was founded by women’s liberation activists in Chicago in 1969 to reduce the number of unsafe and expensive abortions being performed by unqualified providers. It is estimated that from 1969 to 1973 the Jane Collective provided nearly twelve thousand abortions. The Jane Collective was a healthcare initiative and a political education project that provided abortion and reproductive healthcare solutions to thousands of women and brought attention to the many unsafe illegal abortions done in Chicago.