Texas abortion booklet advises women to call 911 if pressured

AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas state agency has released a new edition of a booklet for women who are considering an abortion that says women should call 911 if they feel pressured to have an abortion.

The booklet also suggests there may be a link between terminating pregnancies and increased risks of breast cancer and depression.

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued the new edition of "A Woman's Right to Know" on Monday.

File: READ - A Woman's Right To Know booklet

The new introduction states "no one can force you to have an abortion," a message people on both sides of the issue agree needs to be reinforced.

Emily Horne is a lobbyist with Right To Life Texas, a pro-life group that pushed the Department of Health and Human Services to make the changes. "We do want women to know it is only them who can consent," Horne said.

The booklet states:

"If you are feeling pressure (also called coercion) you have options. Talk to your doctor, counselor or spiritual adviser about your feelings, and ask for a phone to call 911 for immediate help."

Natalie San Luis is with the National Abortion Rights Action League, a pro-choice group that said abortion providers have counselors on hand to help women who feel coerced. "I don't think 911 operators are prepared to handle conversations like that at all," San Luis said.

"If the counselor senses that they are being coerced that counselor is already an advocate for the patient," she said.

Horne said the added language is necessary.

"The idea is to remind women that if they are in imminent danger and if they need immediate help that that is available," she said.

The booklet, however, makes no mention of imminent danger.

Leaders at the Houston Emergency Center, which handles 9,000 calls a day, said they got no warning from the state on the new recommendation and no guidance on how to handle those kinds of calls.

"Abortion is not our area. We are not in the business of advising people in such incidents," said Joe Laud, of the Houston Emergency Center.

Since 2003, state law has mandated that pregnant women be provided information when considering an abortion. The new edition of the booklet contains a section titled "Breast Cancer Risk," despite numerous, peer-reviewed studies that have refuted links between abortion and breast cancer.

The booklet also says women who terminate pregnancies can become suicidal and infertile.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services defended the changes.

"People should contact 911 if they feel they need emergency help. We encourage that for anyone. The booklet suggests people who are feeling coerced into having an abortion and need immediate help should call 911.

“We very carefully reviewed the booklet for accuracy and took to heart the feedback we received over the summer. (Note: The department received nearly 13,000 comments.)

“Our focus was on making sure the booklet is helpful, user-friendly and medically accurate, and we carefully studied the medical and scientific research available to us along the way. In the end, it's about making sure pregnant women have access to the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves."

The Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Texas' 2013 law that placed some of the nation's tightest restrictions on abortion.

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