Physicians Want Accurate Information in WRTK Brochure

TMA Testimony

House State Affairs Committee
House Bill 3745 by Rep. Jessica Farrar
April 24, 2013

Chair Cook and members of the committee, the Texas Medical Association, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members, commends Rep. Jessica Farrar for sponsoring House Bill 3745, which will ensure information given to women seeking an abortion meets the medical standards physicians follow each day.    

Since 2003, TMA has expressed its concern about the health-related information prescribed in the state-mandated Woman’s Right to Know (WRTK) booklet. We have communicated our concerns to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in 2003 and thereafter about the incorrect and misleading terms used in the WRTK booklet. A decade later, while many other states have made improvements to their informed consent booklets, Texas continues to use the same document with the same inaccurate information.

The WRTK booklet contains descriptive information on medical risks and procedures for women seeking an abortion that are neither current nor accurate. While we recognize much of the booklet’s content is prescribed in statute, we also have concerns about terms and inferences prevalent throughout its pages. Some of the terms used are not appropriate for a health information booklet, such as: 

  • The use of the term “unborn child” is not appropriate for a health information booklet. A child is a person from birth until the age of legal majority. The proper term for the second to eighth weeks is “embryo.” The embryo becomes a fetus at 10 weeks. The term “fetus” is the correct term to use until birth. The term “unborn child” is not used in other DSHS materials.
  • While “gestational age” is commonly used, the booklet should clarify that this refers to the time from the last normal menstrual period. There are other ways to date a pregnancy that are more informative and relevant for most women.

For the Texas WRTK booklet to be credible, its sources for clinical and mental health information must be peer-reviewed and appear in a publication recognized by the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline index.

The reports and research of public medical and scientific organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as identified in HB 3745, are reliable sources. Both NIH and CDC follow appropriate study and research methods and processes subject to peer review and comment. These are the same institutions physicians and the public turn to for the latest, high-quality information on communicable diseases, vaccines, cancer treatment options, and other chronic conditions. We believe many of the sources used in the WRTK booklet do not meet the scientific rigor followed by these institutions, nor do they appear in the U.S. National Library of Medicine Medline index. 

TMA does not take a position on access to an abortion. TMA has members on both sides of this issue, and therefore is not advocating for or against abortion. But the 47,000 physician and medical student members of TMA deeply respect a patient’s responsibility and right to make decisions about her own health and medical treatment. We stand firmly on the principle that for patients to make informed decisions, they must have information that is relevant, nondirective, factual, and based on scientific evidence.

We will continue to advocate for accuracy in the state’s Woman’s Right to Know booklet, and we urge your support by favorably considering HB 3745. Thank you. 

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