Since 2010, the United States has witnessed a dramatic expansion of state-based restrictions on abortion. The most common of these are informed consent statutes, which require that a woman seeking an abortion receive a state-authored informational packet before the abortion procedure can be performed. These laws, in addition to requiring the provision of information about alternatives to and risks of abortion, all also require details of embryological and fetal development. This article presents the findings of a comprehensive study of state-authored informed consent materials regarding embryological and fetal development. To conduct this study, we recruited a panel of experts in human anatomy to assess the accuracy of these materials in the context of the constitutional standard established in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania et al. v. Robert P. Casey et al. (505 U.S. 833 (1992)): that such information must be “truthful” and “nonmisleading.” We find that nearly one-third of the informed consent information is medically inaccurate, that inaccurate information is concentrated primarily in the earlier weeks of pregnancy and is clustered around particular body systems. We discuss the implications of our findings for the question of the constitutionality of informed consent laws as they have been implemented in practice.

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