May 9, 2024 - News

🧐 Fact-checking agency's abortion claim

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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As Florida's six-week abortion ban went into effect last week, the state's health care regulation agency sought to refute one of its main criticisms: that many women won't know they're pregnant by that cutoff.

Why it matters: Far from setting the record straight, the agency's rebuttal was itself a misleading oversimplification, experts say.

State of play: "Pregnancy tests have evolved substantially over the years," the Agency for Health Care Administration said May 1 on X, formerly Twitter. "Trace levels of [the pregnancy hormone] hCG can now be detected as early as eight days after ovulation."

  • The statement was included as part of a "Myth vs. Fact" information sheet shared on the state agency's official account "to combat lies and misinformation," per the post.
  • "Don't let the fearmongers lie to you," the sheet says in all caps.

Reality check: While pregnancy testing technology has improved, folks who aren't planning to get pregnant wouldn't know to use a test, said Sameera Mokkarala, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.

  • At-home early-detection tests are typically used by women hoping to become pregnant, Mokkarala, a Philadelphia-based abortion provider and gynecologist, told Axios.
  • And the earlier the test, the greater chance of a false negative.

What they're saying: "They're confusing the failure to recognize pregnancy with the ability to diagnose it early," retired Tampa obstetrician-gynecologist Bruce Shephard told Axios.

  • "Yes, you can diagnose it early, but if you're not looking for it — many patients are not," he said, adding that nearly half of pregnancies are unintended.

By the numbers: In a study analyzing about 65,000 pregnancies from over 36,000 women, the mean gestational age by which respondents learned they were pregnant was 5.5 weeks.

  • Almost a quarter of women became aware of their pregnancy at or after seven weeks.

Keep reading: How gestational age is determined

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