Librarians can counter abortion misinformation

Misinformation about abortion runs rampant in the US, aided by abortion restrictions. As of April 2021, 29 states have laws that detail information providers must give or offer patients before they have an abortion. In most of those states, the mandated materials include statements that aren’t supported by scientific evidence, including false information about breast cancer, infertility, and negative mental health consequences of abortion.

In a commentary in the American Journal of Public Health, Bixby members Jill Barr-Walker, Nancy Berglas, Biftu Mengesha and colleagues argue that health sciences librarians have a role in providing evidence-based information about abortion.

Inaccurate information can affect people’s ability to make informed decisions, increase their anxiety about having an abortion, and affect their expectations about coping afterward. These restrictions impact communities that are disproportionately affected by health inequities, particularly communities of color and those with low incomes.

The authors highlight unexplored opportunities for health sciences librarians to combat misinformation that align with the field’s rich history of engagement in social justice work.

  • Finding evidence-based information. Seek out contacts in public health departments to find teams responsible for creating abortion information materials and offer support in supplying evidence-based resources.
  • Advocacy and legislative efforts. Librarians, clinicians and public health experts can collaborate in advocacy efforts against abortion misinformation.
  • Raising public awareness. Librarians are a stakeholder group with the potential to raise awareness among their users, who often include students, faculty, researchers, public health workers, providers, patients and community members.

Drawing on their training, experience and professional values, health sciences librarians can play an important role in countering state-mandated misinformation and improving people’s understanding of abortion.

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