Since its approval by the Union, the controversial anti-abortion society LifeChoice has kept to itself. Barring the occasional Facebook skirmish, the organisation – which includes at least one member with a record of screaming at women exiting abortion clinics – had been presumed defunct. Until now.
On May 13, first-year students found their lectures flooded with hundreds of LifeChoice “What RU4?” pamphlets. The glossy leaflets purport to give women “facts to make fully informed decisions” about the emergency contraceptive pill RU486. They bear the University of Sydney Union logo and do not mention LifeChoice is an anti-choice lobby group. The branding of the leaflet as discussing the “Risks and Complications” of RU486, the medical journal articles the leaflet purports to “reference”, and indeed the ambiguous name “LifeChoice” are all designed to convince readers the leaflets are merely educating women about the “facts”.
LifeChoice claims that women using RU486 will experience “the trauma of seeing the dead foetus”. The vast majority of women will only see bleeding when using RU486. The “foetuses” anti-choice organisations claim to have observed are actually just blood clotting.
LifeChoice also claims 5.7% of women undergoing medical abortion require admission to hospital due to unspecified “complications”. Ninety-four percent of those complications are just that the patient is still pregnant.
LifeChoice claims one in 480 women using RU486 will experience infection, and one in 200 haemorrhage. Those “infections” are mostly easily treatable infections, and “haemorrhage” means any kind of bleeding, however minor.
But most interesting is LifeChoice’s weasel-worded claim that women using RU486 have “the same risk of up to 20%” of having mental health problems. American Psychological Association, John Hopkins University, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists surveys found that there is no increased risk. In fact, the only surveys which show anything like that high a rate of mental health issues are surveys done of members of pro-life organisations on the basis of whether they felt depressed, rather than actually being diagnosed with any mental illness.
But it’s hardly a surprise that LifeChoice’s “facts” don’t reflect medical reality. Of the four “journal articles” the leaflet claims to cite, one was written by the Archbishop of Melbourne’s media spokeswoman. One isn’t actually about abortion, but naturally-occurring pregnancy complications. One was written before RU486 was available in Australia. The only peer-reviewed medical article about RU486 on the list concludes that chemical abortions are very safe, but can become more complicated after the ninth week of pregnancy. In Australia, RU486 is only used in the first seven weeks.
LifeChoice was allowed to affiliate to the USU on the basis that it was to hold “discussion groups” rather than actively lobby against abortion. But this leaflet is something else. Its aim isn’t even to change people’s mind about abortion. It poses as a neutral observer to tell women bald-faced lies about their family planning options.
Every cent of LifeChoice Sydney’s funding comes from the University of Sydney Union. That’s money that comes out of students’ SSAF and ACCESS fees, and helps LifeChoice browbeat and bully women while claiming to offer them the “facts”.