WHAT IS A WOMAN'S-RIGHT-TO-KNOW (WRTK) LAW?
A woman's-right-to-know law requires that physicians and others provide pregnant women with
information concerning abortion, the risks of abortion, fetal development, alternatives to abortion,
and other information so that women deciding whether to have an abortion can make an informed decision.
WHY SHOULD STATES PASS WRTK LAWS?
A woman's-right-to-know law seeks to protect women from the risks of abortion, such as
infection, hemorrhage, danger to subsequent pregnancies, breast cancer, psychological
consequences, and other dangers. In order for women to make an informed choice, they must be
given information that provides them with accurate and adequate information. Some women may
feel like they have no other alternative, but by passing woman's-right-to-know laws, women are
informed about all of their choices, including adoption agencies, pregnancy care centers, medical
assistance benefits, and the liability of the father to provide support. A woman's-right-to-know
law does not burden women when making their decision whether to choose abortion; rather, the
law helps women by providing them with all the information they need to make a truly informed
ARE WOMAN'S-RIGHT-TO-KNOW LAWS CONSTITUTIONAL?
YES. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the United States Supreme Court in 1992 upheld
Pennsylvania's woman's-right-to-know law. The Supreme Court also in 1992 refused to review a
lower court's ruling in Barnes v. Moore, which found Mississippi's woman's right to know law
constitutional. In fact, no woman's-right-to-know law patterned after the Pennsylvania law has
been struck down by federal courts since 1992. Some states in which WRTK laws have been
upheld include Alabama, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin.
WHAT DOES PENNSYLVANIA'S WOMAN'S-RIGHT-TO-KNOW LAW REQUIRE?
Pennsylvania's woman's-right-to-know law requires the physician performing the abortion or a
referring physician to orally inform a pregnant woman at least 24 hours before an abortion about
the nature of the abortion procedure, the name of the physician performing the abortion, the
probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed, the risks
and alternatives to the procedure, and the medical risks associated with carrying the child to term.
Further, the law requires that at least 24 hours before the abortion, the pregnant woman is
informed that printed material describing the unborn child and providing information on
alternatives to abortion is available to her, that medical-assistance benefits may be available to her,
and that the father of her child may be liable to provide support for the child. In addition, the
Pennsylvania WRTK law requires reporting of all abortions in an effort to promote the state's
interest in the protection of women's health and the unborn child. This information is not an
exhaustive explanation of the law. It provides the basic elements that have been held
constitutional and should be included in a state's WRTK legislation to make it successful in
informing women, as well as successful in the courtroom when being litigated.
HOW CAN AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE HELP STATES PROTECT A WOMAN'S
RIGHT TO KNOW?
Americans United for Life has developed a Woman's Right to Know Legislative Guide, which
provides a model bill based upon the Pennsylvania law affirmed in Casey (1992), a legal fact
sheet, a testimony outline, and other information helpful to legislators and lobbyists interested in
enacting WRTK law in their state. In addition, the Guide includes talking points for use in the
media, debates and other educational forums. While the model bill can be used in its current
form, individual states may want to tailor the bill to meet their specific needs. AUL can also
provide legislators and lobbyists with legal assistance in drafting and policy arguments to support
their state's woman's-right-to-know legislation.