In October of 2003, and for the first time in the United States, the abortion industry has settled a malpractice lawsuit based on the link between abortion and breast cancer. The Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey failed to inform a woman of both the breast-cancer as well as the mental risks of induced abortion. The plaintiff, identified only as “Sarah,” to protect her identity, filed her lawsuit on the grounds that she had not been informed of these risks before she underwent abortion. Just hours before the case was scheduled to go to trial, the aborting doctor and the clinic settled for what has been described as a “significant” amount of money.
Two profoundly important points are associated with this episode. The first is the high plausibility that there is a medically and statistically established link between induced abortion and breast cancer. The second point, based on the first, is that information concerning this linkage should be made available to a woman contemplating abortion to insure that her consent is truly informed.
According to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, there is a medical reason for the connection between induced abortion and breast cancer. A pregnant woman produces an increased amount of estrogen as a way of preparing for breastfeeding. But she is at risk for breast cancer if she aborts before her breasts have completed the changes and development necessary to allow for breast-feeding, a process that typically takes thirty-two weeks
Dr. Joel Brind, an endocrinologist at Baruch College of the City University of New York, states that because a mother’s estrogen levels surge during pregnancy and cause a multiplication of breast cells in preparation for lactation, an induced abortion leaves more breast cells in an “undifferentiated” or incomplete state, which renders them vulnerable to cancer. 1
Concerning the statistical linkage, twenty-nine out of forty worldwide studies have independently linked induced abortion with breast cancer. Significantly, “most of these studies have been conducted by abortion supporters. The first study was published in an English publication in 1957 and focused on Japanese women. It showed a 2.6 percent relative risk or 160 percent increased risk of breast cancer among women who had had an induced abortion” in comparison with women who had not undergone such a procedure. 2
The rate of breast cancer in the United States since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion readily available, has skyrocketed from one in twelve to one in seven.3 Breast cancer continues to be “the greatest cancer killer among American women between the ages of twenty and fifty-nine,” and while “the incidence of breast cancer [has] climbed 40 percent,” according to a Reuters report, “the incidence for [almost] all other cancers has either remained the same or has declined.” 4
Jane Orient, M.D., is a spokeswoman for the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons. In an article titled, “Can Doctors Be Sued over Abortion? Those Who Don’t Inform Patients of Breast Cancer Link Could Be Targets,” she stated: “‘I think (doctors) should inform patients about this,’ and the information ‘should include the potential connection with breast cancer as well as the long-term psychological risk.’” “If you look at the number of studies that show a connection,” she also said, “they vastly outnumber the ones that don’t, and the ones that don’t have been criticized for serious methodological flaws.” 5 The abortion industry is indeed becoming a target for legal action based on depriving women of informed consent (which, from a legal point of view, has been associated with assault and battery 6).
Susan Gertz, executive director of the Women’s Injury Network in Ohio, speaks of similar cases as that of “Sarah’s” from Texas to California to Missouri. She believes that these lawsuits will have an important impact on the abortion industry, which is “cash driven.” 7 Lawsuits and malpractice settlements may prove more powerful than information. Planned Parenthood, on its website, accuses “pro-lifers” of “using misinformation as a weapon in their campaign against safe, legal abortion.” 8 Cover-ups and smear campaigns, however, have an inevitable point of expiration. A falsehood cannot last forever.
The unavoidable question that arises in this controversy is the following: Why can’t women contemplating abortion be routinely informed about all its risks to their health? After all, uninformed consent is more guesswork than choice. Why would “pro-choice” advocates be against a real choice? Is the link between abortion and breast cancer a myth? Or is it firmly established by good medicine?
In an article by Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, Angela Lanfranchi, M.D., a edical school professor, states that “(s)ome [doctors] have been straightforward and said they know it [abortion] is a risk factor but they felt it was ‘too political’ to speak about.” Malec likewise finds evidence that medicine has firmly established a link between the two. She concludes that “(t)here is overwhelming and convincing evidence that abortion and breast cancer are linked, along with a well-described biological mechanism.” In her article, she notes how “(t)he web pages of the NCI [National Cancer Institute] and leading American and Canadian cancer organizations contain false statements, misrepresentations, and omissions in their discussions of the research.” She points out that a 1998 study by M. McCredie et al. and a 1995 study by E. Calle et al. both denied that there is any link between abortion and cancer, However, as Malec explains, the studies excluded data on induced abortion, focusing exclusively on spontaneous abortions. 9
Dr. Lanfranchi estimates that out of one hundred women who have had abortions, five more will get breast cancer, compared to a group of one hundred women who have not had any abortions. She emphasizes that on the large scale, this is very significant because one in four American women now have induced abortions. 10
Ideology lends credibility to myths, but it can just as easily interfere with the practice of good medicine. In an address to the Massachusetts Medical Society titled, “Currents and Countercurrents in Medical Science,” back in 1869, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes made the following statement: “[Although] theoretically medicine ought to go on its own straightforward inductive path without regard to changes of government or to fluctuations of public opinion ... the truth is that medicine, professionally founded on observation, is as sensitive to outside influences, political, religious, philosophical, imaginative, as the barometer to the changes of atmospheric density.” 11
Current changes in the “atmospheric density” because of the “climate of abortion,” make for compromises and concealments that are contrary both to the true spirit of medicine as well as to the health of women.
Donald DeMarco, Ph.D Adjunct Professor HolyApostlesCollege and Seminary Cromwell, Connecticut firstname.lastname@example.org