Abortion - Breast Cancer link?
Verbal and legal attacks by pro-life groups
As explained in a companion essay, pro-lifers and pro-choicers promote different beliefs
about Abortion-Breast Cancer (ABC) links:
|Most pro-life groups assert that an ABC link exists; i.e. that if
a woman has an abortion, her chance of contracting breast cancer
later in life increases increases. 1|
|Most pro-choice groups state that an ABC link either does not exist, or
is unproven. 2|
Some pro-life organizations have attacked other groups for spreading
what they feel is misinformation about an abortion-breast cancer link.
Year 2000: North Dakota & California failed lawsuits:
According to Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian group,
the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo ND was sued by two lawyers for false
advertising. 3 The suit was brought in 2000-JAN by Amy Jo
Mattson -- a pro-life sidewalk counselor, -- a crisis pregnancy
center, a local physician, and the Fargo Roman Catholic Diocese. Another media source named
Amy Jo Kjolsrud as the sidewalk counselor who filed the lawsuit. 4 The clinic allegedly distributed a brochure
which quoted a National Cancer Institute fact sheet. It stated:
"Anti-abortion activists claim that having an
abortion increases the risk of developing breast cancer and endangers future
childbearing. None of these claims are supported by medical
research or established medical organizations." (Emphasis in the original).
Rachelle Sauvageau, coordinator of the Pro-Life Office of the Catholic
Diocese of Fargo, commented:
"This suit is necessary to allow women to
protect their own health and well-being. Our concern for women compels us to
defend them against the false claims that abortion is not harmful to a woman's
health, be it emotional, physical or spiritual." 5
Another plaintiff, Bruce Madlom, said
"The substantial medical research in peer-reviewed medical journals
supports the claim that having an abortion increases the risk of developing
Focus on the Family quoted
researcher Dr. Brind, who said:
"We know that you get an explosive growth in
the cells of the breast which continues for all but about the last eight weeks
of a normal pregnancy. It's only in the last eight weeks that other hormones
take over and turn the now much larger breasts, with many more cells in them,
into organs that actually produce milk. And if the process is cut off, then a
woman is left with far more of these cells that are capable of growing, leaving
a statistically higher probability that some may grow into cancer cells."
this theory is correct, then one would expect that women who have had a pregnancy
terminated by an involuntary miscarriage -- commonly called a miscarriage -- would have an increased chance of
developing breast cancer. They do not.
The Clinic stopped using the brochure after the lawsuit was filed. They
replaced it with a pamphlet which stated:
"Some anti-abortion activists claim that having an abortion increases the
risk of developing breast cancer. A substantial body of medical research
indicates that there is no established link between abortion and breast
cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has stated, '[t]here is no
evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and either induced
or spontaneous abortion'." 10
The case was scheduled to be heard on 2001-SEP-11. But the terrorist attack
on New York and Washington delayed the trial. It was re-scheduled to start on 2002-MAR-25.
After four days of testimony, Judge Michael McGuire ruled in favor of the
clinic. According to The Forum:
"Based on expert testimony from
epidemiologists and endocrinologists, McGuire decided the Fargo clinic did not
mislead its patients through material contained in its brochures."
"It does appear that the clinic had the intent to put out
correct information and that their information is not untrue or misleading in
any way. They did exercise reasonable care...One thing is clear from the
experts, and that is that there are inconsistencies. The issue seems to be in a
state of flux."
Defense attorney Linda Rosenthal, from the New York-based Center for
Reproductive Law, said:
"The judge rejected the abortion-breast cancer
scare tactic. This ruling should put to rest the unethical, anti-choice scare
tactic of using pseudo-science to harass abortion clinics and scare women."
Jane Bovard, administrator at the Red River Women’s Clinic said: "This
was just one more way of harassing us. I feel very vindicated."
Lawyer John Kindley represented Kjolstrud at the Fargo ND trial. He appealed the case to the
North Dakota Supreme Court. The appeal was rejected.
filed a similar lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of San Diego, CA. The
judge dismissed the case prior to trial earlier in 2002-March.
2002: Attack on ABC News:
The Coalition on Abortion and Breast Cancer criticized a TV news
broadcasting several reports which have dealt with the alleged abortion - breast cancer
Ironically, it is the ABC network. 6 According to the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family, the
Coalition has cited three "ABC reports that appear to ignore dozens of
studies showing a connection between having an abortion and getting breast
cancer." 7 President of the coalition, Karen Malec, is
quoted as saying:
"I know they have a moral obligation and a social responsibility to
the public to openly discuss this issue. And ABC has ...[ignored the
research] three times on three different occasions....Women need to let them
know that they're offended by the fact that they have not told the truth.
Women really need to become activists not only for themselves but for other
Scott Hogenson, spokesperson for the Cybercast News Service, commented:
impossible to look inside the head of the reporter and the editor, but given the
nature of this issue and the fact that it has grown so large, so rapidly, I
think it really suggests sloth or bias." 7
The Coalition has issued numerous press releases criticizing media and health
groups for telling half truths and engaging in cover-ups. Titles include:
|"Breast Cancer Activists Skewer ABC News: Accuse ABC and New York
Presbyterian Medical Center Professor of Telling Half Truths About Risk
|"Self Magazine Enters Disinformation Campaign"|
|"National Cancer Institute Shamelessly Carries on Cover-Up."|
|"Chicago Parent, Y-Me and Northwestern University Physician
Misinform Women About The Abortion-Breast Cancer Research."|
|"Women's Group Accuses Redbook of Misrepresenting Breast Cancer
An alternative explanation is that media and health groups are not lying or
engaging in cover-ups. They might simply be rejecting
case control studies
because of their inherent bias, and following historical cohort studies which
are less biased. As mentioned in an associated essay, no historical cohort study has shown a
statistically significant increase in risk of breast cancer among women who have
chosen to have an early abortion. One study may have shown a link with very late
term abortions, but the results were not statistically significant.
2004: Attack on the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA):
The Minnesota Public Health Department
published a handbook on abortion in 2003. It said, in part:
from some studies suggest there is an increased risk of breast cancer among
women who had an abortion, while findings from other studies suggest there
is no increased risk."
The Minnesota Medical Association told
Minnesota's Governor Tim Pawlenty that the consensus among the medical
community is that no link exists between abortion and breast cancer.
Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on
Abortion/Breast Cancer, said:
"The MMA lied to Governor Pawlenty. Truth is, five medical groups
say abortion is a cause of breast cancer. A sixth group has called for 'full
disclosure' of a 'highly plausible' relationship' -- an act which is an
anathema to the AMA."
the MMA, she said:
"Stop worrying about medical malpractice
insurance premiums and the loss of abortion income. Try putting people’s
lives ahead of your own financial interests.....I
have two challenges for the MMA. First, disprove the biological explanation
for the ABC link. No scientist has been able to do so. Neither will you.
Second, identify one risk factor for breast cancer, which has more evidence
amassed against it than does abortion." 6,9
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Abortion and the increased risk of breast cancer," at:
- "Naral Factsheets: Abortion, Breast Cancer and the Misuse of Science,"
- Lara McGovern, "N.D. Abortion clinic sued," at:
- Mary Jo Almquist, "Judge rules for clinic," The Forum, 2002-MAR-29,
- "False advertising alleged in lawsuit against Fargo abortion clinic,"
- The Coalition on Abortion and Breast Cancer has a web site at:
- David Brody, "Group Challenges ABC Over Abortion-Breast Cancer Link,"
Family News in Focus, 2002-AUG-15, at:
- The Coalition on Abortion and Breast Cancer's press releases are at:
- "Women's group condemns docs for hiding
abortion/breast cancer risks," The Illinois
Leader, 2003-JAN-6, at:
- "North Dakota Supreme Court Opinions 2003 ND 144," at:
Copyright 1998 to 2007 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-MAY-24
Author: B.A. Robinson