In October of 2003, and for the first time in the United States, the abortion industry settled a malpractice lawsuit based on the link between abortion and breast cancer. The Cherry Hill Women’s Centre 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 an 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 significant 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 breast-feeding. 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 32 weeks.
Concerning the statistical linkage, 28 out of 37 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 England in 1957 and focused on Japanese women. It reported a relative risk of a 160 per cent increase of breast cancer among women who had an induced abortion, in comparison with women who had not undergone such a procedure.
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 12 to one in seven. Breast cancer continues to be the greatest cancer killer among American women between the ages of 20 and 59, and while the incidence of breast cancer has climbed 40 per cent, according to a Reuter’s report (“Breast cancer numbers up, but U.S. cancer deaths drop,” June 5, 2000), the incidence for all other cancers has either remained the same or has declined.
Jane Orient, MD, is a spokeswoman for the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons. In an article entitled, “Can doctors be sued over abortion? Those who don’t inform patients of breast cancer link could be targets” (WorldNetDaily, March 27, 2002), 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 went on to say, “they vastly outnumber the ones that don’t, and the ones that don’t have been criticized for serious methodological flaws.”
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).
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 she claims is “cash driven.” 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.”
The inevitable question that arises in this hotly contested controversy is the following: why can’t women contemplating abortion be routinely informed about all its risks to their health? After all, uniformed consent is more guesswork than choice. Why would “pro-choice” advocates be against choice? Is the link between abortion and breast cancer a myth? Or is it firmly established by good medicine?
Perhaps a more revealing question is this: are abortion providers more firmly committed to the health of women or to the preservation of an abortion ideology? It sometimes requires a great deal of courage and integrity to free oneself from an ideology and enter the real world where women live and die.
Donald DeMarco, a regular contributor to The Interim, is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, in Waterloo, Ont.