Statement to the Press
Population Research Institute Conference
Santa Clara, California
April 5, 2002
Although I observed in my own practice in the early 1990s an inordinate number of 30 year olds with breast cancer who had no family history, but had abortions as teenagers, it wasnít until 1999 that I informed my patients of this risk. That was when a Harvard professor in charge of risk assessment at a well known Boston clinic told me she knew abortion was a risk factor for breast cancer and considered it in the evaluation of her patients. Although she chose not to publicly speak about this issue, she encouraged me to do so.
I was reluctant at first to follow her suggestion. I depend upon referrals from obstetrician-gynecologists, some of whom do abortions, and I was worried they would stop sending me patients when they heard me give lectures on the abortion-breast cancer link. I lecture on the subject because it is unjust to withhold pertinent medical information from patients that is so well documented in the literature for over 20 years and that is in my textbooks.
It amounts to child abuse to take a teenager in a crisis pregnancy for an abortion. At best, it will give her a 30% risk of breast cancer in her lifetime. At worst, if she also has a family history of breast cancer, it will nearly guarantee this. As a mother, I need to be informed of this to protect my daughter. Medical professionals have an unfortunate history of continuing to harm women if it means admitting that they have injured or killed them with their treatments.
This is best illustrated through the well-known story of Ignaz Semmelweis, MD. He was an obstetrician-gynecologist in the 1840s who proved that hand washing would reduce mortality rates from childbed fever from 30% to 2% on maternity wards. His reward for this was ridicule from his professors and loss of his hospital appointments. Women continued to die needlessly for another 30 years until the germ theory proved Semmelweiss was correct. It must have been very embarrassing for a lowly resident to have told the greatest medical professors of his time they were responsible for many womenís deaths.
We are in the same situation now. There is overwhelming and convincing evidence that abortion and breast cancer are linked, along with a well described biologic mechanism. Twenty-eight out of 37 studies have been published and women still donít know. Itís not only embarrassment and denial that cause doctors to ignore this data now. It is also the fear of malpractice. How can an abortionist not be held liable for increasing a womanís risk of breast cancer and not tell her?
It is unfortunate, but it has become my belief that it will be lawyers who will force the medical community to address this issue.