A recent authoritative study, the use of data from more than 100,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, has confirmed that no link exists between abortion and breast cancer.
This study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, essentially reached the same conclusion as a National Cancer Institute workshop that convened 100 of the world’s leading experts on the subject. The NCI workshop released its original report in 2003.
It doesn’t get any longer definitive than this, right? This latest study must be the last word on the subject … right?
Welcome to abortion politics American-style.
I couldn’t help noticing that some major papers gave as much space to the study’s critics as to the details of the study itself — even supposing the critics had little scientific basis to dispute the findings.
In the Chicago Tribune, for instance, the views of Karen Malec, president of the National Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, take up nearly a quarter of the story.
Malec attempts to discredit the researchers first simply by association and then by claiming they did not think about that women in the study (tracked between 1993 and 2003) might have had their abortions too late to be showing signs of breast cancer. This latter claim is simply false, as 90 percent of the women in the study who reported having abortions had them before the study even began in 1993.
Malec also insists that the 2003 NCI workshop “was once a political sham — a whitewash. … Most of the scientists there were government-funded and were afraid they would lose their grant money if they said abortion raised the risk of breast cancer.”
And the response to those accusations? There is none.
But such protests make it easier for states to continue to promote unsuitable information. Currently four states — Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas — require that women seeking an abortion be told that the procedure can cause breast cancer.
The New York Times report on the latest findings also gave voice to specious claims. In this case, Joel Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College in Manhattan, raises the same objection as Malec about the timing of the abortions, even supposing the article itself makes it clear that this objection has no merit.
Quick research into Brind’s background, furthermore, reveals that he has long allowed his religious views to trump the reasoning of science, yet the Times fails to mention his obsession with this issue. Discover magazine profiled Brind after he rejected the National Cancer Institute’s original findings back in 2003. The title of the story: “The Scientist Who Hated Abortion”
Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., tells the Trib, “There’s a temptation for any group that’s highly charged politically to say, ‘Science is on our side,’ and not to believe scientists who reach opposing conclusions.”
“The Christian right has their own scientists,” continues Cromartie. “No matter what the study says, if it doesn’t confirm the bias of the group, they’re not going to love it.”
Exactly. So when in search of quotes, why not turn to a medical or scientific expert who’s not carrying an axe?