New Hampshire House Bill 1659 is titled the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” but a more accurate title would be the “Activists’ Right to Lie to Women Act.”
The measure, now moving through the Granite State Legislature, requires that at least 24 hours before undergoing a medical abortion, a woman must be informed “orally and in person” of “the increased risk of breast cancer” associated with abortion.
The bill requires the written materials to say that “when an abortion ends a normal pregnancy, the woman is left with more immature breast tissue than she had before she was pregnant. In short, the amount of immature breast tissue is increased and this tissue is exposed to significantly greater amounts of estrogen — a known cause of breast cancer. Women facing an abortion decision have a right to know that such medical data exists.”
It refers to this conclusion as “undisputed.”
Similar bills with similar titles pending in the Kansas and New Jersey Legislatures require that physicians advise women considering an abortion of the “related … risk of breast cancer” and “associated” risk of breast cancer. And though neither bill uses the adjective “increased,” the implication is obvious.
It’s also false, according to virtually every authoritative medical body.
The idea that women who obtained abortions were disproportionately victims of breast cancer later in life was based on some early (and conflicting) research. Anti-abortion activists eagerly embraced the data that supported that conclusion and used it as yet another reason that the procedure should be banned.
Early in the 2000s, they succeeded in pressuring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to remove from the National Cancer Institute’s web site a declaration that no such link exists.
But the institute fought back. In 2003, it convened more than 100 leading international experts to review all the available relevant studies.
The conclusion, which you can find on its web site today: “Abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.” On the “strength of evidence” scale, the cancer institute rates this finding as “well established.”
The American Cancer Society points to several large studies, particularly a 2007 study of 100,000 women whose medical histories were tracked from 1993 to 2003: “The researchers found no link between either spontaneous or induced abortions and breast cancer.”
What about the World Health Organization? “Results from epidemiological studies are reassuring in that they show no consistent effect of first trimester induced abortion upon a woman’s risk of breast cancer later in life.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists? In 2009, that group reported, “Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.”
Even the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the organization devoted to battling breast cancer that recently came under fire for alleged opposition to abortion rights, says, “Although there has been some debate in the past about the link between abortion (also called induced abortion) and breast cancer risk, research clearly shows no link between the two.”
Yet medical consensus has not prevented elected abortion opponents from inserting into “right to know” dictates and printed material at least the possibility that the link remains. “The risk (of breast cancer) may be higher if your first pregnancy is aborted,” warns the booklet that must be offered by law to women seeking abortions in Texas (cover image above). “There is agreement that this issue needs further study.”
There is no such agreement.
And Texas is one of five states identified by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank, that offers such misleading information as part of so-called right-to-know statutes.
Illinois has no such law, and the last attempt to pass one seven years ago made no mention of a link between breast cancer and abortion.
This side issue is not the key to resolving the irresolvable debate over abortion, obviously. But it suggests where the debate is headed.