Monday, April 4, 2011

Facts - so inconvenient

So, there's this: Indiana House Backs Greater Abortion Restrictions

INDIANAPOLIS – Both houses of the Indiana Legislature have now approved bills that would restrict access to abortions.

The Indiana House voted 72-23 on Wednesday to require that women seeking an abortion be told that human life begins at conception and ban the procedure after 20 weeks unless the woman's life is in danger.

The bill also requires those seeking abortions to be told in writing that they faced a greater risk of infertility and breast cancer.

Republican Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero says it's the responsibility of lawmakers to protect the unborn and that he hoped the additional requirements would lead to fewer abortions.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which last month approved a bill with many of the same provisions.

Note first that this is the same Eric Turner who opined that women would simply lie and claim they were raped or the victims of incest if there was an exception to the ban on state-funded insurance coverage of abortion for victims of rape and incest. Yeah, he has a super high opinion of women.

Second, this claim that abortion is correlated with a higher risk of breast cancer is interesting. It seems like the kinda thing I would have heard about before, being a health geek and all. So I did a little research, and look what I found.

From the National Cancer Institute:
The relationship between induced and spontaneous abortion and breast cancer risk has been the subject of extensive research beginning in the late 1950s. Until the mid-1990s, the evidence was inconsistent. Findings from some studies suggested there was no increase in risk of breast cancer among women who had had an abortion, while findings from other studies suggested there was an increased risk. Most of these studies, however, were flawed in a number of ways that can lead to unreliable results. Only a small number of women were included in many of these studies, and for most, the data were collected only after breast cancer had been diagnosed, and women’s histories of miscarriage and abortion were based on their “self-report” rather than on their medical records. Since then, better-designed studies have been conducted. These newer studies examined large numbers of women, collected data before breast cancer was found, and gathered medical history information from medical records rather than simply from self-reports, thereby generating more reliable findings. The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.
From ACOG:

There is no evidence supporting a causal link between induced abortion and subsequent development of breast cancer, according to a committee opinion issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). ACOG's opinion is in agreement with the conclusion reached at the National Cancer Institute's Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop, which met in March 2003.

ACOG's review of the research on a link between abortion and later development of breast cancer concluded that studies on the issue were inconsistent and difficult to interpret, mainly due to study design flaws. Some studies showed either a significant decrease in breast cancer risk after abortion or found no effect. The most recent studies from China, the United Kingdom, and the US found no effect of induced abortion on breast cancer risk.

More detail from the American Cancer Society:

The largest, and probably the most reliable study on this topic was done during the 1990s in Denmark, a country with very detailed medical records on all its citizens. In that study, all Danish women born between 1935 and 1978 (a total of 1.5 million women) were linked with the National Registry of Induced Abortions and with the Danish Cancer Registry. All of the information about their abortions and their breast cancer came from registries – it was very complete and was not influenced by recall bias.

After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provides good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

Another large, prospective study was reported on by Harvard researchers in 2007. This study included more than 100,000 women who were between the ages of 29 and 46 at the start of the study in 1993. These women were followed until 2003. Again, because they were asked about childbirths and abortions at the start of the study, recall bias was unlikely to be a problem. After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found no link between either spontaneous or induced abortions and breast cancer.

The California Teachers Study also reported on more than 100,000 women in 2008. Researchers asked the women in 1995 about past induced and spontaneous abortions. While the women were being followed in the study, more than 3,300 developed invasive breast cancer. There was no difference in breast cancer risk between the group who had either spontaneous or induced abortions and those who had not had an abortion.

I could continue, but it seems like overkill. Will this have any impact on the vote? Of course not. These are just silly little facts.


  1. HeatherT4/04/2011

    And this whole thing is sort of a red herring, because in fact spontaneous abortions occur all the time, but nobody's freaking out about the impact of those on cancer rates. Ironically, if it were true that abortions in general caused a higher risk of breast cancer then more women should be using contraception all the time. I'm thinking this socially conservative crowd wouldn't go for legislation that tried to strongarm women into using contraception to prevent breast cancer.

  2. Anonymous4/04/2011

    This is so not about the science or the facts.

  3. Shanigan4/05/2011

    Then there's the fact that this bill would require docs to "inform" women that life begins at conception. We're so ignorant and backwards, we need all the edimacatin we can get.

  4. But would this bill control what nurses or counselors or clinic administrators say to women? And would it limit the printed material that was handed out at the time of the "consultation"? It seems like there's ways to get around this. A doc can even read the state-mandated script word for word while vigorously shaking her head to indicate that it's untrue. It still sucks, but it's a fairly unsophisticated attack.