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A false advertising lawsuit against an abortion clinic goes to trial today, possibly opening the door to a flood of medical malpractice claims against abortion providers.
The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, N.D., is being sued by Amy Jo Mattson to compel the clinic to inform women considering abortion about the evidence supporting increased risk of breast cancer.
The case hinges on whether the information contained in a pamphlet given out by the Red River Women’s Clinic is true. As WorldNetDaily previously reported, the clinic was disseminating a brochure containing the following statement: “Anti-abortion activists claim that having an abortion increases the risk of breast
cancer and endangers future child-bearing. None of these claims are supported by medical research or established medical organizations.”
An abortion protester and “sidewalk counselor,” Mattson saw the brochure and sued the clinic in 1999 for false advertising, saying scientific evidence does exist linking abortion and breast cancer. She is represented by attorney John Kindley, who wrote a widely read 1998 Wisconsin Law
Review article on the legal connection between informed consent laws and scientific evidence of a link between abortion and breast cancer.
The clinic responded to the lawsuit by altering the language of the brochure, taking out all of the wording about breast
cancer and adding the following statement: “It is 10-12 times more life threatening to give birth than it is to have an abortion in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.” Then in early January 2000, the clinic changed the wording again, deleting “10 – 12 times more life
threatening” and added three sentences concerning abortion and breast cancer:
“Some anti-abortion activists claim that having an abortion increases the risk of developing breast cancer. A substantial body of medical research indicates that there is no established link between abortion and breast cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has stated, ‘[t]here is no evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and either
induced or spontaneous abortion.'”
The quotation attributed to the National Cancer Institute was taken from a 1996 NCI “fact sheet” on “Abortion and Breast Cancer.” But the NCI had revised its “fact sheet” at least twice since the 1996 version, prior to the clinic’s use of the statement in early 2000. Specifically, the 1999 revised NCI fact sheet states that the “evidence of a direct relationship … is inconsistent.” The suit claims the continued use of the claim “there is no evidence” by the clinic amounts to false advertising, as do the statements “abortion is safer than childbirth” and “it is 10 -12 times more life-threatening to give birth than it is
to have an abortion in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy” that the clinic administrator regularly makes to women considering
abortion, according to the plaintiff’s deposition.
A call to Jane Bovard, owner of the clinic was not immediately returned, and the clinic was closed on Friday.
“This case goes to the heart of the key linchpin of Roe v. Wade that abortion is safer than childbirth,” Kindley tells
To test the veracity of the statements used by the clinic, the validity of studies done on the relationship between abortion and breast cancer goes on trial. Activists on both sides of the abortion debate have hotly contested each other’s studies, attacking the scientific credibility of research methodology and conclusions.
It is widely held among physicians and scientists acknowledging what is known as an “ABC link” (abortion-breast cancer link) that 28 out of 37 studies published on the subject in different parts of the world and 13 out of 15 studies in the United States support the claim.
As previously reported by WorldNetDaily, breast cancer is linked to reproductive hormones, particularly estrogen. Although science has yet to define specifically what causes breast cancer, it is uncontested that the sooner a woman has her first child, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer.
According to Dr. Joel Brind, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and a leading researcher in what is commonly known as the “ABC link,” a woman’s estrogen level increases
hundreds of times above normal upon conceiving – and one of the first physical changes to the pregnant woman’s body
occurs in the breasts. That hormone surge leads to the growth of “undifferentiated” cells in the breast as the body prepares to produce milk for the coming baby. Undifferentiated cells are vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens, which can give rise to cancerous tumors later in life.
In the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy, those cells are “terminally differentiated” through a still largely unknown process and are ready to produce milk. Differentiated cells are not vulnerable to carcinogens. However, should a pregnancy be terminated prior to cell differentiation, the woman is left with abnormally high numbers of undifferentiated cells, therefore
increasing her risk of developing breast cancer.
The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released guidelines in March of 2000, to its abortion providers cautioning them that ABC link research “cannot be disregarded.” The group also examined a 1996 review of the worldwide studies done by Brind, saying the doctor’s work was “carefully conducted” and “had no major methodological shortcomings.”
WorldNetDaily also previously reported that groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL attack the validity of Brind’s and other researchers’ studies and refuse to inform prospective abortion recipients of the existence of an ABC link concluded in 28 of 37 studies.
“Undaunted by the absence of compelling evidence associating induced abortion with a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, anti-choice extremists insist on making the connection anyway,” says Planned Parenthood
on its website.
“Once more they are using misinformation as a weapon in their campaign against safe, legal abortion. In the guise of an ostensible concern for women’s health, these ideologues point to inconclusive, and at times flawed, studies for alleged evidence of a possible association, while ignoring or dismissing overwhelming evidence that induced abortion does not place women at greater risk of breast cancer,” the statement continues. “Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the American Cancer Society recognizes the reliability of such an association.”
Planned Parenthood notes that approximately 25 studies have examined the risk of developing breast cancer for women who have had abortions.
“Cancer researchers at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and major universities say that the most reliable studies show no increased risk, and they consider the entire body of research inconclusive,” the organization states.
On its website, Planned Parenthood cites several studies, including “one of the most highly regarded studies on abortion and breast cancer” published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997. The Melbye study of 1.5 million women found “no overall connection between the two.” Planned Parenthood further states, “before Melbye’s seminal study … the body of published research showed inconsistent and inconclusive evidence ? some found abortion to have a protective effect, others found a slightly elevated risk. Many of these studies were hindered by the small sample size, others failed to distinguish between induced and spontaneous abortion, and others did not take confounding factors into account.”
Planned Parenthood concludes, “The link between induced abortion and breast cancer is a theory whose principal
promoters oppose abortion regardless of its safety. The theory has not been borne out by research.”
As WorldNetDaily previously reported, Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer takes issue with the Melbye
study cited by Planned Parenthood, pointing out that even it reported that “[w]ith each one week increase in the gestational age of the fetus … there was a 3 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer.” Malec further asserts the Melbye study was “jettisoned” by its own publisher, The New England Journal of Medicine, three years after its publication when it published an article identifying abortion and oral contraceptives as possible “risk factors.”
NARAL, a fierce advocate for legalized abortion and other reproductive issues, also cites the Melbye study and echoes
Planned Parenthood’s position,
stating in an online fact sheet: “Anti-choice groups are distorting scientific data and manipulating information to advance their political agenda.”
But “political agenda” is precisely what ABC link proponents say is preventing women from being informed about the research.
“There is enormous political capital invested in the idea of safe abortion, and this flies in the face of safe abortion,” said Brind. “Once one acknowledges that abortion significantly increases the risk of breast cancer, then one has to acknowledge that abortion is much more dangerous than childbirth. ‘Big abortion’ is fighting this harder than they fight any other fight about abortion. I think they perceive it as the undoing of legalized abortion.”
And it may be, according to attorney Scott Somerville, author of the book, “Before You Choose: The link between abortion and breast cancer.”
“Although political activists talk about a ‘woman’s right to choose,’ the Supreme Court based its decision in Roe v. Wade
on a medical assumption rather than a right to autonomy,” Somerville explained. “The court assumed that abortion was safer than a live birth and ruled that states could not force a woman to do something that was more dangerous than the alternative.
Thus all those states are completely free to regulate medical procedures in order to protect the health of the patient — they have no power to regulate medicine in order to enforce morality. A real cancer risk from abortion would render Roe v. Wade moot. It would completely undercut the constitutional holding of Roe v. Wade and the abortion-rights activists know this.”
If the judge in the North Dakota case rules that the Red River Women’s Clinic did indeed commit false advertising by
saying no evidence of an ABC link exists, he will effectively be calling the studies reliable. At that point, said Somerville, the state’s Abortion Control Act kicks in, which is found in the state’s Century Code
beginning at Section 14-02.1. The Act grants $10,000 and triple the amount of actual damages to women who were not
provided with enough information to grant “informed consent” for an abortion.
For example, since an increased risk of developing breast cancer could be reasonably assumed, a woman claiming lack of informed consent could demand triple the cost of a lifetime of mammograms.
The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages. Rather, the plaintiff wants the judge to require the clinic to inform women considering abortion that a first full-term pregnancy before age 30 is protective against breast cancer and that abortion is associated with increased breast cancer risk.
Somerville compares the case to the tobacco industry lawsuits, about which anti-smoking advocates say knowledge of increased cancer risks will deter people from smoking. The connection between smoking and cancer was made, yet, “a lot
of people are still smoking cigarettes,” he said. “[Smokers] have already demonstrated that ‘the threat of cancer is not going to influence my decision.'”
Likewise, knowledge of an increased risk of breast cancer from induced abortion may not decrease the demand for abortions, he implied.
Nevertheless, just as lawsuits against the tobacco companies have had tremendous financial consequences for the industry, the North Dakota lawsuit could have devastating financial ramifications for abortion providers.
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