Medical and legal experts say that doctors who perform abortions could be held legally liable if they refuse to inform women of a potential connection between the procedure and the development of breast cancer.
According to a Wisconsin Law Review article written in 1999 by attorney John Kindley and eventually distributed to every member of the U.S. House by Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., himself a physician, the evidence suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer “is sufficient to support an ethical and legal duty to disclose fully the risk to women who are considering pregnancy termination.”
“An informed consent cause of action generally requires the plaintiff to establish the following four elements: (1) the physician had a duty to disclose information; (2) which he or she failed to disclose; and (3) this failure to disclose was a legal cause of (4) the plaintiff’s injury,” Kindley wrote.
“Depending on the jurisdiction, the physician’s duty to disclose extends either to all risks which a reasonable physician would disclose under the same or similar circumstances, or to those which a reasonable patient would be likely to attach significance in deciding whether or not to forego the proposed treatment,” he wrote.
“Whether the duty to warn is initially viewed from the perspective of a reasonable physician or of a reasonable patient, the question for the jury should essentially come down to whether a reasonable patient would consider the information material to her decision,” Kindley summarized.
Brent Rooney, a medical researcher who has published his work in such medical journals as the British Medical Journal, the Western Journal of Medicine, and Canada’s largest health circulation magazine, Alive, says he has discovered at least “17 studies reporting that prior elective abortions boost the risk of a future pre-term newborn.”
Additionally, the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer says 28 of 37 studies “show a link between abortion and breast cancer,” yet neither doctors nor most abortion clinics advise women of these risks.
Indeed, As WorldNetDaily reported earlier this week, a lawsuit has gone to trial in which the plaintiff hopes to compel an abortion clinic in North Dakota to inform women considering the procedure about the evidence supporting increased risk of breast cancer.
Joel Brind, Ph.D., professor of Endocrinology in the Department of Natural Sciences at Baruch College of the City University of New York, substantiates the abortion-breast cancer link, but with a twist – the data ring true only for induced abortions.
“To date, a total of 30 published reports describe 24 separate epidemiological studies which give specific data on induced abortion and breast cancer incidence,” he said in testimony before the Food and Drug Administration in 1996. “Nineteen of the 24 report overall increased breast cancer risk, 12 with statistical significance. Several important conclusions can be clearly drawn based on this substantial body of worldwide knowledge dating back to 1957.”
One of the most significant, he said, was that “only induced abortion – not spontaneous abortion – is consistently linked to the incidence of breast cancer.” In other words, he said, women who have miscarriages instead of elective abortions don’t run the increased breast cancer risk.
“Induced abortion increases breast cancer risk independently of its effect in delaying first full-term pregnancy,” Brind said, while noting that “an early full-term pregnancy decreases breast cancer risk.”
What the volume of evidence documenting the abortion-breast cancer link suggests, said Rooney, is that “recent medical school grads who want to see the inside of a court room can much improve their chances by offering elective induced abortions to patients.”
Kindley argues that doctors who perform abortions are bound to disclose the risk so women considering the procedure have all the appropriate information to make a sound decision.
“The common law doctrine of informed consent imposes a legal duty on the physician to inform her patient of significant facts about a proposed procedure so the patient can choose intelligently whether to consent,” said Kindley, in his review. “Recognizing that the patient’s lack of vital information about a procedure renders her apparent consent meaningless, the duty to inform is grounded in respect for the patient’s right to self-determination.”
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer points to a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruling defining the law of informed consent as further proof that doctors should tell women about a potential abortion-breast cancer risk.
“We believe a risk must be disclosed even if it is but a potential risk rather than a conclusively determined risk. … Medical knowledge should not be limited to what is generally accepted as a fact by the profession,” the court said in its 1984 ruling, Harbeson v. Parke Davis, Inc.
“To justify ignorance of this type of risk would insulate the medical profession beyond what is legally acceptable,” the court said.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, an international public-interest law firm, said he also believes doctors could be liable for failing to inform women of the link.
“Under the court’s interpretations under what informed consent means, I think that a doctor would be taking an unnecessary risk by failing to inform a patient of all potential consequences of surgical procedures, including abortion,” he told WorldNetDaily.
“My recommendation is that because you’ve got so many medical studies coming out [citing the link between breast cancer and abortion], that is part of ‘informed consent,'” he said. “It’s a significant risk.”
Jane Orient, a physician and spokeswoman for the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, says she believes doctors should at least be telling women considering an abortion that more studies cite a link than don’t.
“If you look at the number of studies that show a connection, they vastly outnumber the ones that don’t,” she told WorldNetDaily, “and the ones that don’t have been criticized for serious methodological flaws.”
She said the increased risk is “substantial, particularly in women who abort their first pregnancy at a young age and who have a family history of breast cancer. It’s something like 800 percent.”
Orient believes doctors run a risk of legal action if they don’t tell women of the potential link.
“I think they should inform patients about this,” she said, which “should include the potential connection with breast cancer as well as the long-term psychological risk.”
A spokesman for the American Medical Association told WND that the organization “doesn’t have a policy at all” on whether doctors should inform women about the potential link.
He said the group “only proposes policy changes twice a year,” but that he couldn’t recall “anyone having proposed that we introduce any resolution that addresses this issue.”
Other medical organizations have cited studies that support the link.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study Jan. 21, 1997, citing “bias” in a previous Dutch study that allegedly found no cancer link associated with induced abortions.
“In general, no association has been found between spontaneous abortion (naturally occurring termination of a pregnancy) and the risk for breast cancer. With respect to induced abortion (termination of a pregnancy by artificial means), the results have been more inconclusive,” the journal said.
However, not all of the medical community agrees the link is pervasive or that there even is a distinguishable link at all.
On Feb. 4, 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study concluding that, “after adjustment for known risk factors, induced abortion was not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.”
Also, the journal said, “no increases in risk were found in subgroups defined according to age at abortion, parity, time since abortion, or age at diagnosis of breast cancer,” though “the relative risk of breast cancer increased with increasing gestational age of the fetus at the time of the most recent induced abortion.” Nevertheless, the study concluded that “induced abortions have no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer.”
Yet, the spate of reports documenting the link are starting to have an effect with some lawmakers around the country.
In January, Ohio state Rep. Jean Schmidt announced plans to introduce legislation creating an Abortion-Breast Cancer Task Force. The panel would be asked to ” examine the 37 epidemiological studies published over the last 45 years which have explored a relationship between induced abortion and the disease and to study the available biological evidence supporting a causal relationship.” Schmidt said her eventual goal is to sponsor legislation requiring doctors to inform abortion-bound women about the research if the task force concludes that there is a causal relationship.
And in the fall of 2000, the Illinois Senate passed a resolution requiring an investigation into the abortion-breast cancer link, though it eventually failed by a slim three-vote margin in May 2001.
Karen Malec, president of ABC, told WorldNetDaily that if she could, she’d tell “women, and especially teenagers, that I’m a 12-year survivor of colon cancer, and that I had cancer at probably the worst time a person can have a life-threatening disease: when my children were toddlers and dependent upon me for constant care.”
Though she’s never had an abortion, she said she contracted the disease “when my daughter was 18 months old and still nursing, and my son was 3? years old” – when she was about the age many mothers who have previously aborted would be.
“My best friend cared for my children and reported that my daughter was so traumatized by the sudden disappearance of her mother – and her source of food – that she refused to play or to eat very much. She was described as ‘catatonic’ by my friend who is a social worker,” Malec said.
“The worst part about the disease was the anxiety I experienced when I thought about my children’s future, and I agonized about who could replace me as their mother and raise them as I would,” she said. “I found this anxiety to be worse than experiencing chemotherapy once a week for a year, two surgeries and a temporary colostomy.”
Quoting Kindley’s report, she says “doctors who don’t inform women of the existence of this research do not have their patients’ consent and could possibly be charged with battery.”
But more than that, Malec said she hopes to help women who are considering an abortion avoid the potential risks altogether by simply letting them know what they could be up against.
“Most teenagers hope to be married and to have children some day,” she said. “It is not worth having an abortion if you simultaneously jeopardize your life and your children’s future. This is the kind of future that many teenagers who have abortions will some day be facing.”
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