It was a good Friday for the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo North Dakota, following yesterday’s “vindication” by a judge’s ruling against the plaintiff who claimed the clinic’s failure to inform women of the evidence supporting a link between abortion and breast cancer amounted to false advertisement.
“It does appear that the clinic had the intent to put out correct information and that their information is not untrue or
misleading in any way,” Cass County District Court Judge Michael McGuire stated at the conclusion of a four-day trial.
“The judge rejected the abortion-breast cancer scare tactic,” Linda Rosenthal, an attorney with the New York-based Center
for Reproductive Law, who represented the clinic, is quoted as saying by Fargo’s newspaper, The Forum. “This ruling should put to rest the unethical, anti-choice scare tactic of using pseudo-science to harass abortion clinics and scare women.”
“We are really pleased with the verdict,” clinic administrator Jane Bovard told WorldNetDaily, “We didn’t just win at face value, they got a slap on the hand,” she adds, pointing out the judge entered a judgment against the plaintiff requiring the defendant’s expenses on expert witnesses be reimbursed.
Abortion protester and “sidewalk counselor” Amy Jo Mattson originally sued in 1999 to compel the clinic to inform women considering abortion about the evidence supporting increased risk of breast cancer. Mattson was 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. WorldNetDaily reported earlier this week that
medical and legal experts see doctors who perform abortions as open to malpractice lawsuits if they refuse to inform women of a potential connection between the procedure and the development of breast cancer.
A similar lawsuit filed against Planned Parenthood of San Diego by Kindley was dismissed earlier this month by a
California judge prior to reaching trial.
As WorldNetDaily also reported this week, the Fargo case hinged on whether the information contained in a pamphlet given out by the clinic is true:
“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 an outdated 1996 NCI “fact sheet” on “Abortion and Breast Cancer.” The NCI revised its “fact sheet” twice prior to the clinic’s use of the statement in early 2000 to state the evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and either induced or spontaneous abortion is inconsistent.
Judge McGuire ruled it was reasonable for the clinic to rely on cancer research institutes for its brochures, overlooking the issue of the clinic’s use of an outdated NCI fact sheet.
After listening to three days of expert testimony from epidemiologists and endocrinologists, McGuire acknowledged that there are studies which might suggest a relationship between abortion and breast cancer, but borrowed from the NCI in stating the evidence is “inconsistent” and does not prove a direct link between the two. “One thing is clear from the experts, and that is
that there are inconsistencies. The issue seems to be in a state of flux,” he said.
“With Judge McGuire, it should have been apparent to him that if there is any doubt — any doubt — you err on the side of caution. Women’s lives are at risk,” Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer told WorldNetDaily.
“[Judge McGuire] sacrificed a women’s right to informed consent and there may be women who die because of his decision,” Malec continued, “He has a very heavy burden to bear.”
“To assert there is no evidence is absolutely absurd, and the defendant’s brochure which claims this is false,” attorney Kindley told WorldNetDaily. “Even the judge acknowledged there is some evidence.”
Kindley’s expert witness, Joel Brind, Ph.D., professor of Endocrinology in the Department of Natural Sciences at Baruch
College of the City University of New York, testified that 28 of 37 studies done worldwide show a positive association between induced abortion and breast cancer, and 17 of the 28 are statistically significant, which means there’s a 95 percent certainty that the association is not by chance.
According to Brind, the association lies in a woman’s hormones. Specifically, 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.
Julie Palmer, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health testified as an expert witness for the clinic. Palmer said she does not believe there is evidence of a direct link between abortion and breast cancer, although there are studies that have provided support for a relationship between the two. Palmer stressed none of the studies are conclusive.
Kindley contends the judge “misapprehended the central facts” of the Fargo case and was “overly impressed with the major cancer institutes’ de-emphasizing the evidence.” Noting that the defendant’s expert witnesses, including Palmer, receive
grants from the National Cancer Institute for their research, Kindley explains, “Scientists who depend on NCI and other institutes for their
research might be expected to toe the party line.”
Malec implicates the NCI, itself, in a “cover-up” of evidence supporting an abortion-breast cancer link and is suspicious about the timing of the NCI’s release of a revised fact sheet only days before the start of the Fargo trial.
“The NCI is conducting a shameless campaign to conceal the truth about research paid for by U.S. taxpayers,” she says. Malec is not alone. In 1998, the NCI was denounced by a physician, Congressman Tom Coburn, who asserted that the agency had deceived the public about the research associating abortion with breast cancer and that its fact sheet was ‘not scientifically driven, on this issue, but is more politically driven. …’ And California obstetrician-gynecologist, Frank Joseph, concludes, “For the NCI to ignore certain studies that have found that abortions do increase the risk of breast cancer, just to suit their political agenda is reprehensible.”
The latest fact sheet says, in part, “The current body of scientific evidence suggests that women who have had either induced or spontaneous abortions have the same risk as other women for developing breast cancer. Until the mid-1990s, results from studies of breast cancer and induced or spontaneous abortion were inconsistent. Some investigators reported an
increase in risk, typically from interview studies of several hundred breast cancer patients compared to other women. Other studies found no evidence of increased risk.”
The fact sheet cites several shortcomings, such as problems with small numbers of women and questions of comparability between patients and healthy women, which it alleges are inherent in the studies implicating abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer. Dr. Brind remarked, “Ironically, the same studies that the NCI depends upon as primary evidence for
its claim that abortion does not elevate a woman’s risk of breast cancer are also the studies which embody those very
“The NCI depends on Congress for its budget and must be careful not to antagonize the powers-that-be whose hands are in the pockets of the billion-dollar abortion industry,” says Malec, “that this new fact sheet was produced just in time for the
false advertising lawsuit [against the Fargo clinic] … creates the appearance of collusion between the abortion industry and the NCI.”
Bovard tells WorldNetDaily the clinic is considering updating its brochure to include the statement from the most recent NCI fact sheet. Bovard maintains the clinic is fulfilling its full obligation to women regardless.
The Fargo trial, the first of its kind, was widely watched by groups nationwide, according to the Forum, ranging from Planned Parenthood in New York and the National Abortion Rights Action League in Washington, D.C., to Concerned Women for America, also of Washington, the Life Legal Defense Fund and Focus on the Family.
Kindley plans to appeal the verdict to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
“It is clear there is controversy over whether there is a direct causal relationship between abortion and breast cancer, and there probably will never be consensus on that. But there is very good reason to believe a link exists even in the absence of a direct causal relationship.”
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