By Ed Cara
Those lies become righteous and just, so long as they sway non-believers onto your side. It’s not about being fair or impartial, it’s about convincing everyone else that your camp alone have the answer, and what’s a little white lie between you and your creator to accomplish all that? Take, for instance, the lie that abortions cause breast cancer.
In an article for UK publication the Catholic Herald Monday, Francis Phillips decided to resurrect an old anti-abortion canard, and prop up a recent paper by Angela Lanfranchi, MD and President of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, as proof positive of the dangers of abortion to the breasts of women everywhere!
Leaving aside Lanfranchi’s strong ties and long history with the anti-abortion movement, the paper itself, a review of other studies looking at a link between cancer and abortion, reads like a How-To guide on cherry-picking enough half-truths in order to prove anything you’d like. Dramatically stating the significant dangers of abortion in its opening, the best evidence Lanfranchi puts forth are convoluted arguments weakly connected to abortion at best, and disingenuous drivel a first year biology student could pick apart the other 99% of the time.
The main whopper focuses around the very true fact that the longer a women goes without a pregnancy, the greater her chances of developing a certain type of breast cancer, hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, increase. Likewise the more pregnancies she has, the less incidence of that type of breast cancer. It all ties back to estrogen, which women are bombarded with once they start menstruating, and the temporary protection from estrogen that comes with a full-term pregnancy and breastfeeding, another possible factor. There’s also certain cells in the mammary duct that become, for lack of a better word, hardier against mutation as they get suited up for milk production.
From there, Lanfranchi makes the argument that since being pregnant offers a certain protection from some forms of cancers, abortions must greatly increase the risk. A statement that doesn’t make sense even without taking any bit of science into it. Let’s say pregnancy is indeed a positive when it comes to warding off cancer, and not getting pregnant, or getting pregnant later in life, leaves you more susceptible to it; it’s not the act of abortion itself that would lead you down the cancer path, it’s getting pregnant or not. Abortions, surprising as it might be, are not vasectomies, there’s nothing about them that prevents a women from getting pregnant eventually later on, whenever they’d like to, if they’d like to (almost as if they were fully autonomous people capable of their own decisions!). Course, let’s not mention that 61% of women, least in the US, have already had a child before their first abortion, so even if there was an abortion effect to the pregnancy effect, they’d usually cancel out.
Now, granted, Lanfranchi’s paper centers more around the idea that abortions lead to cancer because up to a certain point of pregnancy, 32 weeks, the protective effect isn’t seen, and by inducing abortion anytime before then, you instead leave the women with a higher risk of cancer later on. Even forgetting that most women typically abort only a few weeks into a pregnancy, so a carcinogenic effect would be slim to begin with, it’s not a totally implausible possibility and worth checking out. So what does the actual research say?
Well while Lanfranchi goes to great lengths in highlighting early studies from decades ago showing a loose connection between the two, it’s those same studies that are suspiciously small, vague and not all that conclusive. Even later studies fail to show much other than some subtle statistical massaging and overstated conclusions. The real death knell though comes from the studies she tries to brush aside or call out, ie: the more recent, larger and better designed (less memory bias for example) ones which thoroughly stamp out the likelihood of an abortion effect. Strange as it seems, the better studies happen to be the ones that know-nothing organizations like the National Cancer Institute have relied on in determining whether or not there’s any link, declaring in no uncertain terms that:
- Women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women.
- Women who have had a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) have the same risk of breast cancer as other women.
- Cancers other than breast cancer also appear to be unrelated to a history of induced or spontaneous abortion.
Not that’s stopped anyone from repeating the same old debunked “facts” time and time again.
The problem with Lanfranchi, and for that matter Phillips, is the complete willingness to ignore and deny the mountain of evidence against their claims when crowing about the dangers to abortion to women. MD or not, Lanfranchi isn’t interested in protecting women, she’s interested in scaring them into belief. Abortions are fundamentally evil as everyone should know, so it doesn’t matter if she has to exaggerate or make things up to convince everyone else of that, it’s the right thing to do. Better yet, it’s the Christian thing to do.
There’s something telling about the antics of Phillips and Lanfranchi, leeching onto the authority of science in hopes of tricking enough young women into being too scared to make up their own mind. The minute you take off the lab coat and show them for the moral bullies they are, the minute they’re exposed as controlling, deceptive and misogynistic idiots who couldn’t give two shits about the concerns of anyone who isn’t them. And they know that. That’s why they try so hard to play the science card, because it’s the opposite side of the coin.
It’s scary to watch Phillips so consolingly assure her readers just how much she’s looking out for her fellow women in need. It’s dripping in worry, right up until she drops in the real point of her screed:
(T)he sadly high rates of breast cancer would drop significantly – if there were fewer induced abortions.
Those damn abortions, ruining societies one breast at a time. Am I right, ladies?
It’s not just those grubby doctors eager to suck the sweet sweet abortion teat that women have to worry about either, as Phillips eagerly points out. There’s also childlessness, which as mentioned before does increase the risk from one sort of breast cancer, but considering the entire tone of the piece, comes off as an admonishment of women not performing their good wifely duty and birthing them babies. There’s this sickening feeling that Phillips and company would be totally okay if abortions really did cause breast cancer, because at that point, the slutty slut sluts deserved it. It’s only if they heed their sound advice, turn away from sin and give birth as God intended, that they’ll be spared from his just punishment. It comes off less like concern and more like someone trying to score brownie points when you think about it like that, doesn’t it?
Sadly the scare campaign of those like Phillips remains alive and well in the States, as so-called crisis pregnancy centers run by religious groups do their best to mislead young pregnant women who ostensibly believe they’re there to be counseled on their best available options, but instead receive the very latest in anti-abortion and religious propaganda, including Lanfranchi’s discredited cancer lie. Ooh, and the best part? They’re of course often laden with state funds. Real nice separation of church and state there, guys.
That all aside, even if there was a proven link between abortion and cancer, it still wouldn’t justify the draconian attempts by the pro-life movement to roll back women’s rights about 100 years. It would be something to take into account when making that decision, but that’s all. Life’s choices, as well we know, carry with them risks and benefits. Some will harm more than help, others vice-versa, and then there’s the tougher ones, the ones we might be afraid to speak about frankly, but ultimately prove to be a necessary choice to have on the table. Some choices need to exist, because otherwise we all suffer. That’s something people like Francis Phillips and Angela Lanfranchi will never understand; they’re not interested in the best choice, they’re interested in making sure the only choice anyone has is the one they want, no matter how many lies they have to come up with to ensure that.
And that’s about as poisonous a cancer as any out there.