A game-changer on abortion & breast cancer? You make the call - Macleans.ca

A game-changer on abortion & breast cancer? You make the call


The long-standing controversy over the link between therapeutic abortion and breast cancer found its way onto unexpected territory—the Globe and Mail website—on Friday. The pro-life movement has long been quarrying the epidemiological literature for the smoking gun of what it calls “ABC“. This is what pro-lifers ask Santa for Christmas, or wish for when they see a falling star: that abortion will turn out to carry previously unsuspected harms which might become the pretext for outlawing it completely, for imposing severe restrictions on it, or, at the very least, for stigmatizing it like tobacco and allowing clients to receive a scary mandatory lecture on cancer risk in the name of informed consent.

Thus far, science hasn’t been much help to them. ABC is a tricky topic because there are confounders in the picture: in general, spending less time pregnant (and more time menstruating) gives women a slightly greater lifetime risk of breast cancer. Abortion probably does increase breast cancer risk insofar as it eliminates one pregnancy—just as being able to drive increases one’s risk of ending up with shards of windshield glass under one’s eyelids.

Whether abortion imposes a distinct burden of cancer risk is another question, one much harder to answer. Occasionally a study will turn up that suggests it might. And that’s what has happened now. Gloria Galloway writes:

Three years ago, [Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott] helped to bring an American doctor and activist to Parliament Hill to tell Canadian women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. It turned out that the doctor, Angela Lanfranchi, was speaking from a defined religious point of view that had little apparent basis in science.

And, at the time, the link between the procedure and the disease had been discounted by the National Cancer Institute in the United States, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (and their U.S. counterparts), as well as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.

But a study released last fall (available here but only for a fee) by the respected Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle by a number of distinguished cancer experts including Louise Brinton, the chief of the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, lists induced abortion as being “associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.” Background documents further suggest that it increases the risk of the disease by 40 per cent.

An e-mail to Dr. Brinton on Friday was returned by an Institute spokesman named Michael Miller who said: “NCI has no comment on this study. Our statement and other information on this issue can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/ere.” …Requests for an explanation of the apparent discrepancy between that position and the information contained in the study released last spring went unanswered by NCI.

I visited the library to double-check whether Galloway had characterized the study’s findings correctly. The data behind the study come from a breast-cancer surveillance project in the Seattle area that included interviews with 897 women who had suffered invasive breast cancers before the age of 45. Here’s the part that’s the cause of all the excitement—a line in a table of odds ratios for “known and suspected risk factors among women 45 years of age and younger”:

Odds-ratio table from "Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women Under the Age of 45 Years"The odds ratios were derived by adjusting for age, family history of breast cancer, lactation history, and duration of oral contraceptive use: the double dagger indicates that only women who had been pregnant at least once were included in the “never” row under the “Abortion” heading, so the statistically significant 40% apparent increase in background risk actually leaves never-pregnant women out of the background completely. This is notable, especially given that the study is population-based (the authors boast that it is the “largest of its kind”; their goal was not just to measure breast-cancer risk but to differentiate between etiologic subtypes of breast cancer).

On the other hand, it’s not that notable. If you look at the raw numbers, you’ll see that the randomized control group of 1,569 Seattle-area women with no history of breast cancer broke down between “Never [had an abortion] and “Ever” pretty much the same way that the breast-cancer victims did. Most of the “40%” extra risk, in other words, is the product of statistical adjustments, and may, in part, be attributable to confounding variables that weren’t controlled for. Income wasn’t controlled for, and as you can see in the table itself, it might make a difference; neither was obesity. And 40% is not a big number in epidemiology. In general researchers don’t get worked up about an odds ratio until it is at least 2.0, and it is seen over and over again in multiple studies.

Galloway is, frankly, not being careful enough when she describes the study as implying that abortion “increases the risk of the disease by 40 per cent.” This study is strictly about breast cancer in women under 45—a small fraction of all breast-cancer cases (though, to be sure, it is a fraction that is of special concern). In no way can it provide justification for any statement about overall lifetime breast-cancer risk.

Moreover, there is really no “discrepancy” between the NCI’s stated position on ABC and this particular study. Here’s what the NCI says officially:

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.

Although the new Seattle study is large and features randomized controls, it too is a retrospective, questionnaire-based study, reliant on self-reporting; it does not meet the gold standard for epidemiological evidence. The NCI has no reason I can see to change, or apologize for, its position.


A game-changer on abortion & breast cancer? You make the call

  1. that abortion will turn out to carry previously unsuspected harms

    Hasn't it always been suspected that abortions cause unimaginable and irreversible harm to the unborn child?

    • How can you insult our troops that way. You sicken me.

      • I get the whole "humour through repetition" thing, but at some point you're going to have to quit while you're ahead.

        • lol, he's been ahead?

  2. hmm

    need to think

    got a light?

  3. I wish more journalists who write about such things could be as scientifically literate.

    • Except for misusing the word "randomized," I agree.

    • Agreed. Long may Cosh flourish. More importantly, may his tribe increase.

      Journalism schools: if you don't require a statistics course for graduation, shame on you. And I mean a course that makes an intellectual difference in the students, not some token, math-appreciation, one-semester, take-home-final piece of fluff.

      Come to think of it, I have a lot of demands for J schools. Never mind.

  4. I'm guessing that there's a lot more than six degrees of separation between us along the line of the pro-lifers we know, Colby.

  5. This reminds me of a debate I ran across once regarding a condition that some label "Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome". Some hold the view (apparently backed up by some studies, but I don't know how credible they are) that there's a discernible pattern among women who have had abortions to exhibit/suffer symptoms of PASS. A bit like post-traumatic stress disorder. Not entirely implausible, given that getting pregnant and having an abortion are, umm, kind of big deals in a woman's life. The problem I saw when I read some of the literature was that the incredible polarization inherent in the abortion debate makes it almost impossible to carry out and (especially) disseminate good, objective, reliable research on possible adverse health effects among women. Both sides take these absolutist positions from which they refuse to budge one milliter — the pro-lifers that it's horrible for your health etc, the pro-choicers that you can have as many abortions as you want with no adverse effects whatsoever. Full disclosure btw: I'm emphatically pro-choice.

    • Well, the primary argument from pro-lifers is that abortion is horrible to the life of the unborn child. After all, we were all at that stage in life, weren't we?

      In my view, health effects to the women are important, but not the primary issue. After all, if this were really only about women, then there would be no debate. It would truly be a matter of personal choice with no other lives involved.

      Full disclosure: I'm pro-choice, too. I believe that reproductive choices should be made by both men and women BEFORE pregnancy, not DURING.

      I know I've jumped into the broader debate about abortion, but I did that because of Cosh's rather unkind characterization of pro-lifers, and because, as I mentioned, the blog's specific topic is a bit of a distraction. The status of the unborn is what the debate is ultimately about, and what most people want to sidestep.

      • Wow! When you put it that way it seems…even dumber.

      • It is a futile debate, as neither of our positions will change.

        I'm good for a job or 2 jab thou… until the rhetoric overheats

        If you are only in favour of "choice" before conception, then would you like to handcuff the man to the woman afterwards, or would mandatory marriage be acceptable?

        • You're going to have to go slower on that bizarre question. Sorry.

          • Fair enough, it's a pretty bad run on (was tired in my defence)

            Do you believe that a man should be able to walk away from a pregnacy with no adverse effects, while a woman must remain a prisoner of her biology, and be forced to carry to term?
            (back alley abortions not-withstanding)

            While we are at it:
            Do you think that any law could ever be passed that would make abortions go away?
            What might the consequences of such a law be?

            I'd also recommend that you look into the countries which allow medically safe abortions, vs. those which do not. It will give you a good perspective on what kind of country you are trying to create, and what company your thinking keeps.

          • Do you believe that a man should be able to walk away from a pregnacy with no adverse effects, while a woman must remain a prisoner of her biology, and be forced to carry to term?

            It's still an odd way to characterize reproductive choices.

            If no one wants a baby, then you conduct yourself accordingly. Despite the rather odd term of "safe sex", all sexual activity comes with risk. You want no risk, you abstain. You want very little risk, you engage in birth control, and probably with someone who you'd want a baby with anyhow, like a spouse.

            In current society, we seen to think we have a right to sex, but without the responsibilities that come with reproductive behaviour. Ultimately, we think we can abort away any "mishaps".

            I don't see why the baby should get punished for irresponsible behavior of others — both men and women.

            You're talking about forcing a woman to term but, with the very rare exception of rape, who's forcing the woman to get pregnant?

          • I forgot your other points.

            Do you think that any law could ever be passed that would make abortions go away?
            What might the consequences of such a law be?

            The first question is easy to swat away. Have we ever passed a law that has made murder, theft, child rape, etc go away. No, but we pass such laws in the pursuit of a just society.

            The second question has obviously always been more problematic. You obviously go after the Dr. Death who performed the abortion. Do you punish the woman? I think you probably have to. But I've also felt that maybe you should also punish the father of the child, too. They're responsible for creating the baby, they should also be responsible for what happens to it. Reproductive acts should come with responsibilities for both women and men.

            I'd also recommend that you look into the countries which allow medically safe abortions, vs. those which do not. It will give you a good perspective on what kind of country you are trying to create, and what company your thinking keeps.

            Medically safe abortions. I honestly don't understand that term. How in the world is abortion medically safe for the unborn child? It's like describing capital punishment as medically safe. Once I started rethinking my views of abortion, I couldn't get over some of the terminology that its defender keep using. It's truly Orwellian.

            As for the kinds of societies we have, or company I keep, I'll point to the 100,000 fetuses snuffed each year, and you tell me just how in the world a civilized society tolerates such a situation, or if that reflects the kind of company you keep. Thanks.

          • I see the problem in your thinking.

            You consider a fetus to be a "baby". A baby is quite different from a fetus, in the same way a baby chicken is different from an egg.

            Do you consdier embryos fertillized inside a petri dish to be "babies"?
            Do these embryos have the same right as babies?

            "Medically safe" of course refers to the woman's health.
            Something you don't seem to want to consider.

            That you could be so obtuse as to say that "medically safe abortions" is Orwellian, and then compare it to capital punishment, shows that you are a man who has no concern for that thinking, feeling woman.

            You are far more concerned with a fetus that has never had any thoughts, feelings, or memories.

            Also what about those cases of rape you mentioned?
            Surely the fetues shouldn't be punished for the crimes of some rapist?
            It must be the woman we should punish, by forcing her to carry it to term, right?

          • 1. It is considered a human being because it is a living organism of the same species as homo sapiens.
            2. No, it is similar to the fertilized egg of a chicken.
            3. Yes, embryos fertilized in a petri dish are of the species homo sapiens.
            4. Not legally, but we’d like to change that so that living homo sapiens have the right to life from conception to natural death.
            5. Rape is a tragedy. The untimely death of a human life is a greater one. We just have a difference of opinion on the value of a human life.
            6. It would be better if they weren’t punished for the crimes of their father.
            7. It is hardly a punishment, but result of conception through violence.

            On the subject of medically necessary abortions, I can state with absolute assurance that if abortions were done solely for reasons of medical necessity rather than expedience or eugenics, the opposition would be largely confined to a dispute about what constitutes medical necessity and what measures are acceptable in saving the life of the mother and/or the unborn child. Abortion would not be a lightning rod of galvanized pubic opposition from half the populace.

            On the subject of violent or abusive acts of sex which results in conception, nobody is disputing that it is a painful and psychologically stressful event Where we dispute is that existence of a new human life is a tragedy due to the circumstances. Nor do we think that offering up that fetus for death offers any healing for the mother. Finally, (and again) if it was simply a matter of abortions being done for reasons of conceptions resulting from sexual violence, there wouldn’t be as much opposition of abortion from half the populace.

            More to the point though, I am of the opinion that the primary difference between those who support abortion and those who oppose it are divided by one fundamental belief about human nature. Those who oppose abortion believe that you lose an individual, whose value is unique and the loss a tragedy. Those who support abortion believe that this human being’s loss is irrelevant because he is largely interchangeable in his contributions to humanity as the thousands of other children born that day.

          • I never said that an embro wasn't human.

            Anyway, good luck convincing people to take your views on abortions in cases of rape, or incest.

            You will not be sucessful with me.

          • If the embryo is human, then why does it have no rights, while pets and animals do, for example?

            In cases of rape or incest, let the perpetrators rot in jail and throw away the key, but don't kill the innocent baby — who we were all like at once. One horror shouldn't lead to an ever greater horror. But, of course, you think human life at conception is akin to a lab rat, the latter which happens to have more rights, too.

          • People put down their pets, and animals every day.

            You should join PETA if this concerns you, I think you'd fit right in.

          • They have rights. According to you, we shouldn't until the second we're out of the womb, and all in the name of rights for one sex only. Fascinating.

            But you go ahead and keep resenting people who disagree with you on the issue. It does much to enhance my arguments.

          • Spot on job of not misrepresenting my views:

            "They have rights. According to you, we shouldn't until the second we're out of the womb, and all in the name of rights for one sex only."

            my earier post:

            "If you had started with a reasoned debate about what restrictions might be placed on 3rd trimester abortions, I would have been be more then willing.(I think there should be some restictions)"

            My later post that you chose to misrepresent:

            "If the choice is between keeping the current laws, or allowing zealots like yourself to write new ones, then damn right I'm for keeping the current ones."

            As is plainly evident to any resonable, fair-minded person, I was saying that I would rather keep the current laws rather then let you write new ones.

            Your dishonesty is out there for all to see.

            BTW a zealot is an uncomprimising person. Is that a perjorative to you on this issue?

            I thought you were proud of how uneqivacal, and uncompromising you are on this issue.

          • Well, it's been my experience that pro-abortion fanatics like you like to throw bones like "oh, maybe we can do something for the thing fetus in the third trimester to hide our extremism" without ever meaning it.

            So, if you're truly serious about curtailing abortion rights, and giving rights to the unborn, why stop at the third trimester? Please tell us precisely what your compromise position on abortion is. Or, as I suspect, was it thrown bone?

            As for your definition of zealot, are you willing to compromise on the principle that all people are entitled to freedom of religion? And, if you're not willing to compromise on that position, does that make you a zealot?

            Man, I'm having some fun here. lol

          • Whoppsie.. the cats head is appearing out of the bag there.

            I won't misrepresent what you said there, but even mentioning freedom of religion sets off alarm bells in this debate.

            Do you believe in the freedom from religion.

            Canada is not a Theocracy.
            It's public policy is not founded on anyones religion.

            I suspect that religion plays a large role in your position on this issue.
            Thats fine for you, but no pushing it on others… We push back.

            As for your other question "why stop at the third trimester?".

            Well why stop at conception?
            Why not put men in jail for mastubating.

            The horror of the mass murder of all those potential embryos keeps me up at night.

            The fun never stops.

          • Oh boy, your complete inability to defend your position thoughtfully and thoroughly has been finally exposed.

            Again, do you believe that there are exceptions to freedom of religion? If you do not, are you a zealot? I guess your failure to answer is answer enough.

            I suspect your hatred of religion influences your position. If it doesn, who cares? I care about the facts. You obviously don't, and so you bring religion into it.

            How about answering the question about the third trimester? Oh yeah, it was insincere, just as I thought. You'd rather support what you consider one extreme versus the other.

            I stop at conception because, as even a child with some knowledge of biology knows, that's when human life begins.

            My God, this is why we're supporting the killing of the unborn, is it? Wow.

          • I'd like to keep the reply threads separate please, since there may not be room for me to get the last word with Dennis F…. as I love to do :)

            I am not of the opinion that the fundamental divide is as you descibe:

            "Those who support abortion believe that this human being's loss is irrelevant because he is largely interchangeable in his contributions to humanity as the thousands of other children born that day."

            This is classic strawman, as I view abortion as a public policy and human health issue, not a battle between the forces of collectivism vs. individual rights.

            I see why you would want to frame the debate that way, and I could rejoin with the idea that forcing ones morality onto another persons body (or womb), is the worst kind of collectivist thinking.
            If your arguements are persuasive, and the morality so clear,you should be able to eliminate all abortions by the high-mindness of your position.

            Trying to impose legislation restricting abortion is increasing the suffering, and taking rights away from true individuals, not embros.

          • Regarding a fetus as baby. It's fascinating to see how abortion defenders want to take the life of the fetus as far back to conception as possible, when it least resembles a person.

            First, what about the fetus one week before birth? It's almost identical to a newborn child. What about that example?

            Second, we all existed from conception. And you're saying that, at that stage in our lives, we had absolutely no protections or rights.

            Regarding medical safety, you must not be reading my posts, since I've emphasized a couple of times that it's important, but not the most important issue regarding abortion, which is the rights of the unborn. Why don't they have any?

            Regarding thoughts, feeling, and memories, do newborns have any? Does a mentally handicapped person, or someone in a coma have any, and do we strip them of all rights as a result?

            Regarding rape, I agree with TedTylerEzro. This is an extremely difficult issue. However, these incidents are rare, so much so that I think it is almost a separate debate within the larger debate. The unborn child didn't commit the crime, so why should it face the ultimate punishment? And, if you think rape is an extraordinary circumstance where abortion is justified, would you then concede that it's not justified when the sex was consensual, which it is about 99% of the time?

            Every support in the world should be provided to rape victims, including dealing with the remote possibility of pregnancy. Furthermore, the rapist should experience the severest of crimes, and also loses any rights at all in relation to the baby. That's brief, but enough for now.

            I hope I've addressed the numerous problems in your thinking. Thanks.

          • The difference between us is that I can see the difference between a 1 week old embryo, and a fetus that is one week form being born.

            If you had started with a reasoned debate about what restrictions might be placed on 3rd trimester abortions, I would have been be more then willing.(I think there should be some restictions)

            Since your position is on the extreme (banning all abortions, regardless of fetal development or circumstance), I don't relly see the point in debating the morality of late-term abortions with you.

            I like how you danced around the rape, and embro in petri dish issues too.
            Very entertaining. Thanks

          • Oh, everyone agrees that there is a difference between a 1 week old fetus and an infant that has been born.

            Where we disagree is whether people have a right to life simply by virtue of being an individual human. As per my last paragraph in my post, that is where the division in society lies.

            When an abortion occurs are we losing a unique individual person, or are we losing an irrelevant organism that is interchangeable with the thousands of human beings born every day.

            Obviously, one’s answer to this question will determine the answer to this next question. Is the temporary discomfort and emotional upheaval of carrying a child to term worth its life?

          • I can tell the difference between a one week old child and a 100 year old man, too. Does that mean they have different rights? Your inability to formulate logical arguments is starting to get tiresome.

            So, you're the one who gets to decide what is and what isn't a reasoned debate, are you? And one can only have a reasoned debate abortion if one's willing to discuss the third trimester. Again, another fascinating exercise in logic and reasoning.

            My experience has been that abortion supporters generally talk about making exceptions late in the pregnancy, because they know the practice makes their positions look extreme, but they care absolutely zilch about doing something about it. You'd be fine with keeping absolute abortion rights on the books, you know it, and you know it's extreme.

            I don't understand why you're so against protecting innocent human life no matter what stage it's at? Why not advocate choice before pregnancy, and life after pregnancy. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

            I didn't dance around rape, you just refuse to acknowledge reason when it contradicts your views. Sounds pretty extremist to me.

            Petri dish. You and I could have fit in a petri dish at one point, and you say it's perfectly fine to have us snuffed then, even though we didn't do anything wrong.

            This has been entertaining, and enlightening. Thanks.

          • If the choice is between keeping the current laws, or allowing zealots like yourself to write new ones, then damn right I'm for keeping the current ones.

            You do your side no good by being flippant, condecending, and unequivical.

            If the morality of abortion is as without nuance as you try to represent, then you should have no trouble getting people to support the draconian policy measures you suggest.

            Good luck with that.

            Purposely misrepresenting, and misunderstanding everything I say has indeed made you tiresome.

            No more. Thanks.

          • Ah, I knew that you would resort to name-calling at one point or another. And here we are. Yes, you have no problem with the killing of human life from conception to birth, and at least it's out in full view.

            I'll take these personal attacks against me as proof that you have an extremely difficult time of defending the act of abortion with civility and reason.

            I didn't say abortion morality is without nuance. The right to life, however, shouldn't be. Why would it be?

            The right to life is draconian, but abortion is enlightened, is it?

            I never misrepresent one word of my opponents. I don't have to. I just love to expose the emotionalism and mean-spiritedness behind it all.

            Yes, you can no more defend the indefensible. Thanks.

          • Quick defense of abortion rights from a utilitarian perspective.

            One woman dying on a coat-hanger represents more suffering then all of the embryos ever aborted.

            Your laws would increase the suffering in the world, and be a cause of women dying in unspeakable, horrible, humiliating ways.

            You seem to be able to feel great empathy for beings without thought or suffering, but not very much for the pregnant teen-ager.

            The moral high horse will never belong to those who advocate for laws that increase suffering.

            Teach your own children what you will, dictate to them as you like.
            Keep your hands, and laws, off of mine.

          • Who's forcing a coat-hanger on anyone? My God.

            Why do you want teenagers to get pregnant, then kill the unborn kid?

            I don't want them getting pregnant. I don't want them engaging in acts that make them pregnant. And, if somehow they get pregnant, I don't want the unborn child snuffed like you do.

            Man, what kind of things do you support?

          • So you don't think that the laws you propose would cause anyone to take abortion into their own hands, and die trying?

            This shows a remarkable ignorance of the history of abortion law.

            You obviously cannot summon any empathy for those "kind of women"
            (they made their bed, etc.)

            You don't want teenagers having sex, so of course they never will,

            What we want, and reality are often two different things.

            I know that I don't support people legislating their morality on others.
            Your only arguement has been the moral arguement.

            There is not any indication that you care about good public policy, the health of women, or the concequences of the laws you advocate.

            You cannot take on the utilitarian moral arguement, so you avoid it.

            Do you agree with my statement?:

            "One woman dying on a coat-hanger represents more suffering then all of the embryos ever aborted."

            If so, then you should probably re-evaluate if you do indeed have the moral high-ground.

            If you can refute that statement, feel free.

          • People do criminal acts all the time. Does that mean we decriminalize all such acts? Of course not. Geez.

            Who says I don't summon up any empathy for people. Just because I dare disagree with you on this issue? And you have the gall to call me the zealot?

            Where's you're empathy for the unborn child, even in the third trimester? You have no problem seeing it on the lab floor. Doesn't that make you an unfeeling monster?

            I don't think we should encourage teenage sex. For a long time, we didn't. However, of course teenagers will get pregnant, but I don't think killing the unborn child is the answer.

            I mean, do you want teenagers to have as much sex as possible, then simply abort the mistakes? Again, it wasn't always like this. Responsibility mattered.

            Yet again, you engage in circular reason. Your views are good public policy because you agree with them, mine aren't because you hate them.

            How is 100,000 abortions in Canada ever year good public policy?

            Your statement: "One woman dying on a coat-hanger represents more suffering then all of the embryos ever aborted."

            a) How in the world would you know that?

            b) I told you I'm against coat hangers.

            c) You can choose to use the "utlitarian" argument all you want. Why does that make it the correct one? Is it because Dictator AJR9 says so? Hey, that's an argument.

            You have yet to maintain one consistent argument in this thread. Does that make you a desperate zealot who supports abortion no matter what? I'll let others decide that.

          • I'm putting forward many arguements, because my side has many.

            As you can see from this article yor side is trying to grasp at any arguement, true or not.

            That shows the weakness of your case. The fact that I don't always have to resort to a default position such as, "embryos are human life, and ending human life is always wrong."

            This arguement is so powerful that you will no doubt soon convince the majority of Canadians… Just keep using it over and over.

            Then we can get on with the rest of the agenda.
            Who's up for outlawing teen sex altogether?
            Abstainance only anyone?
            (This one has been show to be particularly disasterous public policy)

            You havn't given any reason why aborting 100 000 fetus' a year is not good public policy.
            There are many good hisorical examples of why it is.

          • You're not putting forward one argument that you're consistently defending. You put forth curtailing abortions during third trimester, then backtracked. You put forth a "utilitarian"argument as though that in and of itself sufficed, although it clearly doesn't.

            I think many Canadians have far more problems with abortion than you do, which is why you tried to deceive us with the third trimester nonsense.

            Regarding teenagers. They can't vote. They can't drink. They can't serve in the armed forces. But they can engage in reproductive choices?

            I'm saying that we've gotten to a crazy place, and it's in part due to ideologues such as yourself.

            The destruction of 100,000 human lives, which is what you admitted they are, is somehow a good public policy? Whaa????

            And you have yet to cite any historical examples of why it is good public policy, other than to engage in the same tired rhetoric about coat hangers and such.

            I believe that women and men should have choice. I believe that this choice should be exercised before pregnancy. I believe that unwanted pregnancies are tragic, particularly in the case of rape, but that abortion shouldn't be the answer in a civilized society. I don't see the extremism in any of this. But someone like you does, will continue to do so, and berate anyone who dare challenge your ideology.

          • Ask and ye shall recieve:


            From the article:
            "According to WHO and Guttmacher, approximately 68,000 women die annually as a result of complications of unsafe abortion; and between two million and seven million women each year survive unsafe abortion but sustain long-term damage or disease (incomplete abortion, infection (sepsis), haemorrhage, and injury to the internal organs, such as puncturing or tearing of the uterus). They also concluded abortion is safe in countries where it's legal, but dangerous in countries where it's outlawed and performed clandestinely."

          • OK, so you've discarded yet a few more arguments in favour of the killing fields scenario. Interesting.

            I don't have nearly enough knowledge on the statistics to place those numbers in any context. Not sure you do either.

            Nevertheless, illegal activity of any sort is associated with risk. Drugs, organized crime, you name it.

            To take an extreme example, bank robberies put the life of the bank robber at risk. Should we make it legal so that they don't get hurt?

            My preference is to grant rights to all unborn children, and encourage policies to that end. Social policies. Educational policies, laws, and so on.

            That people will still do it, and suffer as a result, is an inevitable consequence of most laws. It's part of the point.

            But, in the case of abortion, the point is to protect the unborn, who you don't think need any protection. You liken the unborn to ants in a petry dish, instead of human beings.

            Getting it right can be tough. It doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Indeed, aborting our mistakes seems to be the all to easy answer.

          • I have many arguement to "discard".

            You seem to have little other then your one opinion on the morality of terminating embros.

            Not sure what the killing fields thing refers to, but if it has anything to do with pointing out the harm caused by abortion laws which are too restrictive, then that is exactly what I have done.

            Pretending you don't understand the context of 68,000 dead women, won't change the fact that it happens.

            You advocate for laws that will protect embros, but do great harm to women in the process, all in the name of your personnel, moral opinion.

            Just to be clear.
            I feel strongly for your right to be as against abortion in your own life, and you can advocate for whatever laws you like.

            But when you bring those opinions into the realm of public disscussion, it would be best if you had more then things like:

            This is my opinion and, It's right.
            Why don't you agree with it?
            Why do you want to kill babies?

            This is a weak-sauce line of arguement.

            I like my debates with some meat on the bone.

            Some evidence that restrictive abortion laws are not harmful to women would be a good start.

          • You caught me.

            I'm a monstrous dictator who wants to impose my morality on everyone else.

            I love telling people what they should be doing with their bodies, and wombs.
            Passing laws which suit my morals is my dream.

            I encourage all teenagers to have as much sex as possible, and want them to be as irresponsible as possible.

            Seriously thou, you can be as against coat-hangers, and teen sex all you want.

            It does not change the realities of the society we live in, or the hisorical inadaquices of laws restricting all abortions.

            In short, you live in a dream world, and wish to form public policy based solely on your single moral viewpoint.

            You have no other coherent arguement, and have not attempted to make any.

            The fact that you point out that I have many reasons for being pro-choice with derision, speaks volumes about your derth of real, critical thought on the issue.

          • Who in the world is telling anyone what they should do with their bodies? It's when the body of the fetus involved. Holy cow.

            You indeed support laws that suit your morals. Everyone does. Or are you support theft?

            The realities of the society we live in. Slavery was a reality once. We should have lived with it? It's not an argument.

            I have a completely coherent argument, and stated it once again in the last post. Choice before pregnancy. No punishing of the unborn child.

            It's you who have yet to propose a coherent alternative. What in the world is it, other than abortion on demand for whatever reason at all, which you tried to hide from us on numerous occasions.

            I've been honest. You haven't.

            I view your arguments with derision, and with ample justification. You can't support them, even though you think abortion is a wonderful right.

          • . . . and the polarized, name-calling pissing match which I predicted has come to pass.

          • Which you just seemed to do. I offered many arguments with reason and logic. AJdude was the one who had to call me a zealot because his own views of abortion on demand, which he was being deceptive about, were clearly being exposed.

            The funny thing about defenders of abortion is that they want to make their points any time they want, but get furious when people defending the rights of the unborn, and criticizing the dark act of killing fetuses, show up and talk back.

          • What you have is an opinion:
            "Choice before pregnancy. No punishing of the unborn child."

            What you have not provided is any reason that this is good for individuals (besides embros), or the public at large.

            Your whole arguement (the only one you seem to have), is based on a tautology that goes like this.

            Embros are human life.
            Ending human life is always morally wrong because… (wait for it)… you think that ending life is always morally wrong.

            Your not exactly dazzling me with the strength of any facts, only your one opinion seems to have any weight at all with you.

            Thou you are not likely to see it this way, I have absolutely crushed you on points in this little debate.

            If little ole me can do it, then I'd love to see you try to convince people in a wider public.

            Your opinions alone do not make for good public policy.

  6. Will somebody at Macleans' teach Cash how to use the jump or continue feature so I don't have to scroll down through all this stuff on the main page?

  7. If I was a woman, I'd celebrate this study with a cheeseburger and a cigar.

  8. They show the odds ratios, but not the controlled odds ratios (as far as I can tell – I realize that they include controls, but I can't see whether the odds ratios were produced while applying controls), which could make this study vulnerable to Simpson's Paradox. Simpson's Paradox is where a marginal association has a different direction from the conditional association. It could happen here because I would guess the abortion variable is strongly related to the age variable (which was the biggest risk factor).

    Somebody who is 44 is more likely to have had an abortion than somebody who is 21, because the first person has had far more time in which to become pregnant (whether on purpose or not) and regret it. If you compared older women that had had abortions to those that had not, I suspect you would have no relationship.

    • The ratios in the OR column are with controls applied. The sample and the controls were also age-matched at the outset of the study. But there could be other sources of Simpsonality.

  9. "theraputic abortion" – WTF?

    theraputic adjective Also, ther⋅a⋅peu⋅ti⋅cal.
    1. of or pertaining to the treating or curing of disease; curative.

    Yikes, that's taking pedophobia to new extremes. Babies as diseases – wow. Just….wow.

    In any case, even using a charitable interpretation of what you are trying to say here, the vast majority of the 40,000 abortions performed annually in Canada have nothing at all to do with saving a mother's life or health. You seriously undermined whatever argument you were trying to make – as well as any credibility you might have had with intelligent readers – by adding the qualifier "theraputic" where it didn't at all belong.

    But then again, it's not exactly a surprise you are a big fan of abortion, eh Cosh? Remember your cheering Morgentaler's Order of Canada with "Viva anarchy!" It's one thing to view abortion as an unfortunate but necessary aspect of our society, as I and other mature and moral adults do, but it's quite another to actively promote, praise, and glorify abortion, as you do, which is well beyond creepy. Abortion does cause serious harm to women – mental and emotional harm. You wonder why your average 30 to 40 year old Canadian woman is batspit crazy? It has a lot to do with the fact that a large percentage of them have had abortions. No need to go searching for a smoking gun, we've already got that.

    • an unfortunate but necessary aspect of our society

      So you're not mature or normal if you don't view abortion as necessary? Odd.

    • Just a point of information from Wikipedia:

      "In the context of human pregnancies, an abortion induced to preserve the health of the gravida (pregnant female) is termed a therapeutic abortion, while an abortion induced for any other reason is termed an elective abortion."

      It would perhaps make more sense then that Cosh is describing that the 'link' suggested by previous studies was specifically dealing with those abortions that were issued for medical reasons.

      As to your insinuation that the "average 30 to 40 year old Canadian woman is batspit crazy" I would suggest that you better have something to back that statement up, lest the mindful reader stop taking you seriously.

      • Yeah, Therapeutic, where's your authority for that assertion? I'd love to see it.

  10. Jeez, I was all excited that there appeared to be a reasoned, intelligent debate about an issue RELATED to abortions and damned if it didn't disintegrate in less than 10 comments. Oh well.

    • Instead of chirping about it, why not try to insert some needed intelligence back into the debate?

    • Candace, I was hoping it wouldn't degenerate into the same ole same ole. But I think abortion and the Israeli-Palestinian issue consistently take the prizes for the issues that cannot be discussed without heading into irrational polarization and name-calling in a matter of minutes (if not faster).

      • a) Cosh in fact engaged in the name-calling by characterizing pro-lifers as asking for Santa Claus or wishing upon a falling star. But I guess you didn't notice that.

        b) I didn't engage in name-calling. I thought I offered serious arguments in support of rights for the unborn child that don't impinge on rights of anyone to make reproductive choices.

        • You completely mischaracterize what Cosh did and said.

          In your case, no, you haven't engaged in name calling at this point. Bully for you. But you have taken a discussion, which started out as a reasoned, dispassionate discussion of the possible adverse health effects of abortion on women, and steered it towards the same ole same ole polarized debate — a discussion of the rights of the unborn. You're like someone grabbing the steering wheel and forcing the car into the ditch.

          • In fact, I repeated his words almost verbatim: "This is what pro-lifers ask Santa for Christmas, or wish for when they see a falling star…"

            I'll agree that I've tried to steer it towards the larger issue of abortion, but so did Cosh when he used the term "game changer", didn't he?

            I guess one of the reasons I did is because I have yet to hear satisfactory responses to some fundamental issues, fundamental issues that I think are more important than statistical data analyses.

            Most questions abortion are answered with slogans such as "women's rights", "coat hangers", "reproductive choice" and so on.

            But I have yet to understand why the unborn don't have rights, and how women and men can't have reproductive choice without taking away those rights.

            Maybe I'm thick. Or maybe there aren't decent answers. I don't know.

            But I think we all agree that it's a terribly important issue, and that there should be answers. Instead, I usually get this shoulder shrugging in response, which I find curious for a right that so many consider so precious. Heck, if I thought something was right and just, I'd never stop defending it. Abortion supporters don't seem so keen. This thread is evidence of that.

  11. It is a futile debate, as neither of our positions will change.

    I'm good for a job or 2 jab thou… until the rhetoric overheats

    If you are only in favour of "choice" before conception, then would you like to handcuff the man to the woman afterwards, or would mandatory marriage be acceptable?

  12. Well, it was funny the first time, even though Feschuk did it better.

    • I must have missed it, and I'm not sorry!

  13. Abortion skips the cancer alltogether for the baby, it just kills him.

    • Have you checked the lost & found?

      • Yes I went there and they told me my name had already been claimed. I said “By whom?”. They said “By you!”.

        • Testing: Karen Krisfalusi

          • Use my name *instead* of your name (should I write you a note?).

          • Testing 1…

          • …2…

            Jan 13, 2010 at 11:37 pm
            Report Abuse
            So you don’t think that the laws you propose would cause anyone to take abortion into their own hands, and die trying?
            This shows a remarkable ignorance of the history of abortion law.
            You obviously cannot summon any empathy for those “kind of women”
            (they made their bed, etc.)
            You don’t want teenagers having sex, so of course they never will,
            What we want, and reality are often two different things.
            I know that I don’t support people legislating their morality on others.
            Your only arguement has been the moral arguement.
            There is not any indication that you care about good public policy, the health of women, or the concequences of the laws you advocate.
            You cannot take on the utilitarian moral arguement, so you avoid it.
            Do you agree with my statement?:
            “One woman dying on a coat-hanger represents more suffering then all of the embryos ever aborted.”
            If so, then you should probably re-evaluate if you do indeed have the moral high-ground.
            If you can refute that statement, feel free.

  14. I'm a 2-time bc survivor and thriver – and have been totally revived by a dvd i just found made for women with breast cancer called 'The Path of Wellness And Healing.' It's like an encyclopedia for breast cancer but it's also moving, inspiring, the whole nine. Every doctor from deepak Chopra to Dean Ornish is on it and every celeb bc survivor from Sheryl Crow to Melissa Ethridge. So awesome!!!

  15. Well said.

    I agree with everything there.

    You deserve the last word on the subject, but some dumba$$ will probably come and reply….

  16. Mr. Cosh:

    Does it really make sense to you that retrospective research on the abortion-breast cancer link dating from 1957 is unreliable (as the U.S. National Cancer Institute would have us believe) when:

    1) The above study, Dolle et al. 2009, in which National Cancer Institute researcher Louise Brinton appears as co-author, was a recalculation of data published by Dr. Janet Daling's team in retrospective studies from 1994 and 1996 (data the National Cancer Institute & Brinton had said were allegedly "unreliable" at the agency's workshop in 2003).
    2) The 1994, 1996 and 2009 studies reported statistically significant risk increases among women with abortions (Brinton was co-author in the 1996 and 2009 studies).
    3) In the 2009 study, the authors cited Daling's team's "unreliable" research from the 1990s and said the results concerning abortion, oral contrtaceptives and other risk factors "were consistent with the effects observed in younger women" (i.e. the Daling team's earlier research).
    4) In the 2009 study, the authors wrote: "Specifically, older age, family history of breast cancer, earlier menarche, age, induced abortion, and oral contraceptive use were associated with an increased risk for breast cancer".
    5) U.S. National Cancer Institute researcher Louise Brinton was the chief organizer of the that agency's phony workshop in 2003 that handily dismissed the abortion-breast cancer link by examining only studies reporting no link (the NCI's videocast of the workshop is online). Brinton's research in 1996 was among the studies she and the agency discredited.
    6) There are no scientists at the present time who claim to have found credible evidence of report bias.

    Ideological bias cuts two ways, Mr. Cosh. How many more women must die of breast cancer and how many children must suffer the loss of their mothers because of your petty emotional investment in abortion? Shame on you!

  17. You gotta be kidding me. You're comparing a human life to an amputated limb?

    Just more of some of the bizarre stuff that comes from people who vehemently defend the dark act of abortion.

    The fact is, that nothing in a fetuses' basic status changes from conception to birth. Defenders of abortion always want to focus on when a fetus least resembles a born person physically. But why? And what about when it most resembles a born person? Why is it still OK to have it killed then?

    Bizarre logic, all in the name certain rights trumping others.

    • But see, that's the thing. An early embryo doesn't resemble a human being, and thus a significant number of people do not think it qualifies as a human life. To them it is little more than a homogenious mass of stem cells. As to the bizarreness of the comparison, it may seem outlandish now, but given that research is likely to soon enable adult skin cells to be used as stem cells, it would not be impossible to imagine cells from an amputated limb being used to produce a viable embryo one day.

      You seem to have missed an important point of mine. A fetus when it most resembles a born person, by the logic I have described, should be protected by the state, and so it is not ok to have it killed then. Mind you, physical states do not make a person, but mental states, as suggested by physical ones, do. The argument is that a fetus' basic status does change at some point between conception and birth, the point being whenever it develops a mind. Unless you honestly believe that a Zygote thinks, that point is not at conception. At the same time, research has shown that fetus' are capable of remembering music played to it while it was still in the womb (there was an interesting Nature of Things episode that described this phenomenon), which suggests that it gains a mind certainly before birth.

      Certain rights will always have to trump others whenever they conflict. It is a matter of determining which ones take priority, and more importantly, whether something deserves those rights. A person has an innate right to live, according to most notions of rights, and this right is usually seen as of higher priority than a right to privacy or security of the body. Thus the question is whether or not a fetus is a person, and my argument is that it becomes one in the womb. It isn't initially, but it becomes one by the end.

      Thus, abortion in the first trimester is not likely murder, while in the third trimester it quite likely is. I'll note that many European countries agree with this line of reasoning, wherein, abortion is only legal up to a certain point in the pregnancy, after which it becomes illegal. I fear this kind of nuance is lost on both sides of the debate these days.

      • I'll add that those European countries do make an exception generally for medical reasons, wherein the difficult ethical question often becomes which life is more valuable, the one yet to be lived, or the one that is living. Most medical ethicists I believe treat the latter as more valuable because it is realized rather than mostly potential. After all, an unborn fetus is at most barely conscious, and certainly none of us can remember what it was like to be in the womb. It's loss, while tragic, is lesser to the loss of a living adult person, who has hopes and dreams, is aware of and consciously fears for its own mortality.

        Indeed the concern for the potential life makes the choice of abortion a very heavy one. But the legality of abortion is not merely a moral dilemma. It is first concerned with whether or not the full apparatus of the state should be wielded to protect the unborn, whether the privacy of an individual can legitimately to sacrificed in the name of some public good such as the protection of the livelihood of human beings. And that is why it so important to be certain that what the state apparatus must intrude and intervene for is in fact, a fully fledged person, and not a mere protobeing with some potential to one day become one.

        Even if you will not agree with this assessment, I hope you can at least understand where such people are coming from rather than just demean them as being bizarre.

        • If there are two people at risk of dying, one is 40 years old, and the other is 40 days old, and only one of them can be chosen to live, is it the adult because the baby is barely conscience, has no memories to speak of, and no capability of hoping and dreaming yet?

          Or what about a choice between a lawyer and a mentally handicapped person? The latter is sacrificed because of their diminished capacity?

          The idea that abortion is somehow a life or death choice, especially in the vast amount of cases, is absurd. Yet abortion defenders always bring these examples up even though they basically support abortion on the sole premise that it's a choice. Period.

          What's your definition of a fully fledged person? Is a newborn fully fledged? What about two weeks earlier? Two days earlier? Or two months earlier?

          We use the state apparatus in all cases of justice. Again, another bizarre argument to make it look as though women are somehow victims in abortion, when I believe it's the unborn child that's the victim.

          Again, I believe in choice. Reproductive choices are made by both women and men, and should be made before pregnancy.

          That's it's not this way leads to over 100,000 killed fetuses each and every year. And this is somehow praised by people. Unbelievable.

  18. Evidentyl, there is much to discuss here. Information can be found at

    its a stark look at the effects of over 30 years of abortion on North American women today. Effects of abortion on women's health are only now coming to the surface.

    Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, PASS, Mental Anguish, suicide, infertility, premature babies, cerebral palsy, the list goes on. .

    Researchers working for large corps are told to keep their results in the sand, especially when adverse. We need heroes, heroines, and women to stand for life. Men have spoken. Women deserve better than abortion. If we place the burden of motherhood on a woman and assault our young teenagers with such devisive language we all should recognize the weight of unwanted pregnancy and feel it pressing on our backs. We need TO SUPPORT our mothers. They deserve better. Our children deserve better.

    Its time to see the blood on your hands and be responsible for your words and actions.

  19. Abortion and Breast Cancer: Colby Cosh's Continuing Confusion

    Colby Cosh, in commenting (Maclean's Online, Jan. 12) on a recent epidemiological study from Seattle, Washington which resurrects claims of a link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC link), clearly thinks this is much ado about nothing, amounting to “what pro-lifers ask Santa for Christmas”, but he thinks that “science hasn't been much help to them.”

    The news Cosh minimizes surfaced in the Globe & Mail on January 8 in a piece by Gloria Galloway. Of Galloway's piece, Cosh selectively quotes the part which belittles an ABC link advocate, a US breast cancer surgeon and President of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, in claiming “that the doctor, Angela Lanfranchi, was speaking from a defined religious point of view that had little apparent basis in science.”

  20. The experts who do say what Cosh likes are from the US National Cancer Institute (NCI; a government agency of the US Federal executive branch), so he picks out an excerpt from the NCI website that belittles retrospective, questionnaire-based studies like the new Seattle study (like most epidemiological studies, actually) claiming: “Most of these studies, however, were flawed in a number of ways that can lead to unreliable results.”

  21. Among “known and suspected breast cancer risk factors (which) were examined separately as potential confounders for the main effects of all the other risk factors” are included “annual income” and “body mass index” (i.e., obesity). But importantly, only those potential confounding variables which produced at least a 10% change in the odds ratio (i.e., the risk increase) for any of the risk factors “were considered as adjustment factors in the final model.” Hence, Cosh's claim that obesity and income differences were not accounted for in the results is a material misrepresentation of the Seattle paper, and he should publish a retraction.

  22. Not one to rely on secondary sources, however, Cosh wades into the primary source: the Seattle study itself in the prestigious cancer epidemiology journal “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.” Unfortunately, he wades in only ankle-deep and picks apart the key data table, apparently without reading all that pesky small print that details the study's methodology. In minimizing the statistically significant 40% increased risk that shows up in the table among women who've had any abortions, Cosh claims that most of the risk increase associated with abortion “may, in part, be attributable to confounding variables that weren't controlled for. Income wasn't controlled for, and as you can see in the table itself, it might make a difference; neither was obesity.” But the details of the statistical methodology—which Cosh either missed or chose to ignore—explain clearly why these potentially confounding variables were not used to adjust the data in the table.

  23. It is not my aim here to enumerate the flaws in Cosh's analysis. Rather, my main aim is to set the record straight on the real significance of the new Seattle study with respect to the ABC link. Yes, it is important that a new study has reproduced a finding of significantly increased breast cancer risk among women who've had any abortions; a finding now demonstrated in the vast majority of the dozens of studies from around the world, going back to 1957. Just last year, two more studies—one in Turkey and one in China—have also verified the link. As the authors of the Seattle study say about their own results, they were “consistent with the effects observed in previous studies on younger women.” (This study was based on women under age 45, but the same magnitude of the abortion effect has been observed in many studies that included older women as well.)

  24. But perhaps more important than the findings themselves is the authorship of the Seattle study. The study was done by Dr. Janet Daling's group at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, in collaboration with the NCI's Chief of the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Dr. Louise Brinton. This is particularly relevant because Dr. Brinton was the chief organizer of the NCI's 2003 “workshop” on “Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer”, a conference which reported as “well established”, that “Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.” In other words, this conference officially concluded that there is no ABC link, and it is this conclusion that is referred to as still definitive on the NCI “fact sheet” on abortion and breast cancer risk.

  25. In fact, although this “Summary Report” of the “workshop” had not been revised since May of 2003, it was revised to reiterate the no ABC link conclusion just this January 12, four days after the Globe & Mail's Galloway called the NCI to find out why the main organizer of the workshop had published the contrary conclusion, i.e., that a significant, 40% risk increase with induced abortion was “consistent with the effects observed in previous studies on younger women.” Not only did Galloway's request go “unanswered”, but outrageously, the revised statement contains the claim that “the evidence overall still does not support early termination of pregnancy as a cause of breast cancer.” But it contains nothing about recent published evidence—especially that co-authored by Dr. Brinton—to the contrary.

  26. This is not terribly surprising, considering that the NCI's denial of any ABC link has always been misleading, to say the least, since, as they have always acknowledged, a full-term pregnancy lowers a woman's long term risk of breast cancer. Hence, any pregnant woman who chooses abortion will have a higher long term risk of breast cancer than if she chooses not to have an abortion. Warning a woman considering abortion is therefore a medical duty of any abortion practitioner, according to any standard of medical ethics, even if one disagrees—as Colby Cosh does—with the finding that abortion increases breast cancer risk beyond that which would have obtained if the woman did not get pregnant in the first place. As Cosh puts it in his hit piece: “Abortion probably does increase breast cancer risk insofar as it eliminates one pregnancy…(but)…Whether abortion imposes a distinct burden of cancer risk is another question.” Yes, but it is a question just for academics, and of no use to a woman who is already pregnant.

  27. Thank you Dr. Joel Brind, for your intelligent and thought-provoking comments. I hope the authors of this report have the courage to stand behind the facts and not cower to political or ideological pressure.

  28. Wow-so much denial on the ABC link from the pro-aborts.Some years ago a small study indicated that nurses who work nights, exposed to neon lights are at risk of getting breast cancer made front page news in a major news paper. I suppose they found it important to inform nurses. Doesn't a women who has had an abortion deserve the same.The hypocrisy stinks, especially from those pro-aborts who claim that they care about women's health.

  29. It's interesting to see Mr. Cosh writing semi-regularly on women's health issues. Once again his thought and research has gone beyond where most journalists go.

  30. Is abortion bad for women's health or not? A reply to Colby Cosh

    In his recent website article Colby Cosh concludes – just a trifle too complacently – that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has no reason to change its position on abortion – its position being that there is no link between breast cancer and induced abortion. Along the way he also takes a swipe at Dr Angela Lanfranchi, a professor of breast surgery, who had the temerity to suggest that having an abortion does significantly increase a woman's chances of coming down with breast cancer. She is apparently guilty of having a ‘defined religious point of view' — this despite citing only scientific evidence in her various publications.

  31. For the record it should be remembered that the 2009 study showing a 40 per cent increased risk of breast cancer among women under the age of 45 who have ever had an abortion, is not the first in which scientists connected with the NCI have found a link between breast cancer and abortion. Back in 1994 the NCI published in its own journal a major study by Janet Daling documenting a 50 per cent increased risk of breast cancer for young women who abort their first pregnancy. (Journal of the NCI 86:21, 1584-92). Despite these two large-scale studies the NCI still hasn't budged from its official position that there is no link.

  32. Springing to the Institute's defence, Cosh pooh-poohs the 40 per cent increased risk, as small potatoes compared to the increased risk of lung cancer from smoking. Maybe so, but the overall risk to all women in North America of contracting breast cancer during their lifetime is approximately 10 per cent. Adding a 40 per cent odds ratio from induced abortion raises that risk to 14 per cent. Is that really small potatoes? Has Cosh forgotten the huge media hullabaloo and public panic that erupted less than three years ago when a single study pointed to a mere 25 per cent increased risk of breast cancer for women who took Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

  33. In short, the risk of contracting breast cancer after one or more induced abortions is quite a lot higher than the risk of getting shards of glass under your eyelids from a shattered windshield while driving. Colby Cosh shouldn't be so glib.
    He might also spare a thought for the other deleterious effects of abortion on women's health. A very large study sponsored by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found that women who had abortions in Ontario hospitals later experienced a four-times higher rate or hospitalization for infections, and a nearly five-times higher rate of hospitalization for psychiatric problems than the matching group of women who did not have abortions. (T. Ostbye et al., ‘Health services utilization after induced abortions in Ontario: a comparison between community clinics and hospitals'. American Journal of Medical Quality 2001 May; 6(3) 99-106).

  34. It is also known that a previous abortion significantly increases women's mortality from suicide and other causes. It also greatly increases the chance of delivering a subsequent pregnancy prematurely. Premature children suffer a vastly increased incidence of cerebral palsy.

    In this connection it is instructive to look at the experience of Poland since it virtually banned abortion following the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

  35. Despite being much poorer than Canada and the U.S., Poland has succeeded in greatly improving the health of both its women and children in the past two decades. Maternal mortality has plunged by over 40 per cent, infant mortality by 25 per cent, and the extreme preterm (meaning under 28 weeks gestation) birth rate has dropped by over 20 per cent. Extremely preterm newborn babies have a poor chance of survival, or if they do survive they typically encounter all sorts of medical afflictions. Perhaps the most serious affliction is that they suffer a 129-times (12,800 per cent) higher chance of being born with cerebral palsy than full-term babies.

  36. To put it another way, for an extreme preterm baby the risk of being born with cerebral palsy, instead of being a tiny fraction of one per cent as it is with full-term babies, is 14.6 per cent – greater than one in seven. In the late 1980s around a hundred children a year were dying before the age of 5 from cerebral palsy in Poland. Between 2004 and 2006 the number was down to between 5 and 9 per year — a greater than 90 per cent drop. In North America the trend has been in the opposite direction. Between 1980 and 2006 the preterm birthrate in the U.S. jumped from 8.9 per cent to 12.8 percent of all births, which probably implies a corresponding increase in the rate of cerebral palsy. There is no reason to think that Canada's experience has been any different, though figures are unavailable. In addition to the unfathomable human tragedy that cerebral palsy represents there is also the enormous financial burden of caring for people with the disease.

  37. Why has Poland made such strides in improving maternal and infant health? Certainly not by spending a lot of money, because the money simply isn't there. The only change that could have had such a dramatic impact is the documented decline in the induced abortion rate. It is interesting that the only other European country where abortion is illegal, Ireland, also boasts very low maternal mortality. Poland and Ireland both enjoy lower maternal mortality than the world's richest country, the US, where abortion is completely legal. By contrast, Poland's neighbours, Russia and Hungary, where abortion is also legal, have among the highest maternal mortality in the world.

    • It's great that Poland has made strides in improving maternal and infant health, but it has nothing to do with their abortion rate.

  38. If Colby Cosh is really interested in the impact of abortion on women's health, and not just scoring cheap points against ‘pro-lifers', I would invited him to examine the global evidence. There's plenty more than I have cited above, and I'd be glad to send it to him.

  39. Cerebral Palsy deaths in Poland, 1985-2006
    Source: Poland Central Statistical Office, 2008

    By Ian Gentles, Research Director, de Veber Institute of Bioethics.

    (Professor. Population and Family History at Tyndale University College and at York University).

  40. Discounting the link between abortion and breast cancer is getting harder and harder in light of international findings. A fistful of studies from countries as diverse as Japan, Russia, France, Greece and the Netherlands has documented the link. Just last year a large-scale study from Turkey found that ‘induced abortion is significantly associated with increased (66 per cent) breast cancer risk'. (Vahit Ozmen et al, ‘Breast cancer risk factors in Turkish women: a university hospital based nested case control study', World Journal of Surgical Oncology. 7:37 (2009)). From China it has recently been found that the increased risk ranges from 9 to 28 per cent depending on the type of breast cancer. As if unaware of the politics of abortion and breast cancer, the authors of the study drily conclude ‘…induced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer'. (Peng Xing et al., ‘A case-control study of reproductive factors associated with subtypes of breast cancer in northeast China', Medical Oncology. Humana Press: 23 Sept. 2009).