Tags: First | Case | Settled | Linking | Abortion | Breast | Cancer

First Case Settled Linking Abortion to Breast Cancer

Friday, 04 January 2002 12:00 AM

The news emerged after a recent legislative session in the state of Tasmania, in which attorney Charles Francis warned lawmakers, who were debating abortion legislation, about the risk of future litigation against doctors who provide abortions.

Francis has represented several women suing abortionists for not warning them of the possible psychiatric consequences of abortion.

Last year, he represented a woman who included in her psychiatric damage lawsuit the additional failure to warn of an increased risk of breast cancer caused by abortion.

The landmark case was settled out of court, Francis said by phone Friday from the state of Victoria.

His client cannot be identified because of a confidentiality clause in the settlement, he said, but he believed it to be the first case of its kind anywhere. Another, similar case was pending in the neighboring state of New South Wales, he added.

While preparing the cases, Francis said: "I had to go into all the evidence and the expert medical views for the purpose of presenting the case. It seemed to me, looking at it as a lawyer looking at evidence, the evidence was fairly strong - certainly strong enough, we thought, for [us to have] a good chance at winning."

Francis said there was no indication one way or the other that the doctor had decided to settle because he was worried about the cancer link claim.

Still, the doctor had not insisted that the cancer link claim be dropped before agreeing to settle.

"My impression is there is a good deal of reluctance to see this litigated in public. Often you have conflicting medical views [in court cases]. Doctors are called, give differing evidence, and then the court decides what it thinks is the most likely situation."

The question of a link between abortion and breast cancer is a major source of contention between pro-life and pro-abortion campaigners. Each side points to research it claims supports its stance, questions the methodology of the other's research, and accuses the opposition of using the issue to promote its cause.

According to the U.S.-based Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, 27 out of 35 studies published since 1957 have found a link.

Groups advocating abortion, backed by some leading medical bodies, deny that such a link exists.

Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, welcomed news of the Australian settlement.

"The abortion industry and its medical experts know that it will be far more challenging for them to lie to women about the abortion-breast cancer research when they are called upon to testify under oath," she said in a statement.

"Scientists know that abortion causes breast cancer but are afraid to say so publicly in today's hostile political climate."

Dr. Joel Brind, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, is regarded by the coalition as a leading authority on the abortion-breast cancer link.

He believes there is a 30 percent overall increased risk of breast cancer after having an abortion, and an 80 percent increased risk for women with a family history of cancer.

Summarizing Brind's argument, Francis explained that upon conception, the level of estrogen in a woman's body increases dramatically. This results in the development of undifferentiated cells in the breast, which pose an additional cancer risk.

Late in the pregnancy, these cells become milk-producing cells, cease posing a greater cancer risk, and in fact provide added protection against cancer.

If a woman has an abortion before that stage - and the vast majority of abortions would occur before then - her body is left with a high number of undifferentiated cells that increase the risk of her contracting breast cancer, it is argued.

Francis said a woman who suffers a miscarriage well into a pregnancy - in a motor accident, for example - would face the same risk. However, in cases where a spontaneous, early miscarriage occurs, the woman would not have had the surge in estrogen in the first place, and therefore would not face the additional cancer risk.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Britain are among those who argue that there is no need to tell a woman considering an abortion that there may be an increased risk of breast cancer. Doing so would only add to the woman's anxiety at an already stressful time, representatives have said.

Brind and others have slammed the approach as "paternalistic."

"There is no other issue than abortion that would be so immune from the concept of informed consent," Brind was quoted as saying last month.

A court in Fargo, N.D., will hear a case in March in which a woman is suing an abortion clinic for allegedly misleading women to believe there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.

Plaintiff Amy Jo Mattson says pamphlets distributed by the Red River Women's Clinic quote the National Cancer Institute as saying there is no evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and abortion or miscarriage.

"None of [the claims of a link] are supported by medical research or established medical organizations," the pamphlets reportedly stated.


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The news emerged after a recent legislative session in the state of Tasmania, in which attorney Charles Francis warned lawmakers, who were debating abortion legislation, about the risk of future litigation against doctors who provide abortions. Francis has represented...
Friday, 04 January 2002 12:00 AM
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