Abortion-Breast Cancer Speech Heard in Queensland, Australia Parliament

Karen Malec
July 1, 2014
Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer
Reproduced with Permission

Member of Parliament for Stretton Freya Ostapovitch criticized "those who hide the findings (of an abortion-breast cancer link) to not treat women with such disrespect as to decide for us what we should know and what we should not."

A courageous member of the Queensland, Australia parliament for Stretton, Freya Ostapovitch, stuck her neck out when she rose to speak to her colleagues on a matter of public interest on June 3, 2014 and decried that women are not being told the truth about the abortion-breast cancer link.

The uproar from individuals who are ideologically and/or emotionally tethered to abortion was predictable with the usual, over-the-top, apoplectic efforts to suppress the speech of those who dare to report any scientific evidence that contradicts their closely-guarded myth that abortion is safe. It unimportant to them how many women's deaths they recklessly cause with their disinformation. They demand absolute conformity to their orthodoxy.

In her story for the Brisbane Times, Amy Remelkis conveniently omitted from Ostapovitch's speech accepted risk factors for breast cancer, which an abortion can cause.[1] They include: 1) small family size; 2) childlessness; 3) delayed first full term pregnancy; and 4) little or no breastfeeding. Abortion enthusiasts do verbal acrobatics around these unsettling facts, refusing to admit abortion is in any way related to the loss of the protective effect of childbearing.

Remelkis allowed her ideology to interfere with her professional judgment. If she had done a little fact-checking, she may have learned there are several ways abortion raises risk, as mentioned in our May 7, 2014 newsletter.

She cited the study, Melbye et al. 1997, a 17-year-old study, to support her argument that abortion does not raise risk, but a thorough reporter would have educated herself by reading the full study just a few clicks away on the computer. The abstract says, "The relative risk of breast cancer increased with increasing gestational age of the fetus at the time of the most recent induced abortion...." That is called a "dose effect," and is one of the criteria scientists use to establish causation. Melbye's team found a statistically significant 89% risk elevation among women with abortions after 18 weeks gestation. Had Remelkis sought the opinions of experts holding the view that abortion does raise risk (which is the usual practice when reporting on any other risk factor), she would have learned the study received sharp criticism from other investigators, in part because they found an unadjusted overall relative risk of 44%, but didn't report it. We reported on the study's severe defects in our last newsletter.

Alison Spong is a DJ and photographer in Australia. She wrote a five page letter to Ostapovitch and Canadian researcher Brent Rooney, an author of several articles on the abortion-premature birth link that were published in peer-reviewed medical journals. (It's a five page letter from a non-scientist critical of the evidence Rooney presented for a risk factor for premature birth. That only happens with abortion.)

Spong should stick to DJing and photography. She is uninformed about scientific evidence supporting induced abortion as a risk factor for both premature birth and breast cancer. Evidently, she's unaware that the Institute of Medicine listed abortion as a risk factor in its 2006 book, Preterm Birth. She indicates she relied on Cancer Australia for some of her information. If she reported it correctly in her letter, then her faith in that organization is misplaced.

Spong said she "worries" that Ostapovitch is "in a position of political communication" with Rooney. (It's not "political" if she communicates with Ostapovitch, but it's "political" if Rooney does?) She apparently objects to his scholarly work. Addressing Rooney, she said, "You have publically (sic) stated that by having an induced abortion, a woman will have more chance of having a baby pre-term, with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation."

To support her claim that "having the induced abortion and then having a baby, does not mean (a woman) is of greater risk of breast cancer...," Spong cites Dr. Lynn Rosenberg's 1994 editorial, but Rosenberg is famous for her sworn testimony as an expert witness on behalf of Florida abortion providers in 1999. An attorney for the state said to her, "A woman who finds herself pregnant at age 15 will have a higher breast cancer risk if she chooses to abort that pregnancy than if she carries the pregnancy to term, correct?" Rosenberg responded, "Probably, yes."

When scientists are facing the risk of perjury, they suddenly drop the intellectual dishonesty and become willing to implicate abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer insofar as the loss of the protective effect of childbearing is concerned. Rosenberg's statement has to do with abortion's effect of delaying a first full term pregnancy. It does not address the impact of the only contested way abortion raises risk - the independent link (the question of whether abortion also leaves the breasts with more places for cancers to start).

In her letter, Spong accused Ostapovitch of "scaremongering." Now this is an accusation people make when science isn't on their side. No one makes this accusation against those who talk about research supporting a link between cell phone use and brain cancer or any other risk factor for cancer, with one exception.

Tobacco executives used to accuse their adversaries of scaremongering during the 1950s and 1960s in order to suppress discussion of the tobacco-cancer link. Their objective was evident. History has shown that when consumers learn of a cancer risk, they avoid the product and sales decline. That is what happened once consumers learned that tobacco and combined hormone replacement therapy were risk factors for cancer. It's bad for business to tell consumers the truth.

I am a 24-year cancer survivor. I can confirm cancer is a scary thing, but I would have strongly preferred being able to prevent my cancer than to have endured the torture of chemotherapy once a week for a year, two surgeries, nausea, vomiting, the humiliation of a disfiguring disease, and worst of all - the anxiety that my children, who were toddlers at the time, would suffer the tragedy of losing their mother. That's the kind of future that the opponents of information are preparing for women.

Here is a list of just a few of the errors in some of Spong's statements and the studies she cited.

First, she treated the 1997 Danish study by Melbye's team as if it were authoritative on the subject of abortion and breast cancer because of it's sheer size, but other authors were severely critical of the study. For example, Melbye's team misclassified 60,000 women, who'd had abortions, as not having had abortions. (See our last newsletter.)

Second, Spong cited a report on the abortion-breast cancer link from an organization whose members include abortionists - the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) whom she called the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It's unreasonable to expect them not to be self-interested.

ACOG's report cites the meta-analysis, Beral et al. 2004, a ten-year-old study, whose scope sounds impressive (83,000 women, 52 studies - not 53, in 16 countries), but size is irrelevant when the study is invalid. Beral's team received criticism in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons for violating fundamental rules of scientific investigation. For example, they included 11 studies with unpublished data in their paper, but excluded or omitted 17 published, peer-reviewed studies for unscientific reasons (i.e. "principal investigators ... could not be traced").

Third, Edward Furton, editor of the journal, Ethics and Medics, was one of four experts who criticized Beral's team's study, independently of one another, in seven medical journals. There would have been six critics on record who criticized Beral's meta-analysis in eight journals, but the Lancet, which published the study, censored criticisms of it. (More on that later.) Furton chastised the editors of the journal, Lancet for "allowing its pages to be used as a political platform." He wrote:

"The Beral study is therefore cause for alarm. When a leading scientific journal allows its pages to be used as a political platform, and sets aside objective standards of scientific research, we must begin to wonder whether the spirit of (Jacques) Derrida has infected even scientific discourse. Scientific papers should arrive at conclusions based on a review of the facts. Picking conclusions ahead of time, and arranging the evidence to support them, will only serve to undermine the respect that scientific inquiry deserves. All of this would seem to be obvious, but the fact is it must be said....

"The unwillingness of scientists to speak out against the shoddy research that is being advanced by those who deny the abortion-breast cancer link is a very serious breach. The lives and health of millions of women are put at risk.

"There is a great deal at stake here. When the public learns that a causal link between abortion and breast cancer has been downplayed by the scientific community - for reasons that are ideological rather than factual - the feeling of betrayal will be strong."

Incredibly, the Lancet's editors even resorted to censoring two experts of record who had written to the journal to provide academic criticism of the flawed study by Beral's team. It was an highly irregular attempt to silence academic debate on the subject. That is only done when science isn't on the side of editors who perceive their jobs to be activists first and scientists second.

Fourth, Spong implied she has confidence in the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). She should read Richard Kluger's book, Ashes to Ashes and former Food and Drug Administration chairman Dr. David Kessler's book, A Question of Intent, which demonstrated that, as a government agency, the NCI is readily influenced by political agendas. The books exposed leading medical research facilities and the American Medical Association which accepted tobacco funds to do research on tobacco and cancer. The funds influenced at least one prominent institution located in New York state to change the direction of its research in this field.

Additionally, our May 7, 2014 newsletter discussed the NCI's sham 2003 workshop on the abortion-breast cancer link. It provides glaring evidence of the NCI's dishonesty.

Fifth, Spong wrote, "It is also worthy to note that even referenced material listed in (the Chinese meta-analysis, Huang et al. 2013) state that induced abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer." A meta-analysis is a study of studies in which the results are pooled.

Yubei Huang and his colleagues reviewed 36 studies and pooled the results. They reported a statistically significant 44% risk elevation for women with abortions; and they cited and supported the results from the 1996 meta-analysis by the Brind-Penn State team who found a significant 30% risk elevation for women with abortions. They cited the only other meta-analysis, Beral et al. 2004 (which is an invalid study, as noted above), but Huang's team did not support it.

When Spong's sources suggest that "even referenced material listed in Huang's team's meta-analysis state that induced abortion does not increase" breast cancer risk, I assume they are speaking of the studies conducted in Shanghai, China - Sanderson et al. 2001 and Ye et al. 2002, which Huang's team included in their meta-analysis. The former study reported a non-statistically significant odds ratio of 0.9 for women with abortions. The latter study found a non-significant risk increased risk of 6%. There is a third study conducted in Shanghai, Wu et al. 2014, who also found a non-statistically significant overall odds ratio of 0.94 for women with abortion histories. The bottom of the first page of that paper shows the authors are not exactly unbiased. They are affiliated with the Shanghai Institute of Planned Parenthood Research/WHO Collaborating Center on Human Research on Reproductive Health, Shanghai and the National Laboratory of Contraceptives and Devices Research, Shanghai. (The first affiliation, however, is not the Planned Parenthood we know in the U.S.)

Professor Joel Brind (Baruch College, City University of New York) and Vernon Chinchilli (Penn State College of Medicine) explained in a 2004 letter to the British Journal of Cancer how Sanderson's and Ye's teams achieved those results, and Huang's team agreed with Brind and Chinchilli's arguments.

Epidemiologists face limitations in conducting valid studies in Communist nations where abortions are customarily performed after first full term pregnancy and the prevalence of induced abortion is exceptionally high.

Chinese studies typically underestimate the breast cancer risk associated with abortion because the government's draconian one-child-per-couple policy produces a situation in which women generally have their abortions after first full term pregnancy; whereas in the U.S., abortion frequently occurs before first full term pregnancy. Scientists call the period between the onset of menstruation and first full term pregnancy the "susceptibility window". That's the period when nearly all of the breast lobules are immature, cancer-susceptible Type 1 and 2 lobules (where 97% of all breast cancers are known to originate). Chinese women, therefore, acquire the risk-reducing effect of having a full term pregnancy, which occur generally at a younger age. A first full term pregnancy results in the maturation of 85% the breast lobules into fully mature, permanently cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. This important risk-reducing effect of childbearing tends to take place among Chinese women before they're exposed to the risk-increasing effect of induced abortion.

Epidemiology is difficult to do accurately when the exposure in question (abortion) affects a majority of the study population. The prevalence of abortion in the control groups (healthy women) was high in the Shanghai studies. The prevalence of abortion among the controls for each study - Ye et al. 2002, Sanderson et al. 2001 and Wu et al. 2014 - were 51%, 66% and 68.3% respectively. In this situation, when the prevalence of abortion exceeds 50%, the unexposed population is no longer typical or normal. They have now become a minority. The minority, who are less likely to have had an abortion, are the ones who are childless or who had their first child at an older age (both of which are risk factors for breast cancer).

In China, over 90% of the abortions are done on women who've already had a child. Therefore, the comparison group, the women who haven't had any abortions, are a high risk group because they're childless or had a late first full term pregnancy. By contrast, the ones who have had an abortion have had their risk lowered by an early first term pregnancy. The protective effect of an early first full term pregnancy masquerades as the protective effect of abortion. Ye's team, in fact, said 12 study subjects had had abortions before a first full term pregnancy (during the susceptibility window), and 320 had abortions after first full term pregnancy.

Huang's team agreed with Brind and Chinchilli's reasoning as it was explained in their letter to the British Journal of Cancer. As a matter of fact, Huang's team demonstrated through meta-regression analysis that as the percentage of abortion-positive women increases among the controls (healthy women) in the study, the relative risk associated with abortion declines. The increased risk associated with induced abortion gradually disappears as the percentage of abortions in the control group increases and reaches 68%. (See figure 6 in Huang et al. 2013.) Huang's team wrote:

"Discussion.... However, some other studies, including two important studies from Shanghai, found a null or similar association. Inadequate choices of the reference group might be one of the most important determinants of the different results. In fact, the prevalence of (induced abortion) in the control group were more than 50% among both the two Shanghai studies (51% in Ye et al. and 66% in Sanderson et al., and among several other included studies with NOS of 8-9 (80.4% in Qiu et al., 68.3% in Zhang, 63.0% in Wang et al, and 62.7% in Wang. As argued by Brind and Chinchilli, once the prevalence of a given exposure rises to a level of predominance in the control group, statistical adjustment cannot remove all the confounding caused by the adjustment terms. This was well exemplified by the meta-regression analysis in our study (Fig. 6). It was also the main reason why we did not observe an increased risk of breast cancer in the subgroup analysis based on Shanghai studies ... because both studies of Sanderson and Ye were conducted in Shanghai...."

Dr. Brind explained to us that "Wu's team's study is entirely consistent with the two earlier studies on the population in Shanghai (Sanderson and Ye) which showed no significant link. It is also perfectly consistent with Huang's meta-regression analysis in his meta-analysis...."

He added, "Since 2007, there have been published, for example, 17 studies in Asia in addition to those 36 Chinese studies summarized by Huang et al. All 17 show increased risk, one as high as 20-fold, with an average risk increase exceeding fourfold. Just the recent data alone is totally compelling.... At this rate, the (abortion-breast cancer) link will kill millions."

Spong made additional incorrect statements about the abortion-breast cancer research, but they are too numerous to discuss here.