Abortion Breast Cancer hypothesis and undermining the Pro-Life argument

Some of you reading this post will automatically assume that I’m writing this as I’m obviously not ‘truly’ pro-life. In order to be totally transparent, I do consider myself broadly pro-life, but I also exist in a world consisting of grey areas, and so am certainly not as black-and-white in my thinking as some of my co-religious.

I make this clear from the off as I came under considerable fire when I wrote an article criticising the tactics employed by the recent 40 Days for Life Campaign.

From that experience it became plainly obvious to me that any legitimate criticism of the pro-life movement will inevitably result in accusations of being an “armchair warrior” and not being ‘truly’ pro-life.

The reason I wrote that article – and this one – is that I believe the pro-life movement must be scrupulously above reproach in all its doings to be effective.

And so to the “Abortion causes breast cancer” hypothesis that has been doing the rounds and has even made it as far as the greatly esteemed Catholic Herald.

This hypothesis has been touted heavily on Twitter and of course on pro-life websites such as LifeSiteNews.

This ‘hypothesis’ is being pushed as ‘scientific fact’ and used as a powerful argument against abortion.

The problem is that no such link has been conclusively proved scientifically.

In fact the oppositite is true.

It’s not my remit here to delve into the immensely complex scientific arguments, especially given that this has been comprehensively dealt with by the Ministry of Truth:

Debunking the Abortion-Breast Cancer Hypothesis – pt1.
Debunking the Abortion-Breast Cancer Hypothesis – pt2.
Debunking the Abortion-Breast Cancer Hypothesis – pt3.
Debunking the Abortion-Breast Cancer Hypothesis – pt4.

In case you can’t be bothered to read the content on those links, allow me to furnish you with the conclusion taken from part 5:

…the totality of the worldwide epidemiological evidence indicates that pregnancies ending as either spontaneous or induced abortions do not have adverse effects on women’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

It seems obvious to me that propagating unscientific claims to bolster the pro-life movement is at best counter-productive and at worst utterly undermining. Folk in general are not stupid and if they begin to distrust and feel duped by the information emanating from pro-life groups then the argument is lost.

There are many powerful, poignant and persuasive pro-life arguments and resorting to ‘spurious science’ is not necessary.

Whilst I’m angering my co-religious I would also like to make the obvious point that undermining palliative care methods is not going to assist the pro-life fight against euthanasia.

There’s much talk recently about the Liverpool Care Pathway operating as a back door route to euthanasia. This system of palliative care has been carefully developed for those in the very last hours or days of their lives.

In this regard I would encourage you to read an article written by Dr Peter Saunders in defense of the Liverpool Care Pathway and it’s fair to say that Dr Saunders’ pro-life credentials are impeccable.

Dr Saunders concludes:

In good hands the LCP is a great clinical tool. But in the wrong hands, or used for the wrong patient, any tool can do more harm than good.

Indeed.

So my advise is to check the validity of scientific claims before adopting them for the pro-life cause and stop attacking palliative care, as confidence in these same excellent medical guidelines are exactly what is needed to dissuade folk from euthanasia.

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5 Responses to “Abortion Breast Cancer hypothesis and undermining the Pro-Life argument”

  1. Lisa Graas Says:

    Stuart, you’re making my brain hurt, but don’t worry. I’m going to go talk to our Blessed Mother about it.

  2. Fr Richard Says:

    Thanks for this. It rather sickens me how half-truth (which of course is half a lie) is paraded as the Gospel truth, when often it is just case of scrabbling around looking for something that is vaguely pseudo-scientific to back a reactionary or conservative views on a certain subject (I presume liberals probably do the same, though I suspect less so). The irony being that these very same reactionaries spend a good deal of their time ‘rubbishing’ science and the scientific method when it is used to shake certain aspects of religion or worldview.

    Last year Anglicanmainstream produced a post purporting to claim that homosexuals were more likely to get cancer than heterosexuals. Closer examination of the data (an American longitudinal study) revealed the research was not about who GOT cancer, but who SURVIVED. What the research was saying is that more gay men tended to survive cancer than heterosexuals – and far more than those who claim they are bisexual. As gay men – particularly in California, where the study was carried out – are more likely to be middle-class, educated and able to afford better health care insurance. However Anglicanmainstream, in that salacious and almost gleeful manner in which it takes delight in other people’s misfortunes, gave the proportions as evidence of woes of the fabled ‘homosexual lifestyle’: fewer heterosexuals ‘get cancer’ than homosexuals, the post delighted in telling us. The author of this edifying post didn’t mention that the same research noted that among bisexuals, even fewer ‘get cancer’ – in reality, survive cancer. In effect, using the Anglicanmainstream reading of the data, it is far ‘healthier’ being bisexual! Of course this is just rubbish and was a case of Anglicanmainstream (as is often its wont) cherry picking data and presenting research out of context and academic analysis in its desire to smear the object of its obsessive opprobrium.

    Care is needed in presenting ‘scientific’ arguments, because if an organisation misuses such data or research, or presents it out of context or with the wilful intention of misleading people, then the organisation loses its integrity. There is very good academic evidence to suggest abortion has a lasting detrimental effect on a woman’s mental health – something which I think needs greater publicity. But if Pro-Life organisations and lobbying groups are found to misuse, misquote or skew academic research – then their own integrity is lost and their message will be distrusted. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and all that!

  3. Part Time Pilgrim Says:

    Good post, Stuart.

    Abortion involves the destruction of innocent human life. Whether or not it increases (or even reduces) the chance of contracting breast cancer is an unimportant side issue. If, as you seem to establish, the scientific basis of the claim is invalid that just makes it worse.

    Similarly with the LCP, the heat generated on this issue obscures some important points about palliative care – the obvious one about withdrawl of fluids and a less obvious ones: sedation near to death against the spiritual benefit of being aware in one’s last hours and the appropriateness of tick-box approaches to treatment. (There are probably some others too). A blanket condemnation of the LCP is irrational as it’s individual aspects (including those which are troublesome) could still be used outside the LCP.

  4. David Robert Grimes Says:

    A good piece; I am personally pro-choice and indeed, not a religious person but I do very much understand why people might be against abortion; that said, false claims to scaremonger are something that as a scientist irk me, and I have written in the Irish Times about this before (abortion myths) as it just muddies the water. While scaremongering might work short term, it actually is counter productive as people eventually become wise to it and dismiss all arguments (valid or not) as nonsense.

    Well done on being intellectually honest, and articulating your point so well.

  5. Annraoi Says:

    A good balanced view. And it’s encouraging to see that Christians can take a balanced scientific approach to complex issues, rather than hunting for ‘evidence’ to back up their pet theories about abortion. Well said. And keep the faith!

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