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Byline: Joe Gelman

NEXT week marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, illuminating a disease that strikes more than 180,000 women in the United States every year. It wasn't that long ago when it was considered impolite to talk publicly about breast cancer.

But with the rise of the organized women's movement more than two decades ago, such issues began to receive more prominence, gradually resulting in a substantial increase in public and private funding for research, leading to remarkable advances in medical treatment for women and saving countless lives.

With all of the criticism that I have heaped on the excesses of feminism, I must admit that it was the organized woman's movement that was primarily responsible for breaking popular mores and prejudices that were such an obstacle to the advancement of our understanding of the causes of, and finding of cures for, diseases that primarily afflict women. For that, much praise is in order.

Indeed, the push for open discussion was critically important for raising the public's consciousness and educating women about the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of breast cancer or reduce the risk of death once breast cancer is diagnosed.

That is why it is somewhat ironic, and particularly disturbing, that for the first time many feminists seem to be advocating the suppression of important women's health-related information that under other circumstances would be cause for manning the barricades with impassioned demands for immediate action.

What women's health-related information am I referring to? The increasing scientific evidence of the link between breast cancer and abortion.

Ten out of 11 studies, most of which were funded in part by the National Cancer Institute, show that American women who have had an abortion face an increased risk of breast cancer. In eight of the studies, the risk was found to be ``statistically significant.''

One of the most in-depth studies ever conducted on the issue is particularly compelling. In an analysis of data from all 28 previously published studies of abortion and breast cancer around the world, the widely respected British Medical Association's Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published findings that there is a ``remarkably consistent, significant positive association between induced abortion and breast cancer incidence. The increased risk is seen in prospective and retrospective studies from around the world, in populations with the widest imaginable differences in ethnicity, diet, and socioeconomic and lifestyle factors.''

That's about as conclusive as studies of these sort get.

So, how has the feminist establishment reacted to these findings? Stone silence or denial by some and an active campaign to discredit the findings by others. One would think that individuals and organizations committed to women's issues, particularly health issues, would be more than eager to educate the public, and specifically its own supposed constituency, about the discovery of another cause of one of the most devastating diseases to afflict women in the United States and the world over.

But that does not seem to be their first instinct, and one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. For most professional feminist organizations, the promotion of the practice of abortion will always trump any other issue on the importance scale, including breast cancer. And if an objective, serious scientific study gets in the way, then it will be ignored, ridiculed and discredited as quickly as possible.

Indeed, since the findings were published in the British Medical Association's Journal, (hardly a bastion of right-wing, pro-life propaganda), a number of smaller studies were quickly commissioned in the United States, resorting to less scientific methods, and the feminist PR machine was set in motion in order to discredit the comprehensive study published in the British Journal.

Surprise, surprise.

When California Assemblyman Bill Morrow introduced a bill called a ``Woman's Right to Know,'' which would provide women with the most up-to-date information on the link between breast cancer and abortion, it was quickly suppressed in committee after extensive lobbying.

Dr. Janet Dailing of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Dr. Joel Brind, professor of biology and endocrinology at New York's Baruch College; and researchers at Hershey Medical Center of Penn State University have all separately reached the same results linking breast cancer to abortion, and are stunned by the attacks on their research by abortion-rights advocates.

``If politics gets involved in science,'' says Dailing (who is pro-choice), ``it will really hold back the progress that we make. I have three sisters with breast cancer, and I resent people messing with the scientific data to further their own agenda, be they pro-choice or pro-life. I would have loved to have found no association between breast cancer and abortion, but our research is rock solid, and our data is accurate. It's not a matter of believing, it's a matter of what is.''

This should not be a political issue. Like most Americans, I do not favor criminalizing abortion, but I believe that the practice should be discouraged. Maybe I'm naive, but I also believe that whatever one's position on abortion, surely both sides can agree to let objective science speak for itself, without infesting what should be objective research with politics.

So as we enter breast cancer awareness month, it's only appropriate to make people aware of extensive research that points to one of the single most avoidable risk factors related to breast cancer: abortion. It is unfortunate that women will not get this information at their local NOW chapter, which is far more likely to suppress, discredit or otherwise deny that such crucial, potentially life-saving information even exists.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 28, 1997

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