online National Cancer Institute
fact sheet was changed to
suggest a link between breast cancer and abortions, a
move the New York Times called "an
egregious distortion" of scientific evidence.
Claiming that abortion can cause breast cancer,
social conservatives have pushed for laws across the country that require
doctors to provide “counseling” about this alleged risk to
all women seeking abortions. As these efforts advanced last year,
the Bush Administration distorted the science on this issue to misleadingly
portray abortion as a risk factor in breast cancer when there is a scientific
consensus that it is not.
the summer of 2002, the National Cancer Institute posted an analysis
on its web site concluding that the current body of scientific
evidence does not support the claim that abortions increase a
woman’s risk of breast cancer. The analysis explained
that after some uncertainty before the mid-1990s, this issue
had been resolved by several well-designed studies, the largest
of which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine
in 1997, finding no link between abortion and breast cancer
November 2002, however, the Bush Administration removed this
analysis and posted new information about abortion and breast
cancer on the NCI web site. The new fact sheet stated:
possible relationship between abortion and breast cancer has
been examined in over thirty published studies since 1957.
Some studies have reported statistically significant evidence
of an increased risk of breast cancer in women who have had
abortions, while others have merely suggested an increased
risk. Other studies have found no increase in risk among women
who have had an interrupted pregnancy. 
new fact sheet erroneously suggested that whether abortion caused
breast cancer was an open question with studies of equal weight
supporting both sides. The New York Times called the NCI’s
new statement “an egregious distortion of the evidence.”
According to the director of epidemiology research for the American
Cancer Society, “This issue has been resolved scientifically
. . . . This is essentially a political debate.”
members of Congress protested the change, NCI convened
a three-day conference of experts on abortion and breast cancer.
Participants reviewed all existing population-based, clinical,
and animal data available, and concluded that “[i]nduced
abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer
risk,” ranking this conclusion as “well-established.”
On March 21, 2003, the NCI web site was updated to reflect
OKs Disputed Abortion Legislation, Los Angeles Times, 1
(May 22, 2003).
National Cancer Institute, Abortion and Breast Cancer (Mar.
M. Melbye et al., Induced Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer,
New England Journal of Medicine, 81–85 (Jan. 9, 1997).
Cancer Institute, Early Reproductive Events and Breast
Cancer (Nov. 25, 2002).
and Breast Cancer, New York Times (Jan. 6, 2003).
Foes Seize on Reports of Cancer Link in Ad Campaign, Los
Angeles Times (Mar. 24, 2002).
Letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman et al. to Secretary of Health
and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson (Dec. 18, 2002).
National Cancer Institute, Summary Report: Early Reproductive
Events and Breast Cancer (Mar. 4, 2003) (online at http://www.cancer.gov/
National Cancer Institute, Abortion, Miscarriage, and Breast
Cancer Risk (Mar. 21, 2003) (online at http://cis.nci.nih.gov/fact/3_75.htm).