Testimony of Joel Brind, Ph.D.
RE: State of Alaska Informed Consent website,
delivered orally via telephone April 15, 2005
I am Joel Brind, Ph.D., Professor of Human Biology and Endocrinology, Baruch College, City University of New York, and President, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Poughkeepsie, NY
I have also served as an expert witness for the State of Alaska in its recent (2002) defense of its Parental Consent for abortion statute.
My testimony is directed toward the link between abortion and increased long-term risk of breast cancer. While I am not privy to the working website document, it is my understanding that the abortion-breast cancer link receives little or no emphasis.
The abortion breast cancer link is the subject of continuing controversy, despite epidemiologial evidence spanning almost half a century. However, it is important to note that the entire controversy concerns the question as to whether or not induced abortion increases a woman's risk of breast cancer beyond what it would have been had she not gotten pregnant in the first place.
On the other hand, there is no dispute as to the fact a full-term pregnancy lowers a woman's long-term risk of breast cancer. Therefore, there is also no dispute as to the fact that a pregnant woman who chooses to undergo an abortion is left with a higher long-term risk of breast cancer, compared to her not choosing to undergo an abortion (i.e., to carry the pregnancy to term).
These facts are obvious, for example, in the most recent analysis of the abortion-breast cancer question widely regarded as authoritative*. The very first line of this "collaborative reanalysis" acknowledges: "Pregnancies that result in a birth are known to reduce a woman's long-term risk of developing breast cancer". While the paper concludes that "Pregnancies that end as a spontaneous or induced abortion do not increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer", it also unequivocally states the artificial standard of comparison by which it reaches this conclusion, i.e., "comparing the effects of having had a pregnancy that ended as an induced abortion versus effects of never having had that pregnancy." There is no question that "never having had that pregnancy" is never an option for a pregnant woman considering abortion.
In the present hearing, even the spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Alaska, an abortion provider, suggested that more emphasis be given in the website to the effects of full-term pregnancy, compared to presenting the effects of abortion. Clearly, the only meaningful comparison is between abortion and full-term pregnancy.
Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that abortion leaves a woman with the same long-term risk of breast cancer as "never having had that pregnancy", it unarguably leaves her with a higher risk than had she not chosen abortion. Hence, any reasonable standard of informed consent would demand that a woman considering abortion be apprised of this fact. It is absolutely a matter of the most fundamental of patients' rights that a patient considering a surgical or medical procedure be informed that having the procedure--most particularly if the procedure is an elective procedure performed on a healthy patient, as induced abortion generally is--will result in her having a higher long-term risk of developing a potentially life-threatening disease--such as breast cancer--compared to not having the procedure.
The fact that abortion providers in the state of Alaska have not been informing women considering abortion of such risks as breast cancer, is obvious from the very fact that the Legislature and the Governor have seen fit to require abortion providers to do so. It is therefore now the absolute moral and ethical obligation of the Committee responsible for the content of the informational website being constructed pursuant to the informed consent for abortion statute, to warn women considering abortion, in clear and unequivocal terms, that having an abortion will leave them at higher long-term risk of developing breast cancer, compared to not having the abortion. Anything less on the part of the Committee would be nothing less than criminal, violating the most fundamental rights of medical patients established at the Nuremberg trials almost a half century ago.
*Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and abortion: Collaborative reanalysis of data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 83,000 women with breast cancer from 16 countries. Lancet 2004;363:1007-16.