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Time for Anti-Abortion Activists to Apologise

Time for Anti-Abortion Activists to Apologise

Anti-abortion activists should apologise after the release of a study that shows there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.

For many years, anti-abortion activists have been intimidating women by saying that having an abortion increases the likelihood of contracting breast cancer, citing a few studies made in the early 1990s. The new research, conducted by researchers at Oxford University and published in The Lancet, has analysed the data used in earlier studies and finds that the link between abortion and breast cancer was based on unreliable data and poor research. "The totality of the worldwide epidemiological evidence indicates that pregnancies ended by induced abortion do not have adverse effects on women's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer," said Professor Valerie Beral, an epidemiologist who was one of the study's authors.

The results of the earlier studies have always been disputed and did not gain acceptance by scientists, but were seized upon by anti-abortion religious groups, both overseas and in New Zealand. Often the flawed research was presented in health advice for pregnant women, to dissuade them from the option of abortion with the fear of a fatal illness. It has also been used by the Maxim Institute in an attempt to influence legislation.

New Zealand groups which have used this flawed data include:

The Maxim Institute, in a submission to parliament on the Care of Children Bill: http://www.maxim.org.nz/submissions/care_of_children_oralsubm.rtf

New Zealand Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child - in advertisements published in major daily newspapers in 2002, which were the subject of a successful complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority: http://www.asa.co.nz/decisions/dec02383.htm

Students Organised to Uphold Life, on its website: http://www.soul.org.nz/pages/resources/breast_cancer.htm

The NZ branch of Promise Keepers, a Fundamentalist Men's group: http://www.promisekeepers.org.nz/imrefpages/0304IM.htm

publications available from Family Life International: http://www.fli.org.nz/publications.asp

The data was also used in the March 2003 issue of Investigate magazine: http://www.investigatemagazine.com/mar3abrt.htm

We think it is time for these activists to retract the false information they have used and to apologise to the women they have misinformed and intimidated.

The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists is the country's oldest and largest organisation representing people without religious beliefs. Its principal objectives are to advocate a rational, humane and secular view of life without reference to supernatural agencies and which is compatible with scientific method; to promote a tolerant, responsible and open society; to encourage open-minded enquiry into matters relevant to human co-existence and well-being.

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