A friend recently posted on her Facebook profile that she saw the bumper sticker "Abortion causes breast cancer," and she wanted to know if there was any truth in that statement. I, of course, chimed in that no, that statement is not true. Then I wondered, "Who the hell puts a bumper sticker like that on their car?" I put on my investigating hat, and I found a Zazzle store where you can buy as many "abortion causes breast cancer" stickers as you want.
You know where else you can buy this bumper sticker? Well, the Abortion Breast Cancer Coalition also sells them. Yep, there's actually a coalition devoted to selling the myth that abortion causes cancer. Here is an example of some of their "facts":
A first trimester miscarriage is quite a different situation from induced abortion of a normal pregnancy in its effect on the woman's breasts. The longer a woman is pregnant before an induced abortion, the higher her risk of breast cancer. This is because high estrogen levels of the 1st and 2nd trimesters cause breast growth of type 1 & 2 lobules. When her pregnancy is terminated before the breast cells reach full maturity, she is left with more immature type 1 & 2 breast lobules than before her pregnancy started, and therefore is at increased risk. Her breasts never mature to type 3 & 4 lobules, which would have occurred in the 3rd trimester and would have lowered her risk.
Uh, say what?
You'll notice a couple of items missing from ABC's link, such as hyperlinks to studies or just generally facts and science. If you click on something purporting to be scientific and it doesn't list a single source, run, don't walk, away from that website.
I also really want to know why these folks elected breast cancer as the disease you supposedly get from having an abortion. Why not ovarian or uterine cancer -- the lady parts involved in getting pregnant? Why breast? Is it because in the last 20 years, all the pink-washing campaigns have made this particular cancer the tour de force of cancers, and they want to hitch this theory on the cancer with the most household recognition?
From the ABC coalition website:
One of the difficulties with anti-cancer organizations is that radical feminists took up the breast cancer cause in the 1980s. They saw this as a means of championing women's rights, so it must have come as a surprise to them when they learned that their dominant concern -- abortion -- caused breast cancer. Once it became apparent that they had a conflict between abortion ideology and protecting women's health, abortion won hands down!
Ah, feminism is to blame for breast cancer. Gotcha.
I wonder if those who believe abortion causes breast cancer enough to put a bumper sticker on their vehicle actually know that breast cancer isn't just one disease, either? I want to ask them, "Abortion causes what type of breast cancer?" Invasive ductal carcinoma? Invasive lobular carcinoma? Metaplastic breast cancer? Inflammatory breast cancer? Estrogen-positive, Her2-positive or triple-negative cancer?" I guess there isn't enough room on a bumper sticker for things like facts and science, huh?
I understand that pro-life people are quite fond of their provocative bumper stickers and in-your-face posters (although, to be fair, pro-choice folks are also fans of the bumper stickers and posters). This particular bumper sticker is just so inaccurate and offensive that I'm really shocked that anyone would put this on their car. Women are the ones who have elective abortions, and women (mostly) get breast cancer, so therefore, abortion causes breast cancer? Come on, let's be better than this -- correlation does not equal causation. I mean, men have vasectomies. Men develop testicular cancer. Does that mean vasectomies cause testicular cancer? (No.)
Let's go back to the question at hand: Does abortion cause breast cancer? Does this bumper sticker mean all abortions, including spontaneous abortions (aka miscarriages) or stillborn births? When I was 28, I had a miscarriage/spontaneous abortion. Two years later, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Which means, according to the "abortion causes breast cancer" line of thinking, my miscarriage caused me to have breast cancer?
Nope. No. Just no.
I would wager a bet that every single person who slapped that "abortion causes breast cancer" bumper sticker on their vehicle wanted to shame any woman who had an elective abortion (not a spontaneous abortion/miscarriage). If they had an abortion, "Well, you're going to get breast cancer and probably die," and if they had an abortion and later developed breast cancer, "Well, that's what you get for being a slut." If that's the case, though, there is just so much wrong with believing that women who have had elective abortions get breast cancer as punishment, especially when the fact-based science (rather than the pseudoscience of seeking out data to prove one's ideological beliefs) dismisses any link between the two.
According to the National Cancer Institute's website, "the Committee on Gynecologic Practice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that 'more rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.'"
The website also gives the following as other findings from the recent studies:
Women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women.
Women who have had a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) have the same risk of breast cancer as other women [emphasis mine].
Cancers other than breast cancer also appear to be unrelated to a history of induced or spontaneous abortion.
Here is another study: "Induced and spontaneous abortion and incidence of breast cancer among young women: a prospective cohort study." The conclusion of the study, which included women ages 29 to 46 years old: "Among this predominantly premenopausal population, neither induced nor spontaneous abortion was associated with the incidence of breast cancer."
Oh look, another study (from June 2008): "Incomplete pregnancy is not associated with breast cancer risk: the California Teachers Study." The authors provide some background on the study: "Early studies of incomplete pregnancy and development of breast cancer suggested that induced abortion might increase risk. Several large prospective studies, which eliminate recall bias [i.e., a 'systematic error caused by differences in the accuracy or completeness of the recollections retrieved by study participants regarding events or experiences from the past'], did not detect associations, but this relationship continues to be debated." The study concluded that, "These results provide strong evidence that there is no relationship between incomplete pregnancy and breast cancer risk."
You know what can increase your risk of developing breast cancer? Per Breastcancer.org, not having children can increase your risk (not cause -- big difference): "Women who haven't had a full-term pregnancy or have their first child after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who gave birth before age 30." That does not mean having an abortion (spontaneous or elective) causes breast cancer.
Breast cancer doesn't discriminate, and it certainly doesn't care if you have had a spontaneous or elective abortion. Breast cancer doesn't just happen to "bad people," because I certainly know a lot of wonderful, loving women who have had cancer and many among those who have died from it. Your morals don't shield you from ever having breast cancer.
Using breast cancer, a very deadly disease that approximately 40,000 people will die from in 2014, in the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate is disgusting and offensive. Women (mostly) are losing their lives, and you want to add shame (based in bias and anti-science) to their struggles? Shame on every single person who has put that bumper sticker on their car. You are not a virtuous person. You are horrible. Women undergoing breast cancer treatment need your support, not your vitriol and blame.