Abortion and Breast Cancer - is there a link?
There are not many touchier subjects than abortion in the public forum. It's either the 'right to life' or the 'woman's right to choose' and both parties hold firm convictions.
It is now 37 years since the landmark Roe v Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the USA to grant women the right to an abortion on demand, without undue intereference by anyone, especially the Government. How many lives have been terminated in those 37 years only the Creator would know.
Christians have rightly stood opposed to our modern abortion laws, seeing them as condoning the mass killing of the most vulnerable people on earth - the unborn.
It has also been a challenge for Christians as they try to come to grips with some heavy ethical issues such as a compassionate response to the request for an abortion by a girl who is pregnant through rape or an ectopic pregnancy1.
Some "Christians" have decided that the answer to the killing of the unborn is the execution of doctors who perform abortions and so bombs have been detonated inside abortion clinics. That innocent bystanders, nursing staff, administrators or loved ones are killed in the process does not seem to bother the numb consciences of these people, let alone that doctors and their young patients are murdered as the primary targets.
As a consequence of wanting a degree of separation from such extremists and partly because they want to show genuine compassion for the emotional and physical distress of the young women, Christians have felt muzzled on the clear warnings in the Bible regarding the sanctity of human life, sex outside marriage and the wages of sin in general.
However, a recent study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute 2 in Seattle has sent the pro-abortion lobby groups into a spin. The problem is not the Institute's moral viewpoint on abortion. It does not have one. The problem is what is says are the consequences of abortion.
According to the study, abortion is on the list of factors “associated with an increased risk for breast cancer”. It has sent shockwaves around the world. Apparently, we like to know when abortion delivers a "positive outcome" for those involved but we do not want to hear about it causing more problems than it solves.
In case you think the authors of the study are religious crackpots, consider this: one of the authors is Louise Brinton, the chief of the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in America.
This means the results are coming from within the NCI itself, an organisation which has been nervous about linking abortions to cancer as can be seen from their previous factsheets here and here. For the past six to seven years the NCI's standard position is that the link of abortion to cancer is unclear. Now that has changed, although it seems some parts of the NCI are a bit slow to read the memo.
When the NCI was contacted by a Canadian newspaper for comment it said, "NCI has no comment on this study. Our statement and other information on this issue can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/ere.” 3 The link is to the abovementioned 2003 factsheets.
In Australia, the Cancer Council follows a similar line.
To this point the NCI has not explained the discrepancy between its official position and the new study from within its ranks. Perhaps it is in damage control.
Clash of ideologies
Here we see a classic case of two primary causes competing for supremacy. Two "absolutes" I guess you could say.
In one corner we have the "we will do anything possible to allow abortion" camp. In the other corner we have the "we will do anything possible to prevent cancer" camp. But who wins when they meet in a winner-take-all heavyweight bout?
It would be nice if Christians were at the forefront of this research, but we don't need to be. We do not base our views on pragmatism (ie the best practical outcome for all concerned). We base our views on God's revealed word regardless of who that offends.
We are meant to sit along side those who are in pain and give them whatever practical help we can, but not as a trade off with God's moral imperatives.
The one thing we know the NCI is not going to announce is that the world is groaning under the corruption of sin and that we have strayed from God's plan. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus,
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
We are not going to hear the NCI give a call for world wide repentance from the evil of abortion. Whenever abortion comes up for debate, it is 'sold' to us on the basis that it is good for women. Nothing much is said about the unborn. It is as though they don't exist.
And isn't that the nub of the problem? If we considered the unborn to be a real person, a lot of the answers to the abortion dilemma would be clear. Not all, sure, but many of them.
I had a conversation with a Christian woman once who was sympathetic to abortion. I asked her if her view would be any different if we were talking about taking the life of a two year old child rather than a two month old foetus. She said she would feel far different about that which prompted me to say, "Then what you are saying is that the foetus is somehow less of a person than the two year old".
That is why abortion is so easy for many. A two year old child you can see. He can even answer you back and protest, but no one sees the foetus except the doctor performing the abortion.
So where did we get the idea that the foetus was not as real a person as a two year old? From non-Christian scientists. They are setting our agenda and the Church struggles at times to mount an adequate response. We would do well to remember the world's scientists are not setting out to validate God's Word.
It would not surprise me if in time we see another study come out of the NCI which "qualifies" this current study and calms everyone's fears that abortion might somehow not be a good idea.
If the NCI finds clear and incontrovertible proof that abortion does indeed cause cancer, then it will be given a makeover so that 'safe abortion' becomes the modus operandi in much the same way 'safe sex' eased the gay community through the AIDS epidemic.
Men and women do indeed love the darkness and we should not be surprised at this. More reason to offer them the "light of the world" (John 8:12) in their hour of need for he is the answer to their problem.
1. The word ectopic comes from the Greek and means "out of place." An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilized eggs plants itself somewhere outside the uterus.
2. The study is not free to download (US $35). Consequently I have not read it, nor am I quoting it, but refer to it based on the commentary of others. Whether the results of the study prove to be true is not my primary issue, as interesting as that would be. My point is that the world struggles when two of its ideologies clash head on. God has the answer here, but the world refuses to turn to him.
3. Reported by Gloria Galloway in The Globe and Mail, January 8th, 2010.