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"Abortions cause breast cancer," she claims. Experts respond.

Freya Ostapovitch

A Queensland politician has claimed that having an abortion increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer by as much as 44 per cent.

Sorry, WHAT NOW?

According to The Australian, Liberal National Party member Freya Ostapovitch, 58, told the Queensland parliament that “the more induced abortions a woman had, the greater her risk of breast cancer.”

The Member for Stretton said she was sharing the ‘information’ in the hope that it would ‘raise awareness’.

Let’s get right into this, shall we?

First up, raising any sort of ‘awareness’ about something the global scientific community says is categorically untrue… is unwise, to be polite. Dangerous and idiotic, if we’re being completely frank.

Ostapovicth continued: “Why are women not informed of these basic facts so that they can avoid induced abortions and thus lower their risk of breast cancer, the major cause of death other than road accidents for pre-menopausal women and the third major cause of death for post-menopausal women?”

Ah. Don’t you just love it when someone uses ‘medical facts’ when they’re (a) not medically trained and (b) not using any actual facts?

Ms Ostapovitch cites an article published in China by Dr. Yubei Huang in November of last year. But here’s the thing. Since its publication in 2013, that study has been disproved and discredited by just about every relevant expert in the world.

There is in fact no conclusive link between having an abortion and breast cancer. The World Health Organisation, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and National Institute of Cancer all dispute the single study that the Member for Stretton used to back up her point.

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Ms Ostpovitch’s comments are not just factually inaccurate. Dr Alex Swarbrick from the Garvan Institute agrees that they’re ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ too. He told Mamamia:

“It is potentially really dangerous for her to have done this. Whatever the issue might be, giving advice to the public that may lead someone to make life changes based on an assertion with no peer-reviewed evidence is really irresponsible. It’s very likely that what she’s said will have that impact. People may well make major life decisions based on her view – and her view is wrong.”

More broadly, Dr Swarbrick warns against basing any important assumption on a single study – like Ms Ostapovitch has done here.

“This idea that there could be a link between abortions and increased cancer risk has been around for decades, I believe since the late 50s. It’s been studied really extensively, agencies around the world have had very detailed looks at available data and none have found any evidence to suggest there’s a link.”

So either Ms Ostapovitch puts her medical opinion — as a politician — above the scientific findings of the most reputable gynaecological, medical, and cancer experts in the world. Or she has another agenda on the issue of abortion.

The issue of reproductive rights is one of the most emotionally and politically charged issue. Any statement made on the subject by a politician, especially during the term of a conservative Christian Prime Minister, is inherently political.

In the absence of any scientific imperative here, we can only conclude that Ms Ostpovitch’s decision to talk people out of abortion is political. Presenting it to the Australian public under the guise of scientific progress and concern for women’s health is not just disingenuous, but dangerous.

If you’re the kind of person who requires actual evidence before speaking, here’s some that might come in handy. The National Breast Cancer Foundation told Mamamia:

“NBCF acknowledges that abortion is an emotional and highly charged issue. The link between abortion and breast cancer has been the subject of extensive research for over 40 years.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, some studies suggested there was a link between abortion and breast cancer. Since the mid-1990s, these studies have been refuted due to their unreliable and inaccurate data reporting.

Several large, well-designed and reputable studies have provided evidence that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer…There is no evidence, nationally or internationally, that supports an association between abortion and breast cancer.”

To any and every woman making a decision that involves your body and your life: get your medical advice from a doctor. To take a politician’s opinion on a medical matter is about as sensible asking your hairdresser for legal advice or your butcher for a make-over. Just don’t.

Further information on the non-existent link between induced abortions and the risk of breast cancer can be found with the World Health Organisation, the National Institute of Cancer or with a very simply Google search.