Illinois Senate Committee Passes Resolution to Investigate Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

April, 2001

On November 29, 2000 Karen Malec, President of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, and John Kindley, Esq. testified before the Illinois Senate Executive Committee in support of Senate Resolution 214, now called SR 8.  The resolution calls for a task force to investigate the abortion-breast cancer link. 

A representative from Planned Parenthood appeared, but did not publicly speak against the resolution.    Only one witness, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), testified against the resolution.  This is peculiar, considering the fact that the ACLU's George Annas once asserted in a patients' rights book that "even a 1 in 10,000 risk of death must always be disclosed." 1.  Apparently, the ACLU has deviated from its own standard and raised the bar for the abortion-breast cancer risk.  One in every 100 women who procure abortions is expected to die.

The ACLU's lobbyist depended upon the usual arguments to oppose the resolution.  For instance, she argued that "recall bias" is an explanation for the studies reporting increased risk.  This is based on the hypothesis that studies depending on interviews from women to obtain abortion histories, retrospective studies, are less reliable because women diagnosed with breast cancer are allegedly more likely to report that they've had abortions than healthy women are.  It has been argued that prospective studies, studies relying on a computerized registry of abortions, are more reliable in reporting abortion history than the women themselves.   However, a number of scientists have tested for recall bias, and no one has ever found any direct evidence that this phenomenon exists in this area of research.  The 1989 Howe study, a prospective study, is often conveniently overlooked by ABC opponents.  It is completely based on fetal death certificates recorded in New York State at the time of abortions.  Howe's team reported an increased risk of 90%.  2.

In spite of the adverse testimony, the resolution was passed in the Executive Committee by a vote of 7 to 4.  Although it was expected that a vote of the full Senate would take place the following day, Senate leaders decided to postpone it because a new session of the General Assembly would begin on January 10, 2001. There would be little time for the members of the task force to be identified and to complete a report before this date.  For these reasons, the resolution was reintroduced after the start of the new session in January, 2001 and is now known as SR 8. 

Coalition participants did have opportunities to speak with a number of senators to learn how they plan to vote on this matter.  Ironically, a number of our opponents in the Senate are women who describe themselves as "pro-choice."  Sadly, they do not support women who want to make an informed choice.  They are not pro-information or pro-life for women. 

We have spoken with some of the opponents of the resolution.  It is apparent to us that they all had virtually the same excuse for not supporting this women's health issue.  They argued that the General Assembly does not belong in health matters!  This is a blatantly disingenuous argument.  The General Assembly has been legislating abortion for 30 years.  Many legislators have parroted the abortion industry's representatives over the years by asserting that abortions were necessary for the sake of women's health.  Now that more than two dozen studies have shown the procedure to be disastrous for women's health, these same legislators tell us that they do not want to insert themselves into matters concerning health and examine the overwhelming evidence of a link.     

The hypocrisy of the resolution's opponents was evident.  Some of them supported taxpayer funded Medicaid abortions in the spring of 2000.  They opposed House Bill 709 which would have prohibited these abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.  Other legislators attempted to pass House Bill 3201 which would have required Catholic hospitals to violate their religious beliefs by informing rape victims where and how to acquire abortifacients (drugs which chemically induce abortions). 

The truth is that the opponents of this measure do not want the public to know about the abortion-breast cancer research.  They want to continue to cover up the evidence because they fear the predictable reaction of the public when it is learned that abortion causes breast cancer.  They fear the inevitable wrath and outrage of women who have been cruelly deceived and exploited.  They fear the loss of the next election. 

In any case, our opponents will have to explain to their constituents why they are not pro-life for women.  We expect that their constituents will recognize the intellectual dishonesty inherent in their arguments and hold them accountable for it.

  • 1. George Annas, "The Rights of Patients: The Basic ACLU guide to Patient Rights," 86 (2d ed. 1992)
  • 2. Howe et al. (1988) Int J Epidemiol 18:300-4