By Joel Brind, Ph.D.
Where to begin to expose the over-the-top dishonesty of abortion advocate Dr. David Grimes’ piece on abortion and breast cancer posted on Feb. 26 in the Huffington Post Blog (“Abortion and Breast Cancer: How Abortion Foes Got it Wrong“)?
Not surprisingly Grimes begins by announcing dismissively that the abortion-breast cancer connection (ABC link) “was debunked long ago.” In truth, it is the denial that has been repeatedly debunked.
Ironically, one of the key studies Grimes relies on as “a landmark prospective study of women in Denmark” to “prove” the ABC link is a myth is actually the largest and most egregiously flawed of the prior studies.
Grimes neglects to tell us that this 18-year-old study was itself debunked by published correspondence.
In that back and forth, multiple errors were illuminated. For example 60,000 women in the study who had had legal abortions on record, were misclassified as not having had any abortions, badly skewing the study.
Moreover, the fundamental rule of temporality was violated by the authors’ inclusion of breast cancer diagnoses since 1968 but abortions only since 1973.
The omissions of pre-1973 legal abortions from the study were based on the Danish authors’ false claim that abortion was legalized in Denmark in 1973, when in fact, it had been legalized way back in 1939.
But Grimes’ main argument rests on another false report emanating from Sweden—a 23-year-old paper that claimed to show evidence of “recall bias.’ Recall bias posits that more healthy women (called “controls” in epidemiological studies) “underreport” (i.e., lie about) having prior abortions on study questionnaires than do breast cancer patients (called “cases” in epidemiological studies).
To make his case, Grimes shows us a pair of hypothetical statistical data tables (called 2×2 data tables; a standard presentation of raw epidemiological data, such as were presented in that Swedish study Grimes cites). He tells us this is evidence how such differential “underreporting” between women who “have breast cancer” and women who “do not” “caused an apparent 60% increase in risk!” among women who’d had an abortion.
Note the problem here: Grimes uses simple present and past tenses to describe the data he presents, and never tells us the data are hypothetical!
Why not use the real data to make his point? That’s easy: The original Swedish data tables tell a different story. Follow carefully because this is SOP for ABC link deniers.
The “underreporting” of abortions among the healthy Swedish women only showed up when compared to the supposed “overreporting” of abortion among the Swedish breast cancer patients.
“Overreporting” represents the bizarre notion that breast cancer patients imagined abortions that never took place—based on the fact that they reported having abortions that do not appear on the computerized record. So preposterous is the notion of overreporting that seven years later, the Swedish group publically retracted the claim, admitting that the phantom abortions were real but “not recorded as legally induced abortions.”
So Grimes was faced with a tough problem. The only epidemiological study which claimed to show direct evidence of “recall bias” was the aforementioned 1991 Swedish study. But he couldn’t just dust it off and use it to make his argument, since it was publicly discredited in 1998!
So he solved his problem by making up hypothetical data (an unfriendly critic would say fictitious data) and reporting it in such a way that the reader would infer it was the real data that evidenced recall bias.
All this clever rehashing and misrepresenting of last century’s junk science that Grimes engages in might be funny were the ABC link not devastating so many women’s lives. In this regard it is not funny at all that Grimes is totally silent on the veritable tsunami of ABC link evidence that has poured in from Asia in just the last few years.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 36 studies from mainland China reported a 44% overall increase in breast cancer risk among women with any abortions. But the strongest evidence comes from South Asia (i.e., India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka), where the typical woman marries young, has several children and breastfeeds them all, and never drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes. In such populations—where there is little else besides abortion that could cause breast cancer—relative risks for abortion average greater than fourfold and as high as 20-fold, according to at least a dozen South Asian studies in the last 5 years alone!
In other words, contrary to Grimes’ assertion, the recent studies provide the strongest evidence yet of the reality of the ABC link and its deadly effects.
With over a billion women in China and India alone, it’s very conservative to predict millions of breast cancer deaths in Asia attributable to abortion, in the coming decades. Doing the math is quite simple.
“If half of those billion women (five hundred million) end up having one or more abortions, and as few as 2% of them end up with breast cancer as a result, that would be 10 million women.
No wonder Grimes is not interested in the recent data, for it is devastating to his “safe abortion” agenda as well as to the lives of millions of unsuspecting women.
Joel Brind, Ph.D. is a Professor of Biology and Endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York, Co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, White House Station, NJ and a frequent contributor to NRL News and NRL News Today.