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The dark side of abortion, IVF and contraception

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Supporters of teachings opposing abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization are experiencing vindication this week. Several landmark studies have made international headlines in recent days, confirming a link between incidents of breast cancer and abortion, and the health risks posed by in vitro fertilization and certain forms of birth control.

For years researchers and scientists have dismissed as pro-life rhetoric studies linking the use of contraceptives and abortion to increased rates of breast cancer. However, a significant 2009 federal study is now supporting those claims. The study was conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. They found that women who previously had an abortion showed a 40% increase in contracting breast cancer. Their research also indicated that women who used oral contraceptives were up to four times more likely to contract “triple negative” breast cancer (TNBC), one of the more deadly forms of the disease.

While these findings were published in a well respected medical journal last spring, they were not picked up by the mainstream media until this week. That is in part due to a recent analysis of the Hutchinson study penned by Dr. Joel Brind, a professor of biology at New York’s Baruch University and leading advocate of the abortion-breast cancer connection. Brind referred to the study as a “bombshell.” He pointed out that one of the coauthors was Louise Brinton of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Brinton was the chief organizer of a 2003 NCI workshop which declared the lack of a link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC) as an “established fact.” Brind surmised, “Can it not therefore be argued that the NCI is backing off its denial of the ABC link? This is big news, to be sure, but no one has challenged the NCI with it, yet.”

Despite the apparent change in NCI’s opinion, pro-life advocate are outraged that the research has not generated any publicity or warnings to women having abortions. Karen Malec, President of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer issued a press release which said:

Although the study was published nine months ago, the NCI, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other cancer fundraising businesses have made no efforts to reduce breast cancer rates by issuing nationwide warnings to women….Obviously, more women will die of breast cancer if the NCI fails in its duty to warn about the risks of OCs and abortion…

Another significant study, this one dealing with in vitro fertilization (IVF) is stirring up debate on the health risks of artificial reproduction. Professor Carmen Sapienza, a geneticist at Temple University in Philadelphia, recently published his team’s findings. They discovered that babies conceived through IVF had lower levels of methylation, a molecular process by which certain genes are deactivated when not needed by the body. This helps explain why IVF babies are at a higher risk of birth defects and metabolic disorders, and why they are more prone to obesity and diabetes later in life. While the Catholic Church’s moral opposition to IVF is well known, a growing number of medical professionals have been sounding the alarm about these health concerns for years.

The third study of note involves the popular injected contraceptive Depo-Provera – a method used by more than two million American women. A research study published in this month’s edition of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who use this contraceptive lose an alarming amount of bone mass within just two years. Most media reports on this study have minimized the drug’s dangers, pointing out that women can significantly reduce bone density loss by simply not smoking and upping their calcium intake. However, the study found that even women who got more than 600g of calcium per day had a 2% increase in bone loss while using Depo-Provera. Suddenly, abstinence, openness to human life and respect for natural law seem like not just good moral decisions, but healthy ones as well.

The famed cosmologist and author Robert Jastrow once penned this famous description of the tension between scientists and theologians:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Jastrow was writing about the pitfalls of Darwinian Fundamentalism, but one could just as easily ascribe his words to the present conflict between Judeo-Christian morality and segments of the medical and scientific community bent on using technology to supersede natural law. The escalation of breast cancer rates in women who have procured an abortion, the growing number of abnormalities in children born through in vitro fertilization, and the health risks posed by contraceptives such as Depo-Provera stand as clear evidence that the Church’s consistent moral restraints on “scientific progress” are wise teachings that our civilization ignores at its own peril.

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