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The leaflet on offer at the Ask Majella stand in the RDS.
false claims

Leaflets making false link between abortion and cancer on offer at World Meeting of Families

The best-available medical evidence consistently refutes the claims made in the leaflet.

LEAFLETS MAKING FALSE links between abortion and breast cancer are on display in the main exhibition hall of the RDS today, where the three-day pastoral congress of the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families is taking place.

The leaflets, which falsely claim that a woman who ends her pregnancy by elective abortion is at increased risk of cancer, have been available to attendees at a stall run by the Ask Majella organisation since yesterday morning.

The organisation, described on its website as offering pregnancy support services, previously came under the media spotlight after The Times (Ireland Edition) secretly recorded a counsellor at its Dublin clinic making various misleading claims about abortion, including claims making a link between abortion and breast cancer.

“Claims that abortion increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer are scientifically unsound and are simply untrue,” Dr Marion Dyer, a member of Doctors for Choice and a GP based in Dublin with over 30 years of experience, told

“The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Ireland made this clear during recent debates on repeal of the Eighth Amendment, passed by the Irish electorate by a decisive majority.

It is dangerous to spread misinformation about breast cancer to women and it is cruel to do this to attempt to frighten and manipulate women in crisis pregnancies.

The presence of the group at the RDS event drew criticism from social media users yesterday, after a Twitter user posted images of the stall and detail of the leaflet in question, with one woman describing it as “distressing”.

Speaking to this website yesterday afternoon, Secretary General of the World Meeting of Families Fr Timothy Bartlett said he wasn’t familiar with the group or their claims.

Asked whether there was a mechanism to address issues with merchandise or other material being offered at the various stalls at the Dublin venue, he said:

“We do say to all of those who are exhibitors that we have the right to ask them to remove particular literature.”

He added:

As you said yourself you can’t police everything on the first day and they only set up this morning – last night or this morning. I will undertake to have a look at this.

The woman manning the Ask Majella stall yesterday afternoon insisted the leaflets were based on various studies, and said people should keep an “open mind” on the issue.

They remained on display at the RDS today. Speaking this afternoon, a spokesperson for the World Meeting of Families was unable to provide any update on whether action would be taken to ensure they were removed.

Extensive study 

The possibility of a correlation between breast cancer and abortion has been the subject of extensive study across scores of academic and medical institutes.

In 2003, the National Cancer Institute in the US assembled over 100 experts in the area to workshop all the available studies at the time. That convention concluded that the strongest scientific evidence concluded that “having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer”.

In January of this year, a meta-analysis by Chinese researchers of 25 studies from across the world into the issue found “IA (induced abortion) was not significantly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer”. You can read the full article at the Medicine journal here.

A representative from the World Health Organisation’s department of reproductive health and research, Dr Ronald Johnson, was questioned last year by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment on WHO guidelines on the risk of breast cancer to women who had had an abortion.

Dr Johnson told the Oireachtas hearing that abortion poses ”no known risks for breast cancer, future reproduction or mental health”.

The best-available epidemiological evidence consistently refutes the claim that there is an increased risk of breast cancer specific to women who have had an abortion.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that ”there is no established link between induced abortion or miscarriage and development of breast cancer”.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines state categorically: ”Women should be informed that induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.”

In the wake of previous media coverage of services offering misleading advice to women, regulations to designate the professions of counsellor and psychotherapist under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 were approved by both houses of the Oireachtas in March of this year.

The regulations came into force on 2 July.

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