Junk Science Rules


Now that the 78th Legislature is finally over—sort of, maybe, for a while at least—we couldn’t resist compiling a small collection of some of the more memorable quotes from the past several months. There certainly was a lot to choose from.

In fact, there was so much material to chose from, that some of the most infuriating quotes we’ve heard all session long are not in our collection on pages 10 — 11. Instead they appear in Rachel Proctor’s story recapping legislative efforts to chip away at access to safe, medical abortions (“Your Right to Not Much,” page 4). In addition to setting a 24-hour waiting period that will be particularly harmful to poor women, and those who live in rural areas where access is already severely limited, the Lege also managed to grant something called fetal personhood, and cut all state funding for Planned Parenthood. This time around, the Lege really managed to outdo itself, establishing its own brand of socialized medicine. Oh, don’t worry. We’re not talking about anything remotely like universal health care. After all, this is still a state where approximately one million children have no health insurance. Those are real, live children, and we don’t particularly care too much about them. We have our priorities straight.

No, we’re talking about state-sponsored medical theories that dictate what doctors must tell their patients. (That would be “state” with a very small, mean-spirited, and ultimately demeaning “s.”) Among the many odious provisions of House Bill 15, one of the three major pieces of anti-abortion legislation that was passed this session, is one that requires doctors to tell women that some studies show a link between breast cancer and abortion—even though the National Cancer Institute has concluded “that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a women’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” For the benefit of our friends at the Lege, here’s the most recent information to appear on the Institute’s web page:

In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

As Rachel Proctor points out, there were some early, disputed studies that found a link between induced abortions and breast cancer. But the institute concluded that there was “no association between abortion and breast cancer.” Then last fall, someone in the Bush administration decided to engage in a little tinkering with the Institute’s website, changing the language from “no association” to one that was “inconclusive.” That change sparked an uproar that caused the Institute to convene a workshop to settle the matter.

But not in Texas. Which makes us wonder—after all the tons of ink spilled about medical malpractice and the onerous burden that litigation imposes on physicians, where is the outrage now that the state has gone into minute detail, ordering them to inform their patients about discredited medical studies? —BB