Kansas Bill Pushes Nonexistent Abortion, Cancer Link

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 19 2013 4:36 PM

Kansas Doctors May Have To Outline Nonexistent Links Between Abortion and Breast Cancer

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Flanked by National Pro-Life Action Center Director Paul Schenck (second left) and Rob Schenck (right) of the National Clergy Council, then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback attends a kick off event of the annual "March for Life" parade. Brownback is now the governor of Kansas.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

If a big abortion bill in Kansas passes, doctors in the state would be required to inform patients seeking the procedure of the link between abortions and breast cancer. That's despite considerable scientific evidence indicating that said link doesn't exist.

Here's the piece of the 70-page bill, which passed first-round approval in the Kansas House today, in question. It's part of a list of things doctors would be required to provide to patients 24 hours before a scheduled abortion procedure:

"The material shall also contain objective information describing the methods of abortion procedures commonly employed, the medical risks commonly associated with each such procedure, including risk of premature birth in future pregnancies, risk of breast cancer, risks to the woman's reproductive health and the medical risks associated with carrying an unborn child to term."
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An amendment to revise this language by Republican state Rep. Barbara Bollier was rejected by the House on Tuesday. So the language will stand. When a similar bill made its way through the state's legislature last year, Slate explained the shaky science behind the supposed link. It looks like this piece is worth yet another look. (We've also explained that abortions don't cause teen depression, in case you were wondering).

Here's the shorthand on the supposed increased risk of breast cancer from abortions: a 2003 review of scientific research done on the then-contested link by the National Cancer Institute found that most of the earlier studies showing increased breast cancer risk after an abortion were "flawed." They concluded that "since then, better-designed studies have been conducted...The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk."

The Kansas bill also defines life as beginning at fertilization, bans abortion providers from tax exemptions, excludes the cost of abortion services from tax deductions for medical expenses, and prohibits abortion providers from giving materials to instructors of sex education classes. That last provision, as the Associated Press explains, was revised after opponents argued that the language was broad enough to ban parents who work for abortion providers (or doctors who perform the procedure themselves) from volunteering in schools. It should be noted, however, that Rep. Allan Rothlisberg opposed revising the language, arguing that "If we're going to have people in our education system, I don't want them involved in any way, shape or form or manner in killing children, killing babies ... we should have people of integrity and morality teaching our children."

Next, the bill will go up for a final vote in the House, where it's likely to pass. Last year, a similar bill was killed in the state Senate after passing the house, but since then, the Kansas Senate has become more conservative.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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