- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

Pro-life advocates announced a new strategy yesterday against abortion clinics: If they can't block them or outlaw them, maybe they can bankrupt them.
Taking a line from former smokers who are racking up huge awards in the nation's courts against tobacco companies, the Stafford, Va.-based American Life League (ALL) announced the start of a series of lawsuits filed by women who have had abortions.
"The right to choose includes the right to know," said Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, an ALL subsidiary in King of Prussia, Pa. The 1.3 million American women who enter the nation's abortion clinics each year should be told, she said, that the procedure can lead to suicide, breast cancer, child abuse, infertility, depression and alcoholism.
"This information would have [made] a difference in the decisions of many women," she said. "A lot more people would smoke if it wasn't known it'd kill you."
But does abortion, the country's most frequently performed surgical procedure, need a warning attached to it much like the hazardous-to-your-health wording on packages of cigarettes?
"Women have been led to believe abortion is a safety net when it's a safety hazard," Mrs. Burke said. "Women can sue abortion providers for not telling them this. There are millions of potential clients who can seek redress in the courts."
John Kindley, the lead attorney for the plaintiff in Amy Jo Mattson vs. Red River Women's Clinic, a false advertising lawsuit in Fargo, N.D., said women who get breast cancer after an abortion can sue their clinic for not advising them of this risk. The Fargo suit, filed last December, sued the clinic for stating in a brochure there is no evidence of a direct relationship between breast cancer and abortion.
Mr. Kindley is also assisting in a another suit in Philadelphia filed in July against a clinic that performed a second-trimester abortion on a 16-year-old without telling her of the risk of breast cancer or emotional distress. A similar suit, filed in 1995 in New York against Planned Parenthood, netted an $80,000 award for its plaintiff in 1998 on the grounds of emotional distress.
"I believe there will be many more lawsuits along this line if that's what it takes to bring justice," Mr. Kindley said. "Any woman who's had an abortion can sue clinics for saying nothing. Abortion clinics are expected to be medically conversant with all facets of abortion."
But they might not say it causes breast cancer. A 1996 study based on 17 out of 23 medical studies worldwide stating that women who have abortions increase their chances of getting breast cancer by one-third was widely disputed in the medical community.
The National Cancer Institute has an "estimating breast cancer risk" form on its Web site (www.nci.nih/gov or www.cancer.gov) that lists race, age, family history and use of birth control pills as possible causes but not abortion.
A 1999 NCI statement says that "inconsistencies and scarcity of existing research do not permit scientific conclusions" on an abortion-breast cancer link.
But Dr. Joel Brind, a New York physician who spoke at the news conference and helped write the 1996 study, says he now has 34 studies on abortion and breast cancer. Twenty-seven of them show a link between the two and "most of them [were] funded by the NCI," he said.
"If this were about anything other than abortion," he added, "the results would be published far and wide."

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