- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

An Oregon woman who underwent an abortion when she was 15 has settled out of court in a lawsuit against the Portland clinic where the procedure was performed. The lawsuit said workers failed to advise her that the procedure would put her at increased risk for breast cancer.

In paperwork completed before her May 2001 abortion, the girl informed officials at the All Women’s Health Services clinic that both cancer and “breast disease” ran in her family, her attorney, Jonathan Clark, said yesterday.

“My client pointed out that her mother, her grandmother, an aunt and an uncle all had had cancer and that her grandmother had had breast disease, which, in fact, was breast cancer,” Mr. Clark said.

But clinic staffers did not advise the girl, whom he did not identify, that she faced both psychological risks and an increased breast cancer risk by having the abortion, Mr. Clark said.

When All Women’s Heath Services closed its doors in August 2003, the clinic had $150,000 in unpaid bills.

Last fall, attorneys for the former clinic notified Mr. Clark that it was offering his client a financial settlement, and Multnomah County Judge Dale Koch signed an agreement to that effect on Monday. The amount of the judgment is confidential.

“In Oregon,” Mr. Clark said, “there is no statute that requires” that abortion providers disclose that the procedure “increases the risk for breast cancer.” But he said patients “do need to be told of individual risks they might face.”

David R. Foster, a Portland lawyer who represented the clinic in the case, said the clinic is bankrupt. Asked why it agreed to settle, he said that decision was made by the insurance firm for the defunct business, “based on the [probable] cost of a defense.”

“I predict we would have won if it had gone to trial,” he said.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Clark had cited 1994 medical research by doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle that found that girls younger than 18 who had abortions in the first trimester had a 150 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not have abortions.

The report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found the risk was higher if the pregnancy had advanced beyond eight weeks or if the girl had a family history of breast cancer.

Pro-choice groups have never given credence to the study, especially its claims that, overall, women who had abortions were 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. The cancer institute called the findings “inconclusive” in news stories at the time of publication.

Mr. Clark said his client, who is now 19 and does not have breast cancer, was seven weeks pregnant at the time of her abortion.

He pointed out that the girl’s parents did not learn of her pregnancy or its termination until months afterward.

“In Oregon, a 15-year-old can consent to a medical or dental procedure” without parental notification, Mr. Clark said.

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