Editor’s note: The editors of USA Today refused to publish Dr. Hunnell’s response.
May 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The USA Today op-ed by Drs. Angell and Greene, Where are the doctors?, is unfortunately very short on facts. It is surprising that two physicians with such prestigious credentials would put forth a call to physicians for civil disobedience while eschewing the latest scientific findings on the subject.
Their first claim that there is a war on reproductive rights because thirty-five states require counseling before proceeding with an abortion is absurd. Such counseling requires that women be given accurate and full information about abortion and pregnancy so that they can give fully informed consent for this serious procedure. The claim promulgated by the abortion industry that the developing embryo is just a “blob of cells” is corrected with an ultrasound. If a woman sees that her unborn child has a beating heart and fully formed fingers and toes and still wants to proceed with the abortion, she is free to do so. But she is doing so with more complete knowledge of the choice at hand.
And contrary to the assertions of Drs. Angell and Greene, there are numerous studies that find a link between breast cancer and abortion. A study by researchers Lilit Khachatryan of the American University of Armenia, Robert Scharpf of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and Sarah Kagan of the University of Pennsylvania was published in October, 2011 in the prestigious journal Health Care for Women International. Their work found a three-fold increase in breast cancer among women who had an abortion.
The much-touted 2002 National Cancer Institute (NCI) workshop that is often cited as proof that there is no abortion/breast cancer link was handily refuted in 2009 when the president of the NCI workshop, Dr. Louise Brinton, published an article in the highly regarded journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Dr. Brinton’s more recent work found that the risk for a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that strikes women under the age of forty increased by 40% in women with a history of abortion.
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Dr. Angell and Greene make further unsubstantiated allegations that there is an attempt to block access to contraception. Before addressing this charge directly, it must be noted that hormonal contraceptives prevent no diseases. Pregnancy and fertility are normal, healthy physiological conditions. Not a single medical organization recommends the routine use of contraceptives in healthy women for the maintenance or improvement of their health, for the obvious reason that there are significant risks associated with hormonal contraceptives.
The link between hormonal contraceptives and blood clots or strokes is well established and not contested. This risk is so greatly increased in smokers that hormonal contraceptives are not recommended for women who smoke. In addition, the National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization both cite an increased risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer associated with contraceptive use. More recently, a study by scientists at the University of Washington and published in October, 2011 British medical journal, The Lancet revealed that the use of hormonal contraceptives doubled the transmission rates of HIV.
The use of contraceptives is an elective lifestyle choice for women who have weighed the potential harms and decided their desire to avoid pregnancy while being sexually active is worth the risks.
In spite of Angell and Greene’s wild claims, there is absolutely no attempt by any legislators or religious groups to make contraception unavailable to women. There is, however, an attempt by the federal government to infringe upon religious freedom. Religious entities are responding by asserting their constitutional right to exercise their own religious principles without interference from the federal government.
Women are free to obtain contraception, but they are not free to force religious groups who find contraception morally objectionable to fund their lifestyle choice.
Where are the doctors, indeed. Clearly, attempts to portray oral contraceptives as being necessary for healthy women are scientifically dishonest and do a great disservice to women. If Drs. Angell and Greene believe women are capable of making their own decisions about their reproductive health, they should welcome the opportunity for women to have as much information as possible about medical procedures and medications that affect their health. This desire to hide important information from women is dangerous, and more importantly, demeaning to the dignity of women.
Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum, where this article first appeared.