He had a knack for playing the all-American boy. Ron Howard charmed us as the painfully shy Winthop in The Music Man and the adorable Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. He was the college-bound Steve in the 1973 blockbuster American Graffiti. The following year, Howard starred as clean-cut teenager Richie Cunningham in television’s Happy Days.
So it was only natural that when Howard turned his sights to directing, he gave us the all-American film. Apollo 13 tells the inspiring story of three courageous astronauts fighting their way through a horribly snake-bitten mission. But it also tells the equally compelling story of those steely-eyed missile men-the mission control ground team working night and day to safely bring them home. After hurdling obstacle after obstacle, the team met one they could not jump: the astronauts would plunge into a typhoon-watch area. When asked whether the three fliers should be told, mission control director Gene Kranz asked back: “Is there anything they can do about it?” Hearing “not now,” Kranz replied, “Then they don’t need to know, do they.”
One of God’s better decisions is His not telling us the inevitable parts of our lives. The knowledge would probably paralyze us; we’d never get out of bed. Not knowing everything to fear is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that warnings aren’t important. Warnings help keep us safe in all sorts of ways. Over the last 50 years, one of the law’s greatest contributions to society is its insistence that reasonable warnings be provided to those who could otherwise be injured. We must warn product users about inherent product dangers and about the dangers of product misuse. We warn tell investors about the risks of the marketplace. We must warn workers about the dangers that come with their jobs. Effective warnings allow people to adjust their behaviors. With them we can increase the chances that by the end of the day, everyone will come home safely. Gone is the notion of caveat emptor-“let the buyer beware.”
But not totally gone. At least one warning remains largely unmentioned: the ABC link-the link between abortion and breast cancer. Scientists have long known how breast cancer occurs. A woman’s body produces the hormone estrogen, which causes breast cells to divide. Estrogen is a carcinogen known to cause breast cancer. As breast cells divide, mistakes can result in the formation of cancer cells. In 8-10 years, one cancer cell can multiply into a cancer site about ½ inch in diameter. The risk of breast cancer increases with increased exposure to estrogen. During pregnancy, as a woman’s milk glands (lobules) are increasing in number, estrogen levels rise 2000% by the end of the first trimester. During the third trimester and after childbirth, the glands fully mature and can resist cancer. But because abortion ends a pregnancy, women who abort during the first and second trimesters are left with many immature milk glands and so are at greater risk of breast cancer.
Scores of studies since 1957 have concluded that abortion puts women at increased risk of contracting breast cancer. In 1996, the increased risk was reported as 30% worldwide. More recently, a 2013 published study in Bangladesh revealed that women with abortion histories have an over 20 times higher risk of breast cancer than non-abortive women. The results were shocking because the childbearing patterns in Bangladesh minimize the chances of breast cancer. In India, a 2013 study comparing healthy women with women suffering breast cancer found that the risk of cancer was 6.26 times higher in the women with a history of abortion.
The India study came shortly after the results of a Chinese meta-analysis of the 36 published studies in China about the ABC link. The analysis showed a 44% increased risk of breast cancer among women having one abortion. The numbers increase to 76% with two or more abortion, 89% with three or more. The numbers are particularly significant because the lack of a social stigma about abortion in China reduces the risk of underreporting by healthy women. Yet here at home, despite the mounting evidence of an ABC link, organizations like Planned Parenthood, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute still deny it. Ironically, six years after the NCI concluded that there was no link, one of its top scientists co-authored a report indicating that induced abortion is a significant risk factor for breast cancer.
Certainly the ABC link is controversial. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that it’s debatable. Shouldn’t this mean that we try to get down to the bottom of the issue by conducting solid research? When it comes to health, we research just about everything under the sun. Since 2009, the federal government has committed about $870 million to embryonic stem cell research. President Obama approved the research on the ground that scientific decisions should not be based on “ideology.” The research has yielded virtually nothing value, but that doesn’t stop the money from flowing. By contrast, no money has been committed to researching the ABC link. But why not? Shouldn’t we all be eager to scientifically prove the truth-whatever it is?
Sadly, it comes down to ideology-the pro-abortion ideology. For over 40 years, politicians have curried women’s votes by claiming that abortion is safe. The last thing that politicians want is to be proved wrong. It can cost them power. For abortionists-Planned Parenthood and others-the ideology has netted them billions in revenues. They don’t want to see it change any time soon. But worse than trumping science, the pro-abortion ideology has trumped love. If we truly love our women, we should go wherever the truth about the ABC link leads us. True love demands that we sacrifice self-interests for the good of others. Instead, our culture acts as if there is no issue whatsoever. Uninformed women are being left to fend for themselves. We would never do this to our own children. Why do we do it to God’s?
We are dropping our women into an active typhoon zone. But if we are honest with them, they can do something about it. We can help them make informed decisions about whether abortion is worth the risk. We owe them that much. At least that much.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.