Women have the right to know

MMichel van der Hoek Minnesota is currently in the process of putting in place a “Right to Know” bill, but there is serious opposition to it. Opponents complain the bill is tantamount to harassment of women in difficult circumstances, an attempt to take away women’s rights won in the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. This ruling is often hailed as an enormous advance in women’s rights and health care, which cured many nasty problems and opened the way to legal and hygienic procedures in proper clinics. What, then, must we make of the warning by abortion-rights advocates that the Right to Know bill attempts to crush women’s rights?

Supporters of abortion rights object that the bill, which involves a 24-hour waiting period, unfairly discriminates against poor women from rural areas. According to Minnesota NARAL (a state abortion-rights group affiliated with the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), forcing them to wait a full day after arriving at the clinic entails sacrifices they are unable to afford. Since the waiting period makes it hard for women to have an abortion in private, U.S. courts might find the Minnesota Right to Know bill unconstitutional based on the Roe v. Wade ruling, which guarantees women the privacy to have an abortion.

Relevant information

Additionally, abortion-rights supporters call the bill a paternalistic attempt to bully women by forcing them to listen to “pseudo-scientific garbage” about health risks. According to them, all the relevant information is already being provided to women. I beg to differ, and ironically, Roe v. Wade already allows room for women to sue abortion clinics if they fail to provide them with all relevant information. Just what is considered “relevant information” is the crucial point in this case.

The campaign to portray abortion as risk-free is absolutely baffling. Until the mid-1990s, many cancer research institutes talked about a possible link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer as suggested by various studies since the 1960s. They changed their opinion as a result of a study known as the Melbye study published in 1997. This study took a very large sample of Danish women (more than 60,000) and concluded that it could not find any significant correlation between abortion and breast cancer. Understandably, many public health authorities removed references to the association of breast cancer with abortion.

Unfortunately, the Melbye study has been proved invalid. The study counted abortions from 1973 onward, but it counted cases of breast cancer from 1968, resulting in a full five-year gap of cases excluded a priori for abortion-related causes and thus falsifying the conclusions of the study. The researchers involved in the study actually admitted these and other errors in an additional publication in 1999 – but this has been ignored by abortion rights supporters. It is not surprising that the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer defames public health authorities for misinforming women by omitting important studies and even fabricating conclusions. The coalition lists many statistical, biological and epidemiological studies showing not only mere correlation but a direct causal relationship between abortion and breast cancer. These studies prove convincingly that abortion is by far the most important causal factor. Despite allegations that abortion opponent researchers carry out “religiously motivated pseudo-science,” the objective criteria employed in the studies are publicized openly and can be double-checked. The evidence is not “pseudo-scientific.”

At the moment, women are not informed about the relationship between abortion and such important health risks as breast cancer for the simple reason that public health authorities deny the existence of any relationship. The Right to Know bill is a clampdown on this unfair bias in favor of an outdated scientific viewpoint.

The feminist agenda

But health risks are only one of the battlegrounds. We must understand the campaign for a woman’s right to choose as part of the feminist movement, which has made everything subject to the attainment of civil rights for women. While I have no argument with the equal treatment of women, the feminist agenda has moved beyond this goal and now desires rights for women that George Orwell might have called “more equal” than those for other human beings. For instance, men are conveniently allowed the freedom to be abortion doctors, but not to oppose abortion. If they exercise their First Amendment right to voice their opposition, they are accused of encroaching on women’s prerogatives.

Another curious interpretation of rights is the term “reproductive rights.” By avoiding a negative term such as “abortion rights” and consciously replacing it with this euphemism, abortion rights advocates define the subject rather narrowly, ignoring other issues such as the moral and ethical implications of unsafe and promiscuous sex or killing unborn human life. If abortion or the abortion pill (mifepristone or RU-486) are available fallbacks, safe sex becomes less important. This is sure breeding ground for sexually transmitted infections and conveniently absolves women from the civil duty to be accountable for their own actions. Abstention – which is, with the exceptions of rape and spousal promiscuity, an irrefutably fail-safe precaution against STIs and unwanted pregnancies – is considered, in these liberated times, ridiculous Victorian prudery. Everyone has the right to choose on this point but should also be willing to face the risks and implications.

Such is the state of affairs 30 years after Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights activists have expressed astonishment that people are still talking about Roe v. Wade now. They believed “progress” would by now have reshaped society so that a woman’s right to choose would no longer be questioned seriously by anyone. They cannot believe that Roe v. Wade is still so embattled. Luckily, it is, and there are hopes that state and federal authorities could bring a change, because all Americans have a right to know all the relevant information.

Michel van der Hoek is a University graduate student. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]