Topeka Activists on both sides of the abortion debate disagreed Tuesday over the quality of medical evidence showing that abortions increase a woman's risk of breast cancer.
The varying views were expressed during a House committee hearing on a bill to require that an abortion provider tell a woman about "the increased risk of breast cancer associated with the proposed abortion."
The measure would expand Kansas' "informed consent" law, which mandates that doctors tell women about an abortion procedure and its risks before performing it.
Witnesses from the group Kansans for Life told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee that 13 of 14 U.S. medical studies show abortion increases a woman's risk by as much as 50 percent.
Abortion rights supporters wondered why, if that is true, organizations such as the American Cancer Society do not say so.
Barbara Duke, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of University Women, said the lack of a credible source for the connection led her organization to believe it is incorrect and potentially damaging.
"Women with breast cancer can be stigmatized when misinformation is spread about their condition and the reasons for it," Duke said. "The Legislature puts its own credibility at risk if it uses questionable medical information to make a political statement."
But attorney John Kindley of Mishawaka, Ind., questioned whether the American Cancer Society's involvement was the correct gauge of risk. Kindley is pursuing a lawsuit in North Dakota against an abortion provider for saying in brochures that there's no evidence of an abortion-breast cancer link.
He said anti-smoking groups claimed a link between smoking and lung cancer long before the American Cancer Society did.
Kindley, who also participated in a Kansans for Life rally at the Statehouse, said informing women of the connection was a legal question and not a debate over the facts.
"I assure you the facts are quite simple," Kindley said. "It's a question of what to do about these facts."
He said the studies have biological backing. When a woman first becomes pregnant, the female hormone estrogen causes her breast size to grow. The excess cells in the breast help build milk ducts if the pregnancy is carried to full term, he said.
When a pregnancy is terminated, more cells are left in the breasts that are cancer-vulnerable than before the woman was pregnant, Kindley said.
Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, the bill's sponsor, said opponents were trying to hide abortions risks.
"Instead, they are offering women a bundle of half-truths and complete fabrications," said Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee.
But Reps. Lisa Benlon, R-Shawnee, and L. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, said they wanted groups that work to eradicate cancer, not abortions, to say that abortions increase a woman's risk for breast cancer.