When it comes to breast cancer, who should young women listen to?
Your doctor? Your favorite woman's health magazine? Or the politicians leading the fight against the so-called war on women?
According to Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, noted breast cancer surgeon and president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, the answer may be "none of the above."
In a talk to the Legal Center for the Defense of Life in Morristown, NJ, Lanfranchi said that widespread acceptance of abortion is one of the most important factors in increasing the U.S. breast cancer rate since 1970. She said, "Breast cancer is one of only four forms of cancer that are still on the rise."
Lanfranchi said the lifetime risk of breast cancer rose from 8% of all women in 1970 to over 14% by 1990. That has since declined to 12.5% (about 1 in 8 women) after hormone replacement therapy was stopped as standard treatment for menopausal women over 50. Nearly all of that decline came from women in that same age group.
Dr. Lanfranchi also talked about here latest book, "Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women," which she co-authored with Ian Gentiles and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy of the deVeber Institute for Bioethics in Canada.
Lanfranchi is also co-author of "Breast Cancer Risks and Prevention," a comprehensive booklet on breast cancer risks, which is downloadable from the BCP website at htttp://www.bcpinstitute.org/booklet4.htm
Lanfranchi cited research from dozens of studies from all over the world that point to a strong breast cancer/abortion linkage. In the U.S., she said, “The invasive breast cancer rate has increased 40% since Roe v. Wade while in situ cancers have risen by 400% over the same period.”
In her book, Lanfranchi noted that women in groups with higher abortion rates (including minorities targeted by Planned Parenthood) also have higher breast cancer rates. “Yet in the face of all this evidence, the National Cancer Institute continues to deny the breast cancer/abortion link.” She said the explanation “appears to be mainly political.”
So what should women do to minimize their risk?
If you’re young, your doctor may not even bring up the subject unless you’re close to age 40, when screening for breast cancer begins. That’s also when insurance companies are finally willing to underwrite diagnostic mammograms. Until then, your best hope for early detection is regular breast self-examination.
But don’t look for help to your favorite women’s magazine or to politicians attacking the so-called “war on women.” Because of politically correct media and political bias, they are among the leading deniers of the breast cancer/abortion connection.
The good news, however, is that, except for genetic predisposition to breast cancer (often revealed by family history) and occasional anomalies, minimizing a young woman’s risk of future breast cancer is achievable by avoiding certain behaviors.
High risk behaviors include:
Having an abortion before age 18 falls in the very high risk category, especially if you have a genetic predisposition or a family history of breast cancer. Having more than one abortion will increase the risk even more.
Still risky is not having one or more completed pregnancies before age 30, not having children at all, and premature termination of pregnancy before 32 weeks.
Regular use of contraceptive steroids in any form, (e.g., “the Pill”), alcohol use and cigarette smoking, late menopause, post-menopausal obesity, and 2nd trimester miscarriages are other factors that can increase the risk.
Behaviors that protect against future breast cancer include:
Getting married and having children earlier (each additional full-term pregnancy reduces future breast cancer risk by 10%) and breast feeding also reduce risk. So will early menopause, and/or late onset of first menstrual cycle. Including cruciform vegetables like broccoli in your diet may also help.
Dennis Howard is a veteran Catholic journalist and president of Movement for a Better America. Anne Reisner is MBA's Director of Youth Outreach
You can help us
change hearts & minds
Planned Parenthood will receive $1500 of your tax money for every baby they abort in the U.S. this year, but there are no government grants for those involved in educating young people to prevent future abortions.
However, your donation to Movement for a Better America is deductible for federal income tax purposes. So why not donate to help our outreach to the younger generation -- 30% of whom have been lost to the abortion epidemic.
Your gift can help us change hearts and minds about abortion long before they happen.
To donate, just mail your donation today to:
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PO Box 472, Mt. Freedom, NJ 07970 - 0472
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Restoring a Culture of Truth
By Suzanne Ennis
One of the rewards of working in the Pro-Life movement is access to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It may be good, bad, or ugly, but truth abounds in the Culture of Life as it drives away the darkness that is so widespread today.
You can hear it in the stories that women friends have told me over the years, stories that were close to their hearts. Here are three of them.
In the 1960's, long before Roe vs. Wade decriminalized abortion in all 50 states, my friend Theresa was a teenager facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Theresa says she was anxious, but determined to keep her baby, who is now in his late 40's. Her father had other plans. He insisted he would take Theresa to have an abortion. She refused, and, in that era before Roe, the law was on her side.
"I told him if he tried to make me get an abortion, I'd call the Sheriff," says the now contented grandmother and retired office worker.
And if these events had taken place ten years later?
"I guess I couldn't have fought to keep my son" she says, her eyes full of encouragement for a woman who is now her son's age and very much engaged in a battle to save babies like hers.
On the other hand, Liz and her son were among the first victims of Roe v. Wade. She faced her crisis in 1974, just one year after Roe.
Liz now says, "My parents and I would never have chosen abortion if it weren't legal."
But they bought the lie that Liz's baby was "just a blob of tissue" that would simply be expelled by a saline abortion. She found out the awful truth when she was left there to let the chemicals do their worst, burning the baby to death inside a terrified and hurting Liz.
She "gave birth" to the tiny, well-formed baby all alone. "I named him Stephen," she says, "and baptized him with my tears".
Liz, now a mother of four, has used her bitter experience to help inform others. She had the courage to tell her kids about her terrible mistake and now the whole family joins in the March for Life in Washington D.C. year after year.
And then there was Michelle, who was in her mid-30's when she found out she was pregnant ten years ago. She and her husband went to a crisis pregnancy center, where Pro-Life staffers gave them the book, "What to Expect When You're Expecting." They encouraged them to keep their baby.
"We looked through the book and said 'We can do this!' We left there and wondered what we were thinking, that we could even have considered not having the baby."
When Michelle told me her story, I was running a campaign at church to spiritually adopt babies in danger of abortion. The next phase of the project was a group trip to the mall to buy parenting books for moms-to-be.
We donated dozens of copies of "What to expect When You're Expecting" that same year to be given to other women like Michelle who were seeking the truth, not just the truth about abortion, but about what it means to "Say Yes to Life."
That truth is sadly lacking in public discourse and in the media today. However, it is the truth that will set us free and restore us to a Culture of Life.
All names in this story have been changed to protect the anonymity of those who shared their stories with us.
Natural Family Planning:
A Better Way?
By Robert Flaherty “This is a time when couples must work together to renew our understanding of Christian teaching on love and marriage and to share that with our children and grandchildren in terms they can understand.”
The speaker was Dr. Leonie Watson, MD, an expert in natural family planning, who is a graduate of Georgetown University Medical School and a certified fertility care medical consultant. She is also New Jersey’s leading advocate of the natural procreative technology method developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers at Creighton University Medical School.
According to Dr. Watson, “NaPro -- as it is called -- is highly effective and eliminates the need for couples to resort to artificial contraception or the Pill.”
“There is never any reason why anyone has to take birth control pills," says Dr. Watson. "If you request an alternative to oral contraceptives from your doctor, and he says there is no alternative, get in touch with me and I will explain the alternative to you or to your doctor.”
She adds that the same thing applies to couples seeking help for infertility through in vitro fertilization. “There are alternatives that greatly reduce the risks to both mother and baby.”
She admits that natural family planning message is difficult to “sell” to young people in an age when they get their information about love and marriage from TV, movies, and sex education classes in school -- hardly sources that emphasize the unselfish giving of couples to one another in Christian marriage.
She is often challenged, “Come on, Dr. Watson, get back to the real world.”
The reality is that many otherwise well-informed people have little knowledge of the latest developments in natural family planning that are in keeping with their beliefs.
The result, says Watson, is that “they get very little of the authentic, beautiful teaching about Christian marriage, and the churches are labeled as ‘out of touch with reality.’ In fact, it is by living according to our most deeply held beliefs that we attain happiness and security for ourselves and our children.”
She says, “The fact is that NaPro is just as scientific as the technology for artificial contraception, but it cooperates with the natural functioning of a woman’s body. It doesn’t prevent conception. And it doesn’t ever destroy the newly formed human baby, the embryo or fetus in the womb.”
The approach requires teaching and followup along with medical consultation, and it can be used throughout a woman’s reproductive years to monitor, maintain and evaluate her procreative and gynecologic health.
The program has two aspects:
1. The education phase called Fertilicare “teaches responsible parenthood for achieving or avoiding pregnancy, timing conception, pregnancy evaluation, as well as instruction in aspects of our sexuality beyond the physical -- including the spiritual and psychological.” Says Dr. Watson, “Marriages will be stronger if couples are aware of the spiritual, intellectual, communicative, creative and emotional aspects of their relationship. The goal is to improve marital bonding which is at the core of healthier, happier, and holier family living.”
2. The second aspect comes into play when women experience difficulties such as irregular cycles, infertility, recurrent miscarriage, ovarian cysts, unusual bleeding, premenstrual syndrome, or even the effects of stress.
“The NaPro system is tailor-made for each patient and her needs. It is medically safe, reliable, relatively inexpensive, natural and cooperative. It respects the dignity of women and men as equal partners in the marital relationship. It also fosters improved communication between them, which results in a fuller, richer life together.”
Contrary to popular opinion, birth control pills “don’t really cure anything,” asserts Dr. Watson. “They change normal function to abnormal. Even if the patient’s function is abnormal, they don’t fix it. They simply alter the hormone balance to something definitely abnormal.”
Essentially, they are synthetic hormones which replace the normal estrogen and progesterone that is made by a woman’s body. A woman releases a mature egg from her ovary once each month. Birth control pills prevent that normal process from happening.
Yet doctors now use the Pill for a variety of reasons, from regulating a woman’s cycle to treating ovulation problems, cramps and even acne. “But they never restore normal function,” Watson says.
What is often lost in the process is the beautiful concept of marriage as a sacrament. The movement toward same sex marriage is a reflection of this.
“Our culture is saturated with the ideas of self-gratification, sexual pleasure, and a 50-50 approach to marriage. Marriage is seen as a contract, rather than as a spiritual covenant between a man, a woman, and God.”
As a result, we experience consequences like these:
Children are often seen as commodities, symbols of achievement to be acquired at our convenience, as long as they don’t threaten us financially.
Fidelity has little significance. We become intimate before marriage, often without commitment and with more than one partner.
We all know the statistics. Divorce, abortion, STDs, abuse, and unhappiness in marriage are nearly as common among religious families as among the general population. The very idea of marriage is being deconstructed so that society no longer sees it as something unique and holy, but as no different from any other relationship -- including some that are its polar opposites or which can be renegotiated or discarded at will.
Dr. Watson says married couples need to ask themselves: “Do religious beliefs have any relevance in our current world or are we going to submit our most intimate relationships to a purely utilitarian, secular standard?”
She left no doubt about her belief that it is up to married people themselves to carry the message to young couples -- who care about one another, and who want the best for themselves and their children -- that natural family planning is the better way.
Meanwhile, support for natural family planning is growing.
Nationally, the Couple to Couple League actively educates and promotes natural family planning through its large network of volunteers and certified NFP educators. And here in New Jersey, NJNFP provides a network of resources, including contacts with doctors who recommend NFP.
As a pro-life parent, how do I tell my children about abortion?
I have four small daughters, age two to twelve. I would love to keep them innocent as long as possible. But they happen to have a mother who is becoming more involved in the pro-life movement each passing year.
What do I tell them when I am going to picket outside an abortion clinic?
How do I tell them about the frequent seminars that Mommy is helping to run where teens hear firsthand from a woman who has had an abortion or from a former abortionist who confronts the teens with the truth that abortion is another word for murder. When their mother is missing for most of a Sunday afternoon, they can’t help wondering: “Where is Mommy?”
It is a very challenging situation to be in. I don’t want to frighten my kids, because, let’s face it, abortion is a gruesome business. However, I don’t want to sugar coat it, because I feel that my children’s spirit and consciences are being formed now, and I would like them to grow up to become young women who value life.
I believe that children can understand the life issue. It is all in how we present it to them.
My oldest started asking questions after she started learning how to read. One day she was helping me as I printed out material for the “Celebrate Life” seminars I help lead for The Movement for a Better America. As she helped, she began reading the printouts, and suddenly wanted to know what an abortion was.
The first time she did this, she caught me unprepared. How do you explain abortion to a child without upsetting her? After much thought and prayer, I decided the best thing to do was to tell her that unfortunately there were babies in this world who didn’t get a chance to be born.
She didn’t ask any further questions about how that exactly happened. It was all she needed to know at the time.
My approach, at this point, is to use any opportunity placed before me as an opportunity to talk about life in terms even the youngest can understand.
When we had an unwelcome critter in our kitchen, my children’s first reaction was to stomp on it and kill it. It wasn’t welcome, so why not kill it?
I have since shown them, that we can remove the spider or ant from the house without killing it by simply putting it on a napkin or in a jar and releasing it outside.
I remind them, we don’t have to kill living things just because they happen to be unwelcome. We can continue to let them live, away from us if need be.
I try to teach them respect for our turtle and our fish. I teach them not to pull leaves off branches because they are bored. These are all living things that need our respect.
I like to think that learning to reverence all life as a gift from God will hopefully carry over to all areas of their life.
While I was pregnant with my third child, the older two would watch a video “Before You Were Born,” which showed a living baby in the womb. It was done in a very beautiful way, and it was a great visual for them which confirmed that “Yes, that is a real human baby inside of Mommy. Yes, there is another life inside Mommy, even if we can’t see it.”
I do not believe in exploiting my children or any children to promote a cause. I wouldn’t bring them with me to picket an abortion clinic, but, my husband and I do bring them with us when we march with pro-life friends in local parades.
We march carrying roses (the symbol for the unborn), and they enjoy these events like any other parade. A prayer vigil for the unborn in church would also be something my two oldest would certainly understand and absorb.
I also want to encourage my children to stand up against causes that are unjust, and to bear witness for their own deepest beliefs. I want them to realize that you cannot be silent when something wrong is going on.
But I want to make sure they learn to do that in a loving and peaceful way, in much the same way as Jesus spoke to us when he shared his parables.
One of the last prayers we say together as a family at night is: “We pray for all the unborn babies so that they get a chance to be born.”
My children have accepted this prayer and say it with childlike fervor. They even now discuss as they get older what they may have been doing in heaven with God while they were waiting to be born themselves.
This tells me that they are starting to realize that they were special to God before they were even conceived (though they don’t use those terms). Thus, they are drawing the connection between themselves and the babies that we are praying for. If they are special, then these other children that we are praying for are also special.
My hope and prayer for them is that they will always believe that human life is precious and that unborn children should always get a chance to be born. In time, they will grow up and go out to meet the world. I want them to be able to do so on God’s terms, not the world’s.
Eileen Hart is one of today's heroes, a full-time mother who loves to share her pro-life witness with others. She lives with her husband Bill and their four children in New Jersey