March 10, 2008

Sep 05, AU Edition


A New South Wales abortionist will stand trial in November for manslaughter after an alleged illegal termination that went terribly wrong – the first such prosecution in New South Wales in over two decades. Investigate’s Claire Morrow has the inside story of Dr. Suman Sood’s many brushes with the law, and sheds light on just what happens when young women in crisis get caught up in Australia’s abortion industry

The mother was a 20-year-old woman who had the support of her parents and boyfriend to continue the pregnancy. She was recently employed after a period of unemployment without benefits. She was concerned about money. Her parents offered to raise the child, but the pregnant young woman thought they might be moving overseas, and didn’t want that for her child. ‘I thought about it (having the baby) and knew I wouldn’t be able to raise a child,’ she said. ‘I was sad about that and then angry, I knew what I had to do.’

Thus begins the tragic story of an unnamed young woman whose decision to terminate her twenty-something week pregnancy in the office of Dr Suman Sood has led to manslaughter charges, revelations of fraud, and shed light on what Australian women get when they think about exercising their ‘right to choose’.

The young woman was not even eligible for an abortion when she turned up at Sood’s clinic: after 20 weeks gestation, terminations are only performed in hospital, and only in cases of rare or compelling circumstances. And one can only begin to imagine the storm of emotions surrounding her decision: while on the one hand she clearly cared about the baby, on the other hand, she felt that she couldn’t go through with the pregnancy – that, somehow, it was her duty to abort.
The young woman claims she received little in the way of counseling and that Sood told her the procedure would cost $1,500 (and that she needed some of that money on the day – she only had $400 on her). The young mother alleges that Dr Sood inserted a pessary into her vagina and gave her two tablets ‘to soften up the baby’ to take by mouth, with instructions to return the next day to complete the procedure.

Rather than returning for the ‘completion’, the young woman went into labour early the next morning and her baby was delivered prematurely at 3:30 in the morning, on the toilet, by the distressed and surprised mother, who rushed to hospital shortly thereafter. Before the birth, she alleges that she had called Dr Sood in alarm. Sood’s response was to tell her to take some Panadol; she advised her patient that she was suffering Braxton-Hicks contractions. It was not until the baby arrived at the hospital that doctors realized he was alive. He died around 8 am the same day.

Dr Sood’s defense is an affidavit she wrote weeks after the event. In it, she states that she had seen the patient on a Saturday, advised her that she could not lawfully terminate a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks, suggested she think it over, and if she still wanted an abortion, she should return on Tuesday for a referral to a Queensland clinic, where abortion could be obtained at her stage in pregnancy.

Sood states that on the Monday in question, she was not working at the clinic (this is the day the mother alleges that Dr Sood started the abortion procedure). That doesn’t mean Sood was not around, however: by sheer coincidence, when the patient went to the clinic for tummy cramps that day, Dr Sood was indeed there to ‘fetch something’, and did examine the woman. At this point Sood says she assessed her young patient as having Braxton-Hicks contractions, gave her two ‘Tri-Profen’ analgesics, and told her to go home and take some Panadol. Imagine her surprise when she heard the poor girl went into premature labour and had the baby. Nothing to do with her, right?
Sood’s defense raises a number of questions. Why did she wait weeks to file an affidavit, given the seriousness of the incident? What was she doing at her clinic, randomly fetching something – knowing that she would be at work the next day? And having shown up, what would induce her to see a patient whilst there if she had been well and was due to return the following day if she needed a letter? Unless she was, as prosecutors allege, halfway through an illegal abortion.

Sood’s patient’s baby, meanwhile, being at 21-24 weeks gestation, would have been approximately 20cm long, kicking, sleeping and hearing in the womb, a fully formed human, his gender clear, in miniature. The baby survived his premature delivery but died a few hours later. Premature babies have been known to be ‘viable’ at this stage, if the mother goes into labour which cannot be stopped. Oddly, if Dr Sood had had the foresight to kill the baby in utero and keep a close eye on her patient, she would never have been caught. One wonders – if she was in principle willing to perform a late-term abortion – how much practice she may have had.

So just who is Dr Sood? To make a long story short, she is the owner of the private Australian Women’s Health Clinic in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield, and has what might politely be called a checkered past. People keep alleging that has made money in less-than-honest ways. And she was in fact found guilty on of Medicare fraud (96 counts) earlier this year but went straight back to work.

On the 8th of February this year, Dr Sood faced 96 charges of dishonestly obtaining Medicare benefits. At trial it was revealed that Dr Sood was bulk-billing patients through Medicare and also charging them an out of pocket fee; around $120 for a 12 week pregnancy, and $1,100 for a 19 week pregnancy. Now a doctor can charge whatever she likes for a medical service in private practice, but Medicare refunds a flat $144.30 for an abortion. If a doctor wants to charge $200, $500 or $3,000 upfront, she is entitled to do so. The mother then takes her receipt to a Medicare office and receives $144.30 back. Unless she has reached the Medicare safety net, in which case she receives $144.30, plus 80% of the difference. If the doctor bulk bills the patient (many doctors in private practice bulk bill poor patients) the patient gives no cash up front, Medicare pays the doctor directly, and the doctor is not entitled to receive any more money.

The charges followed a raid on Sood’s practice on 30 October 2001. Moments before her arrest, Dr Sood was seen by an employee shoving bundles of receipts under medical waste. Perhaps she was hoping the Health Insurance Commission investigators would be too squeamish to look there. A nurse at the clinic, Minna Zoretic, testified that she had seen Dr Sood dumping papers in a bin. Ms Zoretic had also worked on reception, and taken money from patients for abortions. Ms Zoretic had worked as a nurse, receptionist and counselor at the clinic, although she had no qualifications in counseling. Dr Sood was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined more than $20,000, but went back to work.

The baby who died after a premature birth, allegedly induced by Dr Sood, had a mother who was ‘counseled’ at the clinic by Minna Zoretic, who again has no counseling qualifications.

abort.jpgInvestigate has also learned that Dr Sood was once investigated by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission for a kickback scheme wherein she was alleged to have received $25 for each sample she sent to Westpath Services, a pathology company. Dr Raghubir Singh – another doctor working at the clinic – has alleged that Sood received between $8,000 and $10,000 a month from the scheme. And she has been the subject of a number of complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC scheme), but has continued to work.

Under NSW law, one doctor’s opinion that a woman’s physical, mental, social or economic health might suffer as a result of pregnancy or birth is sufficient to warrant a legal abortion. The doctor in question can be the abortion doctor who will profit. Apparently their medical scruples are beyond reproach. To detain someone against their will in a mental health institute because they are a danger to themselves or others requires two doctors, and the case must be heard by a magistrate within 48 hours. To kill a baby, the opinion of a doctor with a vested interest meets the letter of the law.

A doctor who provides abortion is a general practitioner who has decided to provide abortion. Abortion is not routinely taught in medical schools; one must profess an interest, and once one has become a GP, approach a clinic and learn on the job. If a doctor knows what to do in a technical sense, there is no theoretical law to prevent them from hanging up their shingle as an abortionist. There are no licensing requirements. There is an Association of abortion providers, which has voluntary membership. The association sees itself as promoting women’s health, using the safest techniques, and keeping up with ‘best practice’. Dr Sood was not a member. One wonders why.

Dr Sood is not the first person in NSW to be charged under the Crimes Act for performing an illegal abortion, just the first to be charged in more than 20 years. In 1981, Dr George Smart was charged with performing an illegal abortion in circumstances similar to this current case. The teenage girl who he aborted had been refused abortion at other services, and was more than 20 weeks pregnant. Like Dr Sood, Dr Smart was not a member of the relevant professional association, and was on the outer edge of that community. He was reportedly not liked or trusted by other abortion doctors, and could not find other abortionists to testify on his behalf. Smart was found guilty, and lodged an appeal. The case law would have been challenged on appeal, but Smart died before the appeal was heard, so the law was not challenged, and has not been clarified since.

The burden on the prosecution is to prove that Dr Sood was trying to cause a miscarriage (or, more accurately, a stillbirth; babies delivered after 20 weeks must be registered with Births Deaths and Marriages) and gave her prostaglandin. This can be proven or disproven by blood tests the hospital may or may not have run at the time they admitted the young woman. Because it is a criminal case, the standard of proof required is high. The young woman would probably win a civil case. In the civil area, the laws could be tested and clarified. And indeed a number of civil charges have been brought against abortion providers across Australia, for assault (if the woman has not given informed consent, than any contact with her body is presumed to be assault) or nervous shock. These cases have always been settled out of court, meaning that the law is not challenged or clarified in court, and that the woman is bound by a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the case.

Law relating to unborn children is terrifically confused, and varies by state. If a 39-week pregnant woman is stabbed, and the baby dies but the mother lives, no one has been murdered. If a 24-week premmie baby is stabbed, then it has been murdered. Abortion is legal in different circumstances in different states. The majority of general practitioners feel that they do not have a clear understanding of abortion law.

In NSW, counseling is not a legal requirement prior to abortion, although most best-practice publications suggest that it should be available. In order to legally consent to any medical procedure, the patient must give informed consent. The interpretation of this in relation to abortion seems to be that the woman should have an understanding of what will be done to her body and consent to anaesthetic risks and so forth. There is no expressed need to give her any information about the baby.

To find out more about the consequences of terminations on Australia’s women, Investigate spoke to Melinda Tankard-Reist, the author of the 2002 book Giving Sorrow Words and the forthcoming Defiant Birth: Women who Resist Medical Eugenics, and an advocate for Australian women suffering from post-abortion grief. In her 2002 book she discusses the case of the Australian woman who was led into a room for abortion ‘counseling’ and told to press ‘play’ to hear the recorded message.
‘The hundreds of women I have spoke to didn’t feel that they had made an informed choice or gave informed consent…abortion is sold as something quick and simple and easy. The providers’ attitude is that any pregnancy in less-than-perfect circumstances should be aborted. It’s the sensible thing to do’, she says, adding that she believes the fact that so many women ‘choose’ abortion is a sign that there is something terribly wrong with society.

‘This is a Band-aid solution where a woman is abandoned to her so-called autonomy, and if she suffers emotionally after the abortion is told to keep her mouth shut, that she is the ano- maly…this is a sacred right…any questioning or discussion is out of order.’

Anti-Abortion-Demonstration.jpgTankard-Reist reports that of the hundreds of women who answered her advertisement to talk about grief after abortion, a large number asked if they were the only woman who had felt that way, and called.

In Australia pregnancy decision-making counseling is provided primarily by groups that have a combination of church and government funding. As are, in fact, many other social services such as drug rehabilitation programs, and injecting rooms. The staff at these centres are likely to be pro-life themselves, but have chosen to help women by offering free telephone and face to face support during pregnancy. Investigate test-called two of these services, under the guise of Karen, a 19-year-old student who was 14 weeks pregnant and seeking an abortion. In both cases the counselors took neither a pro Nor con position, and I found ‘Karen’s’ discussions with the services to be sympathetic and focused on providing non-judgemental support to discuss the options.

In NSW, non-directive pregnancy counseling that includes referral for termination is provided by the Bessie Smythe Foundation. Margaret Kirkby, Centre Director for Bessie Smyth spoke to Investigate about abortion and the legacy that counseling, or lack thereof, can create. While Ms Kirkby is resolutely pro-choice, she admits that Bessie Smythe ran an abortion clinic until 2002, but found that it was economically impossible to keep providing abortions to all women in need while also offering ethically adequate counseling: ‘At the end of the day, it is a small business. Running a service in a way that all women have access to extensive counseling is not financially viable. We believe that providing counseling for 100% of clients is good practice. But it’s not covered by Medicare. [These services] do the best they can. They are staffed by people who are caring and committed’, Kirkby said.

In many, but not all cases this would seem to be true. One may disagree with their moral reasoning, but in many cases these individual people are doing the best they can to assist women the way that seems right to them.

But while she admits women may feel grief and loss – she calls it ‘hitting a wall’ – after an abortion, Kirkby resolutely refuses to accept the existence of what many call Post Abortion Stress Syndrome; she claims that it is a right-wing anti-abortion myth designed to scare women and blame abortion providers. Also, it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of mental disorders. (A slightly odd argument coming from someone like Kirkby, in that implies that the patriarchal medical old-boys of the DSM IV are the best judges of womens’ mental health issues.)

Some abortion providers in NSW allow for counseling which is included in the up front fee, if the woman books the counseling ahead. Some providers do this, but if the woman does not have an abortion on the day of the counseling, she is charged an extra $50 fee – and $50 is a lot of money in some circumstances. Other clinics refer women who seem distressed or unsure to a psychologist, who charges his or her own fee. Some clinics, such as the multinational Marie Stopes, provide no counseling at all, under any circumstances. They either send you home or run you through the system. Those are the choices.

In June this year Natasha Stott Despoja tabled a motion in parliament to force pregnancy counseling services to disclose ‘this service does not refer for termination’ in any advertisement. She felt it was misleading women to provide pregnancy advice from a service that didn’t seek to increase the Australian abortion statistics. She did not discuss in the motion any need for abortion providers to advertise that ‘this clinic has a financial interest in your having an abortion.’

Kirkby told Investigate that ‘compulsory counseling would be an insult to could lead to a situation where women were forced by the state to do certain things, such as view pictures of babies, or wait 72 hours after the counseling before the abortion’, as is the case in some American states. ‘Counselling women must be non-directive, and focus on the woman’s needs…It could also create a situation where counseling was about ticking off boxes, not about supporting women’. Tankard Reist agrees that it would be terrible to force women to view pictures or read information against their will but counters that ‘all information should be freely available; it is absurd and shows the poor state things are in that we even need to discuss the need for counseling’.

Regarding the ‘national tragedy’ of abortion rates in Australia, most people would agree that it would be a good thing to lower the rate of abortion. There are tremendously difficult issues involved in thinking about abortion, the least of these being the lack of data. Health Minister Tony Abbott caused an uproar when he suggested that there were 100,000 terminations performed each year, but the fact is that hard numbers are tough to come by. Most Australian states do not keep records of abortions; Medicare data tells us how many women have had procedures for which they claimed a Medicare rebate, but those numbers are fuzzy as well as some of these procedures will have involved women who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, and many other women will never claim the Medicare rebate. Some trends show the overall abortion rate decreasing, but it is equally plausible that this is a reflection of miscarriage management, which has trended towards a non-interventionist approach over the last decade as women are no longer routinely given D&Cs after miscarriage.

Arbitrary time limits on abortion are also confused. Why 20 weeks, why not 19, or 21? Is a cleft lip enough of a disability to warrant a termination? What about a 90% chance the baby has Down’s Syndrome – versus a 10% chance that the baby is fine? The current government rhetoric on women’s issues is struggles to mash together a jumble of moderate and conservative attitudes into a cohesive policy. So we want less abortions, but we don’t want more women on the single parent’s pension.

The poorest and most disadvantaged women have the hardest time getting access to everything, including abortion and counseling. Yet they have more abortions, and surely would benefit from more counseling.
The abortion debate is too often about choosing sides, and not enough about civilized respectful discussion of the issues by non-like minded people. Fred Nile can’t keep himself from interrupting pro-choice speakers, and pro-choice pollies can’t stop themselves from name-calling in response. The issue is not ‘settled’, and the majority who think they have an opinion haven’t challenged it, and are going on a gut reaction.

We need to think very seriously about how women are treated in our society, and that a NSW abortion clinic advertises ‘Accidental and Unplanned pregnancy is a fact of life. Dealing with it can be emotional and stressful’. The implication would seem to be that abortion is a fact of life, but it’s just one of those crosses we women have to bear. We should accept that obviously we will not be able to finish our degrees, make enough money, achieve what we want and need, if we become pregnant.

I prefer this quote provided by the American organisation Feminists for Life which has as its slogan, ‘Abortion is a sign that we are not meeting the needs of women’: ‘When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society – so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.’

The abortion-breast cancer debate: Is there a link?

Many studies have suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer, to the effect that abortion is a risk factor for breast cancer. Not all women who have abortions get breast cancer, there are a myriad of risk factors, and more than one form of breast cancer. Nevertheless abortion is a modifiable risk factor – unlike family history, for example, it can be avoided.

The Abortion Providers Federation of Australia acknowledges that a number of reputable studies have shown a link, but calls for more studies, and their website implies that no conclusions can be drawn. It is, however, accepted that early first full-term pregnancy (i.e. before 24 years of age), increased number of pregnancies, and length of time breastfeeding all decrease breast cancer risk. This is not debated.

An independent link is thought to be due to the proliferation of new breast cells in early pregnancy. If the pregnancy is continued, these cells become mature and less vulnerable to cancer. In most cases of miscarriage, there is a gradual decline in the hormones that cause this proliferation. In some miscarriages, and all abortions, the hormone change is rapid.

The first study to examine the abortion-breast cancer link among American women was published in 1981 and reported that abortion ‘appears to cause a substantial increase in risk of subsequent breast cancer.’ A 140% risk elevation was reported. [Pike MC et al., British Journal of Cancer (1981;43:72-6]

The only statistically significant study of American women using medical records (rather than histories) reported a 90% increased risk of breast cancer among women in New York who had chosen abortion. [Howe et al. (1989) Int J Epidemiol 18:300-4]

Critics of the link rely on the problem of reported history. This argument supposes that women who are healthy under-report their history of abortion (which is well established), but also that women who have breast cancer defy this general trend and accurately (or with exaggeration) report their abortion history.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2007

Teenage pregnancy: March 07 issue


A Brave Story and a Bitter Pill

With teenage pregnancy affecting women since the beginning of time, the choice is ultimately one that is hers to make. But with a new offering of hope and the controversial discussion around the new ‘abortion pill’ RU-486, this is a topic where every angle needs to be discussed. MELODY TOWNS reports

Walking up the corridor, Bernadette moved slowly towards the pink Wendy’s t-shirt that clung to the growing physique of her boyfriend Dave. Dressed in an identical shirt, Bernie and Dave were on their lunchbreak from the ice-cream parlour where they both worked, but there was something different about this break and with each step Bernadette took, she knew that both their lives were about to be changed forever. “I saw him differently”, says Bernadette, “He was a 16 year old boy about to be told he was going to be a father”.

When Bernadette Black was just 16 years old she, like 25,000 other teenage girls in Australia each year, was faced with a decision that would ultimately affect the rest of her life. Raised in a strict middle class Catholic home, Bernadette had always been the ‘good girl’, the girl she describes as “someone that you thought that this could never happen to”. Little did Bernadette realise the consequences of losing her virginity when she slept with her boyfriend for the first time in his bedroom while his parents were out. She says, “I found myself in an emotional pull towards Dave and, as a result, Dave and I had sex. I didn’t think about the repercussions of having sex, like the possibility of falling pregnant. I just assumed it wouldn’t happen to me. So, we had sex and the condom broke…”

Bernadette’s story is not an unusual one. With teenage pregnancy occurring since the beginning of time, this is a story that many women could relate to, despite whatever decision they make regarding their pregnancy. But Bernadette, now 30, has written a book that may surprise many. A story of a teenage mother who decided to have her child and, despite all odds, aim to make a success of her life. While being objective in saying that she is not placing any judgement on any decision that a teenage mother may make, Bernadette says the aim of her story is to present another outcome, one that is positive and has never been offered.

When I meet Bernadette, I am overwhelmed. She bounces up to me, wraps her arms around me and with a big beaming smile welcomes me into the waterfront pavilion where, today, she is getting all the attention for all the right reasons. It is like we are best friends, but we have only just met, the genuineness in her greeting something that seems surreal in the networking world of small smiles and meet-and-greets.

It is her book launch, the day that she has been working towards since she was 16. She is there with her husband, three children, a few politicians and a huge crowd of support. The media flocks around her as she shares her heart with the world and the day that so many thought would never arrive, is unraveling a new story of hope for all to see.

It is just over 12 years since the day that Bernadette made a pact with herself, despite constant criticism, that she would firstly, be a great mum, secondly complete her education and thirdly write a book to offer some hope to other girls who may and who do find themselves in this situation and decide to have their babies.

She was sitting in a mothers’ group when Bernadette conceived her dream that would see her persevere against all odds. “At the group there were many girls that had no support, their parents had disowned them and their partners had left them. These girls literally had no hope. We asked in our mum’s group if there were any books available that would be able to show us that we could be great mums regardless of our age. The nurse who ran this group said that there were no books ever written like this.”

Acknowledging that she did have the support of her family and the stability of a middle class background, Bernadette says she feels most passionate about the girls who may not be so lucky. “The amount of judgemental attitudes that some people displayed to me in society was huge, and I was with my mum and dad, but for these girls all they see is no hope, so thankfully this book and hopefully my website with the collaboration of education and health care will be a resource for them that they haven’t had access to before”.

Despite her success, Bernadette, now a trained nurse, has had to walk the hard road and empathises with other girls in this situation. Endorsing motherhood, but not sugar-coating the reality of it, Bernadette openly shares the way that she had to deal with society’s reactions and their constant disapproval of her. “I was very vulnerable, especially only being 16. I used to keep my head down to avoid people’s prying eyes. I wanted to wear a sign saying that I would be a good mum but it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Leaving room for only the truth, Bernadette describes how she felt at this time in her book. She writes, “I remember shopping at Myers for some foundation, and the shop assistant noticed my growing belly. She looked at me in disgrace saying, “Babies having babies”. I felt so inadequate, so unable, so scared. Who was I kidding?”

Going to a Catholic school and growing up in a Catholic home also proved to be a paradox for Bernadette. Although she had the support of her family, many of her friends couldn’t understand her decision, a decision that she says had a lot to do with her own beliefs. Well-meaning friends told her that she was going to ruin her life and kept asking why she wouldn’t have an abortion? “I fleetingly thought about having an abortion certainly”, says Bernadette, “however after I contemplated it a little longer I thought, “No, I can take this on. I have to take responsibility now to care for this child”, and that’s when I decided I would be a great mother”.

Dave was a great support despite the lack of encouragement he received from his family. Described by Bernadette as being very respectful, Dave supported her choice despite the critics and is still a big part of his son Damien’s life today. She says, “Early on his family had said to him that it would be better if I did have an abortion, and that was a very difficult thing. His mother had said to me that if I made this decision, then both Dave and I would make nothing of our lives and have absolutely nothing to offer our baby. At the time I felt stripped bare, like I had no defence, but I would not compromise my decision”.

Now as a mother, Bernadette says that she understands Dave’s family a little more. As a mother to 13-year-old Damien, Bernadette understands just how frightening it must have been for Dave’s family to have their son come to them and tell them that his girlfriend was going to have a baby. “For them, they’d never seen a girl who had succeeded in having a baby when she was 16; they’d seen a lot of girls that we all see today-their situations around them are often negative and when you only see negative things, then obviously your outlook can also be negative”, explains Bernadette.

“Everyone has their own personal beliefs and stances. To date in Australia, you can find out about pro-life, abortions, adoptions, the mini pill and the ‘abortion pill’ RU-486. One option that has not been presented to young mothers is a story like mine that shows you can be a young mum, continue with your pregnancy, and also have a fantastic, successful life.

With the controversy surrounding RU-486, or the ‘abortion pill’, this is one side of teenage pregnancy that needs to be told. Not political, not religious, just an offering of hope to thousands of girls faced with this life changing decision daily throughout the world. With what seems a relatively “harmless” option to surgical abortion being an issue of continual controversy between Australian politicians, RU-486 is another kind of ‘emergency contraceptive’, that women in the US, Britain, Canada and Sweden have as an option.

While the Australian parliament argues over whether or not this pill should be approved, every mother has a right to know every option that they may choose when faced with the decision of having a baby. While Bernadette’s story is one of the first offerings of hope to teenage mothers who decide to keep their child, the introduction of RU-486, whether you agree with it or not, has side effects that also need to be discussed to mothers in more depth.

An American website,, offers a resource for young mothers and teenage pregnancies to discuss all aspects of pregnancy from abortion to pro life. In an article posted by one of its members named only as Mary, the ‘abortion pill’ is discussed as being linked with the death of 10 women since it was approved in the year 2000. What many don’t know is that the ‘abortion pill’, is actually two pills. Not as simple as just popping it in your mouth and waiting for it to go away, the first pill, Mifepristone, is taken to kill the tiny foetus and then a few days later, Misoprostol is taken to induce labour and expel the remains. But, as Mary writes, “with two or three visits to the doctor, an ultrasound, and the possible removal of the dead foetus, it’s not private. It’s not just contraception and it’s definitely not harmless”.

A study by Ralph P. Miech MD, PhD, describes the relationship between the drugs and the ten deaths. He states, “The first drug blocks progesterone, the hormone that tells the placenta to provide nutrition and oxygen to the baby. This causes changes to the cervix that allow c. Sordelli to enter the cervical canal. C. Sordelli thrives in the low oxygen environment and derives nutrition from the decaying foetal tissue. Meanwhile, it’s disrupting the immune system, so that even the woman’s body now becomes vulnerable to bacterial attack. Her body cannot fight the bacteria, and c. Sordelli and its toxic wastes spread throughout the body, causing widespread shock and sometimes death”.

Accessible to any woman under seven weeks pregnant in the approved countries, Danco, the leading American distributor of the drug claims that the deaths were not specifically caused by taking these pills. Their argument is that it cannot be proven that the drugs directly cause death, due to the fact that septic shock caused by c. Sordelli is possible in other circumstances including childbirth and menstruation. But the standard of safety still remains a concern, as the cause of death may not be from the pill but from the toxic shock caused by the remaining foetus that is not completely expelled from the uterus.

Describing the abortion pill as a waking nightmare, Mary states that “perhaps worse than all the bodily effects of RU-486 is the psychological effect”. Linked to a higher suicide rate for depressed women, the ‘abortion pill’ leaves no one to clean up the mess except for the mother herself. A horrifying image is presented by on their website, stating that a “woman may find herself sitting on her bathroom floor at two in the morning cradling her tiny child in her bloody fingers”. While this may be considered extreme, the fact that unlike a surgical abortion where the foetus may be expelled not intact but rather in shreds, is a haunting reminder that this, like any decision regarding teenage pregnancy, or any pregnancy in fact, is something that cannot be taken lightly.

Information regarding all aspects of pregnancy is vital to teenage girls placed in a situation where a decision needs to be made. Without placing judgement on whatever decision they do choose, all information does need to be made aware to them. Whether it is an abortion that they choose to have, an adoption or like Bernadette a decision to have her child, every girl has a right to make an informed choice regarding something that will not only affect her body, but her mind and her life forever.

As Australian celebrity Marcia Hines states in the forward of Bernadette’s book Brave Little Bear, “I do not condone teenage pregnancy, please understand this, but in life things do happen…and it happened to me. Luckily Bernadette and I had support and as with anything in life if you have support and self-belief you’re going to make it. But please don’t make life any harder than it already is, and your teenage life is a gift. (And so is motherhood at the right time). If I could I would not change a thing and I’m sure Bernadette wouldn’t either, but precautionary measures is what it’s all about. However if you do fall pregnant, remember that you are no longer a child, you are taking care of a child.”

In the heat of discussion about RU-486 and the offering of hope from one teenage mum who aims to help others, lets remember that it’s life we are talking about here, and what every girl needs from society is not a judgement but a soft place to fall and the support and self-belief to get back up again, whatever her choice.

Brave Little Bear is being used in the young mothers’ program in Tasmania Australia and is under review by each state’s education department in the school curriculum. With its website,, a dedicated resource to helping young mothers, Bernadette hopes that the incidence of teenage pregnancy will be reduced, but for now she wants to help the girls who are there walking this journey today. “What I’d like in this country is for these levels, 25,000 teenage pregnancies a year – to decrease. This is like a long term plan, it generations down the future, but what needs to happen to stop that generational cycle is that these girls, as I said before, they might see around them that all there is, is negative feedback, or just their circumstances: if they can grab that light or just that one bit of hope, then their child may not have a child at 16”.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007



One in four New Zealand women have an abortion in their lives. One in ten will develop breast cancer. Now doctors suspect our soaring abortion rate is causing our breast cancer epidemic, as IAN WISHART reports

It was the court case that helped define the so-called permissive generation. Now, 30 years after the US Supreme Court’s controversial 1973 decision in Roe vs Wade to legalise abor-tion on demand, the abortion issue is once again set to dominate world politics and social dis-cussion, but not with the same old arguments. The crunch is on its way as a result of ‘conver-gence’ – the coming together of a range of separate threads in the issue to form what some regard as strong-enough evidence to once again see abortion outlawed in the United States, and placed under serious pressure in countries like New Zealand and Britain.

Whether that’s a move forward to enlightenment, or backwards to repression, depends on your sociopolitical perspective, but both sides are once again preparing for a bitter fight where the winner takes all.

Among the new ‘threads’ up for examination is a mountain of growing scientific and medical evidence indicating abortions may be the cause of the West’s massive breast cancer epidemic. New Zealand has, per capita, one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world. Ironically, we’re also a world leader on abortions as well.

But the evidence of a link goes much further than similarities in the ratio of breast cancer in the community to abortions performed. Over the past few decades, nearly three dozen scientific studies have been carried out on women who’ve had abortions. But it’s only recently that medical experts have gone back over the studies and looked for common themes. What they found astounded them.

Of the 33 major studies on the effects of abortion, 27 have shown, on re-examination, strong evidence that women who’ve had abortions are up to 50% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who haven’t.

A study with rats echoed the massively increased risk of breast cancer.

The reason is actually quite simple: early in pregnancy, during the first trimester, hormones stimulate breast development in preparation for milk production. That development occurs in two phases, both of which have to complete or the woman runs a risk of breast cancer. In the first phase, the hormone estrogen makes breast cells multiply rapidly. This rapid increase in multiplying breast cells continues until about the 32nd week. At that point, in a normal pregnancy, fresh chemical messengers instruct the breast cells to convert from multiplying cells to milk production cells. Once a ‘multiplying’ cell has been converted to a ‘milk production’ cell, it doesn’t ever switch back. Its ability to multiply is forever turned off.

In computer terms, it is the breast equivalent of the infamous Microsoft Windows "blue screen of death", where the programme fails to shut down properly and sends the entire machine into a tailspin because it never got to finish its tasks.

This ‘switch-off’ is critical: only breast cells still capable of multiplying can turn into cancerous cells later in life. Milk producing cells cannot. And the problem for the 17,000 New Zealand women getting abortions every year is that termination of pregnancy interferes in this crucial process. When a baby is aborted, the woman’s breasts never get sent the chemical message to switch off the multiplication. They’re left with breasts that can literally become cancer timebombs.

After a normal full-term pregnancy, on the other hand, a woman actually has fewer multiplying cells in her breasts than she did before she even became pregnant. Pregnancy, and milk production, actually reduces the risk of breast cancer substantially.

One in ten New Zealand women will develop breast cancer in their lives, according to Breast Cancer Foundation figures, and roughly a quarter of those will die from it. With almost 700 deaths a year, and 2,300 new cases diagnosed each year, breast cancer is a major problem and projected to worsen. By contrast, cervical cancer kills only around 80 New Zealand women a year. Ironically, sexual politics surrounds the cervical cancer issue as well though, with few women being informed that more than 90% of cervical cancers are caused by sexually transmitted genital wart infections and are therefore "avoidable".

But back to breast can-cer: roughly one in four women will have an abortion during their lives, and one in ten women will go on to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer rates have risen in direct correlation to the rising tide of abortions.

While the data showing breast cancer may be a direct result of abortion continues to mount, there appears to be no reference to the issue on the Breast Cancer Foundation’s figures. The question is, why not?

Perhaps because the New Zealand Cancer Society claims there is no link. The Cancer Society makes a big push every year for public donations through its "Daffodil Day" street appeals, and funding from various organisations. But despite seeking public money, it is refusing to warn women that there may be a link between abortion and breast cancer. Society policy advisor Betty Marshall prepared a summary of facts on the issue for the Cancer Society’s staff, and that summary states "there is currently no conclusive link between induced abortion and increased risk of breast cancer."

Marshall quotes a World Health Organisation factsheet making similar claims, and the Cancer Society in New Zealand confidently tells inquirers not to worry, there is no link.

But in the United States the National Cancer Institute has been in the spotlight for making the same claims, and getting punished for it. The NCI stated on its website at one point: "The scientific rationale for an association between abortion and breast cancer is based on limited experimental data in rats and is not consistent with human data."

But of course, the human data is extensive, and the rat study is merely icing on the cake.

As a result of being caught out misleading the public and the threat of a Congressional investigation into the deception, the National Cancer Institute withdrew the false denials of the cancer/abortion link from its website.

But cancer institutes around the world, and abortion providers, are still trying to minimise the scientific findings, by publishing the findings of one Danish study that did not discover a link.

As they say, one swallow does not a summer make, and the remaining studies show comprehensive evidence that abortion can cause breast cancer. So much evidence, that some critics are openly suggesting that the cover-up by cancer institutes and abortion providers is equivalent to the "Big Tobacco" cover-ups exposed by movies like The Insider.

Indeed, while the first study to show a link between smoking and lung cancer was published in 1929, the National Cancer Institute didn’t issue its first warning about the tobacco/cancer link until 1957. It may take time for the cancer establishment to join the dots, but researchers are confident they eventually will.

Nor does the New Zealand Cancer Society’s "no link" position stack up in the wake of the very latest study. Only a month ago, in a major US obstetrics journal, Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, the University of Carolina’s John Thorp acknowledges the breast cancer/abortion evidence is overwhelming and recommends that it is time to inform the public about the link.

"We think, now, that clinicians are obliged to inform pregnant women that a decision to abort her first pregnancy may almost double her lifetime risk of breast cancer.

"A young woman with an unintended pregnancy clearly sacrifices the protective effect of a term delivery should she decide to abort and delay child-bearing," warns Thorp. His study was peer reviewed by abortion specialists who agree with his findings.

Thorp also found, as have others, that women undergoing abortions are more likely to suffer increased risk of future premature births – a cause of cerebral palsy – placenta previa, mood disorders and suicide.

Nor is Thorp a wet-behind-the-ears researcher. His qualifications list includes being the "Mcallister Distinguished Professor" of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US. Thorp is so concerned about the link between abortion and cancer that he warns his medical colleagues they could be opening themselves up to lawsuits if they fail to inform women seeking abortions about the dangers.

"Failure to provide this information is a direct threat to maternal autonomy, diminishing a woman’s ability to give informed consent."

Womens’ groups in the US are delighted that the medical profession is finally starting to break its silence.

"We are pleased," says Karen Malec, the president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, "that after nearly a half century, doctors are finally being encouraged to inform women about the existence of ongoing research exploring an independent link between abortion and breast cancer.

"However, women also have the right to know that there is overwhelming biological and epidemiological evidence supporting an independent relationship between abortion and the disease. Clearly it is beneficial to women when their doctors are pro-information.

"If physicians inform their patients about the delayed first term pregnancy effect associated with abortion, then perhaps they can help turn around the soaring rates of breast cancer."

Malec’s Coalition has posted many of the studies online on its website,, to help stimulate informed discussion and consent.

According to another researcher, Chris Kahlenborn MD, the average increased risk of 50% for breast cancer if a woman has an abortion can get much higher once age of the mother and the fetus is taken into account.

If you’re under 18, he warns, your risk of developing breast cancer rises by 150%. If you’re under 18 and the fetus is more than nine weeks old when it is aborted, your chances of developing breast cancer later in life rise by a massive 800 percent.

But why, if the risks are so high, haven’t the dangers of abortion to mothers in terms of cancer been shouted from the rooftops like the smoking/lung cancer link?

"It is more than a media bias, it’s a total media blackout – especially the medical media," Dr Kahlenborn told US journalists last year. "But that’s no surprise, because the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are officially pro-abortion and it’s no surprise that you don’t hear from them."

New Zealand seems to have a similar problem. One of the leading researchers on the link between abortion and breast cancer, Dr Joel Brind, was invited to New Zealand for a public lecture on his findings. According to the newspaper Pro-Life Times, details of Brind’s research and his meeting schedule were mailed to Dr Pippa MacKay, who’d just been appointed chairwoman of the New Zealand Medical Association. MacKay is also associated with and performs some of the eight abortions a day (1,964 a year) carried out at the Lyndhurst Abortion Clinic in Christchurch, the city where Brind was to speak.

When meeting organisers followed up their letter with a phonecall to ask whether MacKay would be interested in attending the lecture, MacKay allegedly answered "I am very aware of it. I have a prior engagement and I am not interested."

What about a private meeting with Dr Brind?

MacKay’s response was equally terse: "As I pointed out, I’m not interested. I don’t want to talk with him."

MacKay’s attitude came into even sharper focus recently, when news broke on the front pages of several New Zealand daily papers that "Growing numbers of doctors and nurses are refusing to perform abortions on ethical grounds."

The Dominion Post quoted the Abortion Supervisory Committee and Ministry of Health as describing the problem as "extremely sensitive", and the Ministry suggested medical students might have to undergo "increased abortion education" so as to overcome their moral objections to terminating babies.

The Christchurch Press ran this story:

Some pregnant Christchurch women wanting terminations are being "sabotaged" by their GPs, says Ilam doctor Pippa MacKay. Dr MacKay, who performs abortions at Lyndhurst, said some women were turning up for a termination without having an examination or blood test. Some GPs were failing to book their patients in for abortions, while others would not treat them or tell them where to go for help.

"Some GPs say they will arrange things but don’t, and women come in at 12 to 13 weeks which is beyond time (for a first trimester abortion). Some GPs deliberately delay them.

"Women are making a decision which is obviously difficult and GPs are being destructive. If GPs are uncomfortable they have an ethical obligation to tell patients where they can get the service," Dr MacKay said.

She said she suspected the increase in foreign doctors was compounding the problem.

"We get a lot of doctors who are not from Western countries. They are Arabic or Egyptian where they may not approve of abortion. But this is New Zealand and the law is what it is. Women are entitled to have an abortion."

MacKay, of course, draws a large chunk of her income from carrying out taxpayer-funded abortion surgery, which raises an interesting irony: having just accused anti-abortion doctors of "sabotaging" the process by not referring women, can consultants and surgeons who are paid to perform abortions be expected to offer truly objective advice to women that MacKay herself admits are in a "difficult" situation?

On the presumption that turkeys don’t vote for an early Christmas, are those who make a living from the abortion industry likely to be interested in, or pass on to patients, the kind of research that shows abortions may cause an 800% increased risk of breast cancer?

When Investigate caught up with Pippa Mackay and told her we wanted to ask some questions about abortion and breast cancer, her initial response was pungent: "Oh, God!"

Asked about the findings of the Thorp study in January of a 50% increase in the likelihood of breast cancer following abortion, Mackay was initially dismissive.

"Look, I’m sure if that were really true, there’d be much more made of it and it wouldn’t be being done in a fringe way."

"Are you suggesting the Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey journal is a fringe publication?"

Pause... "Ah, no, not at all. Look, I haven’t read the Thorp study, I don’t really want to comment. I specialise in abortions, not cancer."

"Well, Thorp says the link is strong enough that all women seeking abortion should be warned in advance of a possible doubling in their risk of breast cancer, as part of informed consent procedures. As an abortion consultant, would you be happy to give that warning?"

"Um...if there...No, I don’t think I want to comment on this. I’m sick of being harrassed by anti-abortion types every time I make some sort of public comment. I don’t want to talk about it."

But MacKay’s position looks increasingly difficult to maintain in the light of the growing furore in the US. A New Jersey-based breast surgeon, Angela Lanfranchi, told New Zealand and US audiences last month of her own discovery of the link between teenage abortions and breast cancer.

"When I first heard about it," she told America’s Whistleblower magazine, I thought it was bunk. Then I changed the intake form in my office and asked [breast cancer] patients for their complete reproductive histories. I found a third of my 30 year olds having had abortions, and no history of breast cancer in the family.

"Over the past three or four years, I have spoken with many authorities and people in a position to be well informed. Some have been straightforward and said they know it is a risk factor but felt it was ‘too political’ to speak about.

"Others have been evasive...Some have been openly hostile...some initially hostile doctors debated it with me and have changed their minds. Some pro-choice doctors have come to agree it is true and do tell their patients about the risk. Some doctors who were initially skeptical have started obtaining a complete reproductive history on their patients and found, as I did, that cases of breast cancer in young women are associated with an abortion history.

"Women have a right to know. It’s wrong to keep this from them," says Lanfranchi.

But as we said at the start of this article, it’s not just the latest scientific evidence casting doubt on the safety of abortion, there are some other major developments also thrusting the issue into the headlines internationally.

While feminist groups around the world celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Roe vs Wade in January, notably absent from those celebrations were two key players. Jane Roe, the alias used by the young woman whose fight to have an abortion went all the way to victory in the US Supreme Court, has now become one of abortion’s most ardent opponents.

Roe, real name Norma McCorvey, originally said she needed an abortion because she’d been raped. She later revealed, after the case, that she’d lied. She wasn’t raped, and in fact placed the unwanted child out for adoption. In her 1994 autobiography, McCorvey told of a past that included dysfunctional parents, reform school, petty crime, alcoholism, an abusive husband, attempted suicide and lesbianism.

After winning her case McCorvey – in what some might say was a Providential intervention – ended up working at an abortion clinic. She is still haunted by images of her work. "Dead children in glass jars and freezer bags," is how she described one Dallas clinic.

And here’s another fateful ‘coincidence’: Jane Roe’s lawyer Sarah Weddington, the attorney who fought so hard for the right for women to have abortions, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It turns out Weddington had an abortion at the age of 21.

Weddington, however, insists Roe vs Wade was a victory for women’s rights around the world, despite the fact that her former client now believes it was the worst thing she ever did.

Weddington told Associated Press in January that the 30th anniversary of the case that built her career would be a "melancholy" one, largely because Republican domination of both Congress and Senate, and President Bush’s opportunity to appoint more conservative Supreme Court judges, meant Roe vs Wade could soon be overturned and abortion clinics closed down across America.

Likewise, Norma McCorvey sees ev-ery anniversary as a reminder of the mounting human death toll. "It’s 30 years of legalised abortion. It’s the 30th year of knowing that 3,500 children a day are going to be killed by abortion."

For what it’s worth, around 64 babies are killed every weekday throughout New Zealand, which on a per capita basis would equate to a US abortion rate of around 6,000 a day. Little wonder New Zealand is a world leader in the field.

Not surprisingly, it is "damned lies and statistics" that helped sell the "pro-choice" message to the US public back in the early 1970s. The co-founder of one of America’s largest pro-abortion pressure groups, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, recently confirmed to’s Whistleblower magazine that the public relations push to convince the people was built on fabricated survey results.

"We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal, enlightened, sophisticated one," says Bernard Nathanson, MD. "Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls.

"We announced to the media that we had taken polls, and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our programme of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the US. The actual figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was one million.

"Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000.

"These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law."

Dr Nathanson says another lie sold to a gullible public was that opening up abortion on demand would not create a huge upsurge in abortions, it would simply allow the abortions currently being performed illegally to be performed legitimately and safely.

"In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the US, and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1,500% since legalisation."

Nathanson, like MacKay, also made money from the newly-legalised abortion industry, setting up his own clinic in New York.

"At the end of the two years that I was the director, we had done 60,000 abortions. I myself, with my own hands, have done 5,000 abortions. I have supervised another 10,000 that residents have done under my direction. So I have 75,000 abortions in my life. Those are pretty good credentials to speak on the subject of abortion," he told Whistleblower.

Nathanson, like many others in the industry, now regards his actions as murder.

Posted by Ian Wishart at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)