Advisers working at some federally funded pregnancy resource centers mislead pregnant teens about the risks of abortion, falsely telling callers it raises the risk of breast cancer, infertility and mental illness, a U.S. congressman said on Monday.
Democratic staff on the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee who called up some faith-based pregnancy resource centers said they received incorrect advice aimed at discouraging abortion.
“Twenty of the 23 centers reached by the investigators (87 percent) provided false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion,” California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman said in a statement.
Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked staff to check on pregnancy crisis centers, which were given $24 million in federal funding between 2001 and 2005.
Female staffers posed as pregnant 17-year-olds and called the 25 pregnancy resource centers that have received grants from the Compassion Capital Fund.
One center told a caller that an abortion would ‘affect the milk developing in her breasts’ and that the risk of breast cancer increased by as much as 80 percent after an abortion,” Waxman’s office said.
The Institute of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute have discounted any link between abortion and breast cancer, although the Institute briefly carried a statement on its Web site making such a link - a statement that was taken down after a public clamor by scientists and doctors.
Callers were also told, wrongly, that a standard, first-trimester abortion would raise the risk of infertility, Waxman said.
And contrary to research, 13 centers told the caller that the psychological effects of abortion are severe, long-lasting, and common, Waxman said.
“There is a medical consensus that induced abortion does not cause an increased risk of breast cancer. Despite this consensus, eight centers told the caller that having an abortion would in fact increase her risk,” Waxman’s report reads.
“Pregnancy resource centers are virtually always pro-life organizations whose goal is to persuade teen-agers and women with unplanned pregnancies to choose motherhood or adoption.”
A spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department, which funds the centers, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD