Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2593 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
available evidence from large, population-based cohort studies shows no net effect that induced abortion places women at increased risk of developing breast cancer (Bartholomew and Grimes, 1998).
At least 75 research studies worldwide have collected data about breast cancer and reproductive factors such as childbirth, menstrual cycles, birth control pills and abortion. Approximately 25 studies have examined the risk of developing breast cancer for women who have had abortions. Cancer researchers at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and major universities say that the most reliable studies show no increased risk, and they consider the entire body of research inconclusive.
In Australia a comprehensive review of medical evidence on the after-effects and complications of abortion was carried out for the national guidelines on abortion produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in March 2000. The report stressed that the risks were much lower for early abortions-that is, up to 12 weeks-than for those over 20 weeks but pointed out that complications of abortion at any stage of pregnancy are rare. The booklet enshrined in the legislation says that complications are more likely if the pregnancy goes to full term.
Only a small minority of women experience any long-term adverse psychological effects after abortion. Early distress, although common, is usually a continuation of symptoms present before the abortion. On the other hand, long-lasting negative effects on both mothers and their children are reported where abortion has been denied.
Haemorrhage (bleeding) at the time of abortion is rare. Uterine perforation (damage to the womb at the time of the surgical abortion) is rare. Cervical trauma (damage to the cervix) is no greater than 1 per cent. Infection of varying degrees of severity occurs in up to 10 per cent of cases, but the risk is reduced when antibiotics are given at the time of abortion. Available evidence on an association between abortion and breast cancer is inconclusive. There are no proven associations between abortion and subsequent infertility or premature births.
The most authoritative study in this country on the after-effects of abortion was carried out jointly by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and involved more than 30,000 pregnant women.
The point I am trying to make is that it is absolutely clear that there are different views on this subject. I think it would be responsible for Mrs Dunne to qualify her statement. She obviously has a study which supports what she believes is the case, and she has every right to quote it, but I think it is irresponsible for her to make a blanket statement and alarm people in the community to that degree.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (8.27): I wish to make a short contribution to the debate. I support the bill. The crux of the issue is compulsion, the requirement that certain information be provided in certain circumstances to people seeking medical assistance or a medical procedure.