The Jury Is In
New York City
I was shocked to read Sharon Long’s letter in your April 5 issue claiming that "the jury is still out on whether there is an abortion-breast cancer link" and pointing to a 2005 review of some old studies in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. The American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, relying on more recent studies, have been at pains to refute this alleged link, yet the rumors continue to circulate on antiabortion websites.
Author, feminist, activist
I was unfamiliar with the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons and looked it up. It is not a peer-reviewed journal of research, and the articles I read were not objective appraisals of medical literature. In the early studies examining the risk of breast cancer associated with abortions, there was a major problem, "recall bias"; women who develop breast cancer are more likely to reveal their history of induced abortion than are healthy women. Studies that avoided recall bias (by deriving data from national registries instead of personal interviews) found the risk of breast cancer identical in women with and without induced abortions. More recent studies failed to link breast cancer with either induced or spontaneous abortions. Studies published in 2006, ’07 and ’08, including the Nurses’ Health Study, also reported no association between breast cancer and induced or spontaneous abortions. The jury is not still out.
LEON SPEROFF, MD
Professor emeritus, obstetrics and gynecology
Oregon Health & Science University
Amnesty International in the Cross Hairs
New York City
It is a serious mistake to conflate British Islamists with US solidarity movements of the ’70s and ’80s, as D.D. Guttenplan and Maria Margaronis do in "Who Speaks for Human Rights?" [April 5]. Today’s global jihad has neither the same methods nor the same objectives as national liberation struggles of an earlier period, even if organizations like Cageprisoners appropriate the language of those struggles. This is addressed in a global petition supporting Gita Sahgal’s concerns (see human-rights-for-all.org).
Organizations including AWID, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, MADRE, the Urgent Action Fund and Women Living Under Muslim Laws have endorsed this petition, which has signatures from 1,600-plus people, including Rhonda Copelon, Jodie Evans, Dr. Nawal el-Saadawi, Amitav Ghosh, Malalai Joya, Martha Nussbaum, Ros Petchesky and Salman Rushdie.
The issue is whether the human rights of a woman in Afghanistan are as important as those of a man imprisoned in Guantánamo. Nobody is saying Amnesty International was wrong to defend Moazzam Begg’s rights–that is a red herring. Defending his rights is different from getting into bed with his organization by arranging European speaking tours, taking him to Downing Street and describing Cageprisoners as human rights defenders. Long experience has taught us that women’s rights are the first to be sacrificed by those who want to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds.