Minnesota Health Department officials are questioning a statement posted on the department’s website to comply with a new law asserting that having an abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. According to internal emails obtained by the Star Tribune, a department director named Mary Manning circulated an email memo asking staff to tell anyone who asks that having an abortion does not lead to an increased risk for breast cancer, citing findings by the National Cancer Institute. Despite the fact that Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach is a former Catholic nun who is opposed to legal abortion, she gave Manning permission to circulate the memo, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio report.
The statement linking abortion and breast cancer was posted on the health department’s website, as well as printed in a pamphlet, to comply with the so-called Women’s Right to Know Act, a piece of legislation pushed through the state legislature by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). The law requires doctors to provide women seeking an abortion a range of information 24 hours before the procedure. Anti-choice Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and MCCL were both consulted in the creation of the information to comply with the law, but abortion rights advocates and abortion providers were not consulted, the Star Tribune reports.
Some abortion providers are already reporting problems with the new law. “People express that they feel insulted by the law, they feel offended, women express over and over again, ‘I am a mature, capable woman. I have thought long and hard about my decision to have an abortion, I feel it is best for me. I have consulted people who matter in my life…’,” Rev. K. George Keaney, manager of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, told Minnesota Public Radio. Other providers say that the information is inappropriate in some circumstances; for example, women seeking abortions are required to be told that the father has a responsibility to help support the fetus, but this is offensive and inappropriate for rape victims.