August 30th 2014

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED How stopping the boats helps Christian refugees

RURAL AFFAIRS Abject market appeasement the government's only policy

WOMEN'S HEALTH Abortion and breast cancer: hitting a feminist raw nerve

CHILD CARE INQUIRY Govt's wealth transfer from single-income to dual-income families

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Minimum wage is the cornerstone of the family wage

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS A change in economic direction is sorely needed

EDITORIAL Reflections on the Israel-Hamas conflict

AUSTRALIAN CONSTITUTION Should Aboriginal people be recognised in the Constitution?

HUMAN RIGHTS Stifling free speech through 'hate speech' legislation

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Will President Xi Jinping be China's Gorbachev?


CINEMA Reflections on two action-thrillers

BOOK REVIEW The 1965 Indonesian coup: a flawed account

BOOK REVIEW Christianity the crucible of freedom

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Abortion and breast cancer: hitting a feminist raw nerve

by Colin H. Jory

News Weekly, August 30, 2014

On Thursday, August 7, Eric Abetz, the Federal Minister for Employment and Leader of the Government in the Upper House, appeared on Channel 10’s evening program, The Project, supposedly as a “guest speaker”. The program purports to be “the news done differently” and to be “joining in the conversations going on in living rooms around the country”.

Senator Eric Abetz (left) and AMA President Dr Brian Owler 

The segment of the program in which Senator Abetz participated was conducted as one would expect of Fairfax and Fairfax-approved journalists. Its theme was the forthcoming speaking tour in Australia of American surgeon and pro-life advocate Dr Angela Lanfranchi, and it was an unrestrained tirade of jeering, sneering, smearing vilification against both her and her Australian hosts. The purpose of the “slanderama” was to intimidate politicians into vetoing any events at which she was speaking. It can be accessed on the Internet at

Senator Abetz was brought into the proceedings purely to be vilified and pilloried. His assigned chief denouncer was Mia Freedman, a feminist columnist whose website once published a contributor who boasted — and I do mean boasted — of being a veteran of two abortions (, February 7, 2014).

Ms Freedman herself has introduced to Australia, from overseas, cakes-and-scones visits to abortion clinics to help make abortion a happy experience for all involved (except, of course, the tiny victims), and is a campaigner to remove the shame and stigma from killing the unborn (, February 21, 2012).

She declared that Dr Lanfranchi’s claim that abortion conduces to breast cancer is “conclusively and scientifically incorrect”, and that this was not just her view but the view of the Australian Medical Association.

In fact, the Australian Medical Association had and has no policy or position on the issue.

Nevertheless, the day after the program, Friday, August 8, at 11:15 a.m., the current AMA President, Associate Professor Brian Owler — a neurosurgeon who is fond of making political pronouncements — held a formal AMA media conference at the Adventist Hospital at Wahroonga, New South Wales, at which he decreed, “There is no link between abortion and breast cancer”.

He declared that earlier that morning he had spoken to the Minister for Health (Peter Dutton), who had assured him that the contrary is “not the view of the Government, nor the Minister for Health, nor the Prime Minister”.

He declared that it would be regrettable if a woman who might have a “very valid reason” to abort her unborn child were deterred from doing so by the belief that an effect might be breast cancer; or if women who have had abortions and contract breast cancer imagine there is a causal link.

Mr Tony Abbott

He stated that he was “very concerned that senior members of the government” are associating themselves with Dr Lanfranchi’s speaking tour; and he claimed that these government members are “pushing some of the discredited theories associating abortion with breast cancer, the use of the oral contraceptive pill with things like domestic violence”.

He declared that it is “irresponsible” for these “people in the government” to take these positions.

I am quoting above from the official AMA “Transcript” of the media conference; and since it is clear from the context that the two views being denounced are being imputed to Senator Abetz, who in fact espoused neither view but simply declared that he was open to hearing expert opinion on such matters, in my judgment Dr Owler’s remarks show reckless disregard for the truth and are manifestly defamatory — especially in consideration of the latter of the two views which he imputed to the Senator.

I place the word “Transcript” in inverted commas above since although the AMA document explicitly professes to be just that, it is clear from newspaper reports of Dr Owler’s media conference that some of his polemical snipes were prudently excluded from the document.

For instance, in a report by Saffron Howden, printed in a number of Fairfax newspapers, Dr Owler is quoted as saying of Senator Abetz, “If he’s quoting papers from the 1950s, I suspect that’s where he’s living”; and “I think it’s really irresponsible for people to be using their own ideology and projecting it on, particularly, women.”

Neither of these remarks are in the alleged “Transcript”.

Furthermore, the first of the last-quoted two remarks reveals that Dr Owler did not bother to ascertain before his media conference what Senator Abetz actually said, since, as Howden told in her report, the Senator’s relevant words were, “I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer”.

Studies which date from the 1950s are studies which began in the 1950s, not studies confined to the 1950s. Dr Owler could not have bothered, either, to acquaint himself from the Internet with what Dr Angela Lanfranchi, the distinguished breast surgical oncologist against whom Ms Freedman and the Fairfax panelists directed most of their vituperation, has to say. If he had, he would have known that she relies principally not on studies from the 1950s but on the most up-to-date studies from China and South-East Asia.

Dr Owler’s pontifications are disgraceful because of their culpable ignorance, their polemical nature, and the fact that Dr Owler did not reveal that he was expressing merely his personal views and not any formal AMA policy or position. The AMA itself acted regrettably by issuing extracts from Dr Owler’s media conference on its own letterhead without making clear that what he said was not AMA policy, and by misrepresenting the extracts as a full transcript of the media conference.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott behaved the way we have come to expect when any of his ministers says anything which might imperil the unspoken accord between him and the feminists, by publicly rebuking Senator Abetz. He did so explicitly on the basis of the supposed AMA policy on the abortion-breast cancer issue, without bothering to take the elementary precautions of telephoning the AMA to find out if it actually has any such policy, or of seeking to ascertain what Dr Lanfranchi has to say.

The feminists in the media, in print and on-screen, responded as one to the sound of the tocsins ringing the alarm from the abortion clinics. In newspapers, television broadcasts, and e-texts of all kinds, the same outrage against Senator Abetz; the same smears against Dr Lanfranchi and the hosts of her Australian speaking tour; the same false allegation regarding the AMA vis-à-vis the abortion-breast cancer issue; the same gloating report of how Tony Abbott had publicly “slapped down” Senator Abetz, were stated in almost the same words.

Thanks to Google, I read more than two dozen such reports — and in not a single one was there evidence that the AMA had been asked if it has a policy such as was alleged; or that Dr Lanfranchi’s views have been sought.

Alas for the feminists and their male acolytes, this unanimity of manner, matter and method, and this orchestrated shrill hysteria, have aroused widespread suspicion among the non-committed that something is being guiltily hidden, and that a raw nerve has been hit.

The organisers of the events at which Dr Lanfranchi will be speaking have suddenly been inundated with applications to attend far in excess of their expectations.

The ladies (?) hath protested too much; the incurious have become curious; and their curiosity will not be deterred by threats and smears. The shrieking feminist tempest against Dr Lanfranchi has assured her of a far larger audience than she would otherwise have had — an audience which, unlike the Australian media until now, will give her a most attentive hearing.

Dr Colin H. Jory is a Canberra school-teacher, historian, Shakespeare scholar and social analyst.

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