On Monday morning, after surrendering Stacy to Ann’s care, Theo typed a letter to Janet Fischer in which she apologized for the misunderstanding. Before sealing the envelope, she enclosed Theodore Russell’s proposal. She then typed a letter to Mr. Russell in care of his agent, Madison Whitlow, and briefly explained the mix-up. “I have returned your proposal to Ms. Fischer,” Theo wrote, “since she was the one who gave it to me, but I trust that you will not disapprove of my pursuing the study of a link between abortion and breast cancer. If you have strenuous objections, please let me know. If not, be assured that I will thank you publicly and privately, if possible, for your help and insights into this matter. The message is an important one that must not remain hidden.”
After walking the letters to her mailbox, Theo returned to her computer and finished entering the pertinent information she had gleaned from the library and Russell’s manuscript. She saved the file, then telephoned the offices of Dr. Kenneth Holman and Adam Perry, the doctor and lawyer who were cited in Russell’s proposal. Fortunately, both had offices in the District of Columbia.
Dr. Holman’s receptionist seemed reluctant to make an appointment for an interview, but when Theo said that she wanted to discuss information the doctor had previously presented to the novelist Theo M. Russell, the woman relented and gave Theo an appointment on Tuesday morning. Adam Perry had no free time until Wednesday, but Theo managed to make an appointment for nine o’clock on that day.
She spent the remainder of her afternoon studying the facts presented in Russell’s report and comparing them to information she’d gathered in the library. To her amazement, the link between breast cancer and abortion had been documented and discussed for years.
“This must be the most underreported story in America today,” columnist Mona Charen wrote in one article Theo had copied. “We are bombarded almost daily by media attention to breast cancer and its risk factors. We hear stories about the possible risks of birth control pills, alcohol, high-voltage wires and diet . . . but there is almost nothing reported about the greater risk faced by women who either suffer early miscarriages or elect to have first-trimester abortions.”1
The basic scientific hypothesis supporting the link between breast cancer and abortion seemed logical enough. “A woman’s first pregnancy causes hormonal changes which permanently alter the structure of her breast,” Russell wrote in his proposal. “A premature termination of a first pregnancy interrupts this transition process. Abortion or miscarriage leaves millions of breast cells suspended in transitional states. Studies in animals and human tissue cultures indicate that cells in this state face exceptionally high risks of becoming cancerous.”2
Theo frowned as she thought about that statement’s significance. She had first suspected she was pregnant with Stacy when her breasts had swelled and become unusually tender. No woman could deny that changes of the breasts were one of the first and most noticeable symptoms of pregnancy.
She read on. Russell reported that incidents of breast cancer in the United States were rising at an alarming rate among young black women and poor women in certain states. Genetics, diet, radiation, and miscarriage were doubtless responsible for a large percentage of the increase, but 60 percent of the rise could not be explained by medical researchers. Could the reason for the rate of increase be abortion?
“Key individuals in the abortion industry have been aware of this link since at least 1982,” Russell wrote. “Malcolm Pike explicitly identified abortion as a major risk factor in breast cancer in 1981. In two large studies of women, which were based solely on official abortion records, abortion of the first pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of approximately 90 percent. An analysis of all reputable studies done to date suggests that women who have miscarriages or abortions before the first live birth initially have a risk 50 percent higher than women who do not.”3
Theo fumbled in her desk drawer for a yellow marker and highlighted that last sentence. A 50 percent increase in risk could not be ignored.
“While some might blame the increasing rate of breast cancer on the birth control pill,” Russell’s proposal continued, “the women of the former Soviet Union have had little access to Western drugs, including the pill. The Soviets, however, have one of the world’s highest abortion rates. And, in fact, the incidence of breast cancer among Russian, Estonian, and Soviet Georgian women appears to have tripled between 1960 and 1987. Abortion is one of the few influences which has been linked to breast cancer and has been present on both sides of the Iron Curtain.”4
Another article from Russell’s research supported this hypothesis. Seattle researchers for the National Cancer Institute found that abortion could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 50 percent for women under age forty-five. But for women under eighteen, the risk was increased by 150 percent. “The highest risk was among those women under eighteen who waited more than eight weeks to get an abortion.” This comment came from Janet Daling, an epidemiologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She’d reported that the cancer typically appeared ten to fourteen years after the abortion was performed. “I’m concerned this will be used to alarm people,” Daling had said.5
“Why shouldn’t it?” Theo muttered. “If I’d had an abortion, I’d be scared to death by all of this.” She skimmed the rest of the article, highlighted other facts, then pulled out a clean sheet of paper and a pen. She’d need a list of pertinent questions to ask Dr. Kenneth Holman, and this research had given her just the background she needed.