A few months after a Trumpist mob marched through the halls of the U.S. Capitol calling for the summary execution of Mike Pence, the former vice president founded a political advocacy group dedicated to building on the “success of the last four years.”
Since its creation, Pence’s group, Advancing American Freedom, has defended the “junk fees” — hidden fees on everything from airfare to concert tickets — that the Biden administration has sought to eliminate. It’s promoted, in service of an argument against an EPA rule to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the dubious argument that “car seat laws function as unintentional ‘contraception.’” And, earlier this month, it revived the widely-discredited theory that abortion causes breast cancer.
On YouTube, Advancing American Freedom posted an hour-long Zoom presentation delivered to the group Anglicans for Life by the surgeon and anti-abortion activist Angela Lanfranchi, a staunch defender of the debunked claim that having an abortion increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer.
In her presentation, Lanfranchi focused on what she saw as a consequential moment in this debate. In 2003 — after dozens of anti-abortion lawmakers pressed George W. Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services over the issue — the National Cancer Institute convened more than 100 experts on pregnancy and breast cancer research for a three-day workshop to study the supposed link. At the summit, scientists reviewed “existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies” and concluded there was no evidence that having an abortion or miscarriage increases a person’s breast cancer risk.
Lanfranchi claimed that this was the moment, “they tried to really squash [the theory] by recommending there should be no more studies.” She likened the National Cancer Institute’s gathering of 100 plus scientists to “the book 100 Essays Against Einstein, instigated by the Nazi government in 1938 to discredit ‘Jewish science.’” (Later in the presentation, she compared herself to the biblical figure St. Sebastian, a Christian martyr who was shot through with arrows for speaking his truth.)
The vast majority of scientists and medical organizations who have studied the issue disagree with Lanfranchi’s claim. The most definitive study on the subject, published in 1997, before the NCI gathering, examined the health data of more than a million women in Denmark; it found “absolutely no effect” from abortion on breast cancer.
Since the National Cancer Institute held its summit in 2003, numerous other studies have arrived at the same conclusion including a study that year of data from more than 100,000 women in France; a 2004 Lancet meta-analysis of more than 50 existing studies; a 2006 study of a quarter million women in nine countries; a 2007 Harvard study of more than 100,000 women; and a 2008 study of California teachers, to name just a few.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition, the American Cancer Society, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization have all agreed no link exists.
Pence’s spokesman did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment about the video.
It is not the first time that Pence — now one of the most vocally anti-abortion candidates for president — has aligned himself with groups propagating misinformation about abortion and breast cancer. On the campaign trail in 2020, he visited Gateway Women’s Care, a crisis pregnancy center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that erroneously identifies breast cancer as a “long term physical risk” of abortion.
For all of the breast cancer fear-mongering to which Pence has been adjacent, as a U.S. representative, he led a crusade to end Title X funding for Planned Parenthood — which, among other things, paid for breast exams. As part of the Trump administration, he saw that dream realized, as the network was forced out of the Title X program. The Biden administration has since reversed the Trump policy.