Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Lancet Study: Abortion does not improve prognosis for pregnant cancer patients

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, September 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A leading Belgian cancer physician will tell an international symposium in Dublin on maternal health this week that induced abortion does nothing to improve the prognosis of pregnant women with cancer. Described by The Lancet as “leading the agenda on cancer on pregnancy” Professor Frédéric Amant will say, “In the case of cancer complicating pregnancy, termination of pregnancy does not improve the maternal prognosis.”

Amant, a gynaecological oncologist and lecturer at the Catholic University of Leuven, is the lead researcher of an international study on pregnancy and cancer, and the author of a series of articles published in The Lancet and Lancet Oncology on malignancy in pregnancy.

Symposium organisers have said that his presentation has already attracted “significant interest” from Irish medical professionals ahead of the event. Saturday’s symposium will feature several notable physicians and others working in maternal health care and participants are expected to attend from all over Europe and the U.S., Kenya and Chile. It will focus on management of high-risk pregnancies, cancer in pregnancy, foetal anomalies and mental health. It will also look at trends of maternal mortality from around the world and the factors that influence rates of maternal death.

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The symposium comes as Ireland faces a major stand-off in its parliament with two sides of a coalition government in an uproar over proposals to abolish Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn. The Labour Party, the junior coalition partner, is the only political party in the country with legalisation of abortion as a major item in its platform. While some members of other government partner, the Fine Gael party, support the idea, significant tension is said to be growing over Labour’s insistence that a recent European Court of Human Rights decision should be taken to mean the country must institute legalised abortion. Meanwhile, public opinion remains strongly opposed.

Pro-life activists working in this tense political environment have said that the myths surrounding maternal health and abortion - that abortion is “safer” than natural childbirth and that Ireland’s laws restrict the treatment choices of pregnant cancer patients - are at the centre of the storm. While Ireland maintains a near total ban on abortion, the country enjoys one of the highest rates of maternal health in the world according to international health organisations. At the same time, however, abortion lobbyists and their supporters in the mainstream media continue to insist that only legalisation of abortion can fully guarantee pregnant women full access to health care.

A symposium organiser, Professor Eamon O’Dwyer, said that the fields of obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine are “ever expanding with increasing attention being given to high-risk and emergency obstetrics, neonatal care for very premature babies, prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities, and the mental health effects of pregnancy”.

“This is a very welcome opportunity for Irish medical practitioners to learn about the experiences and research outcomes of other jurisdictions,” said Professor O’Dwyer.

Professor Amant’s work is featured on the website Cancer in Pregnancy. He has said in several papers that not only is it possible to save unborn children of women having to undergo chemotherapy, but that those children will be largely unaffected by their mothers’ treatment. 

In one study, Amant examined the data and found that of more than 200 children exposed to prenatal chemotherapy drugs, none had any elevated risk of cognitive or developmental delay for up to 18 years. He was quoted by the Daily Telegraph earlier this year, saying, “The patient and her partner should be informed about the different treatment options and the physician should explain that termination of pregnancy does not seem to improve maternal outcome.”

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