Coalition Senator Eric Abetz has denied he believes in a link between breast cancer and abortion, saying he was "cut off" on television show The Project before being able to clarify his position.
Senator Abetz, the leader of the government in the upper house and the Employment Minister, made headlines after appearing on the Channel Ten program on Thursday night.
When asked by panellist Mia Freedman if he believed the "factually incorrect" statement that abortion leads to breast cancer, he said, "I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer."
Ms Freedman then quickly began asking a follow-up question.
Freedman: "It is conclusively and scientifically incorrect in the same way that linking immunisations and autism are incorrect. So when this scientific non-information is being put out there, how can you be comfortable being part of something that promotes this non-science?"
Abetz: "Well I don't know what your scientific expertise is to be able to run that commentary, I must confess I don't have that ... "
Freedman: "It's not me. It's the Australian Medical Association."
Abetz: "Well there are other organisations that have differing views as some of these speakers are clinical professors ... "
On Friday morning, Senator Abetz claimed he hadn't had the chance to finish answering the original question, and did not believe in any link.
"Media reports that I have drawn or believe there is a link between abortion and breast cancer are incorrect," Senator Abetz said in a statement.
"In my interview last night on The Project I studiously avoided doing so, and was cut off before being able to acknowledge that Dr Angela Lanfranchi's views on this topic were not the accepted medical view."
However, Ms Freedman disputed his denial via Twitter.
Responding to Senator Abetz's denial of the reports, she said the panel challenged him repeatedly and still he maintained there was evidence linking abortion with breast cancer.
"Not true @SenatorAbetz. You NEVER agreed that the abortion-breast cancer link was bogus on @theprojecttv. You backed it repeatedly. #StopWCF," she tweeted.
In his statement, Senator Abetz, who is openly anti-abortion, goes on to recognise Dr Lanfranchi's position as "a breast cancer surgeon and a clinical assistant professor of surgery", and said she had a right to free speech in Australia.
He is involved with this year's "World Congress of Families" event to be held in Melbourne later this month, where one of the topics to be discussed is abortion and breast cancer.
"I am associating myself with the Families Conference - the broad aims of which I support. This does not mean that I endorse the views of every single speaker," he said.
The chief executive officer of Breast Cancer Network Australia said on Friday that drawing links between abortion and breast cancer was harmful and concerning.
"I think it's really harmful to give credibility to claims like this. It could potentially give women unnecessary concern about something there is absolutely no evidence for," Maxine Morand said.
"If the claims have any veracity, then present them at a scientific meeting with other experts and other surgeons in the room to debate the issue," she said.
"Have a debate where the content of the conference is around breast cancer rather than presenting it at a pro-life conference, which seems to be rather self-serving."
Ms Morand said she would be pleased if Senator Abetz would consider cancelling his attendance at the upcoming conference, as his appearance still lent credibility to such views.
In the past few days, government ministers have been ridiculed on social media for their misunderstanding of metadata, amid announcements of the controversial "data retention" policy.
However, Thursday night's comments have firmly redirected the gaze of social media users to Senator Abetz.
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