[This article originally appeared in SALVO (www.salvomag.com) on September 10, 2020; it is reproduced here with permission. – Ed.]
In a depressing but unsurprising move, pro-abortion advocates are suing to prevent the state of Tennessee from requiring abortion providers to tell women about “abortion pill reversal.”
What is “abortion pill reversal”? In a medical (versus surgical) abortion, a woman takes a series of two pills. The first, mifepristone, ends the baby’s life by blocking the effects of progesterone, the hormone that sustains pregnancy. The second, misoprostol, flushes out the woman’s body. In abortion pill reversal, a woman who has taken mifepristone but not misoprostol then takes extra dosages of progesterone, in an effort to undo the effects of the mifepristone. The technique was pioneered by Dr. George Delgado, who was seeking to help a woman who called his office in California because she regretted her decision and wanted to know if there was a way to stop the abortion. Delgado has since authored a number of papers on the topic, the largest of which is an observational study of 754 women who used the procedure. Of that number, over 60% of the women succeeded in saving their babies, with no increased risk of birth defects.
But critics of Delgado’s work abound, with NPR in particular leading the charge. NPR detailed the flaws in Delgado’s research—including the lack of a “control group” in the design. In a controlled, randomized study (the golden standard for research), one group of women would receive progesterone after taking mifepristone, and another group would not be given progesterone. Delgado rightly says in the paper itself that a control group isn’t ethical in these scenarios, because the women in his study are actively seeking to save their pregnancies. (It is commonly understood in the medical literature that randomized, controlled studies aren’t always possible, for ethical reasons.) Another NPR story details that a proposed study on abortion pill reversal had to be abandoned, due to low participation and the fact that one-quarter of the women who were given mifepristone and were awaiting progesterone had to be taken to the hospital for severe bleeding (which is one acknowledged danger of the abortion pill regimen). The authors of the study claim that taking mifepristone without following it with misoprostol is dangerous—even though most women seeking abortions experience some amount of “waiting period” for the mifepristone to work before taking the misoprostol, and furthermore, the progesterone treatment is most effective in the first 24 hours. (The authors’ commentary on their study, by the way, is now a dead link.)
So what are we to make of this? Only that pro-choice advocates seem to think it unethical to present women seeking a medical abortion with knowledge she could use to make the choice to change her mind and protect her baby. Is the regimen new and perhaps even experimental? Yes, but several studies have demonstrated its safety and effectiveness, the research to the contrary has its own weaknesses, and the abortion pill regimen is certainly not without its own dangers. More than anything else, those trying to block the implementation of this law in Tennessee are seeking to protect the big business of abortion.