Anti-Choice Group Now Offers "Abortion Reversal"

by Jessica Blankenship

In Bettendorf, Iowa, an anti-choice advocacy group is offering women an "abortion reversal" using an experimental treatment about which little is known, and it's all decidedly suspect and troubling. The Women’s Choice Center (which is, to reiterate, is run by a pro-life/anti-choice group) is now promoting what they're touting as a chance for women who are in the middle of a medical abortion the chance to “unabort” their pregnancies. The major problem with this is that the therapy hasn’t really been tested, and the entire procedure just generally feels problematic all around: imploring women to undergo experimental-at-best, hormone-altering treatments, underscored, obviously, by an anti-choice agenda.

Here's how this whole thing, more or less, supposedly works: When a woman opts to undergo a medical abortion, she is prescribed Mifepristone (RU-486), which blocks progesterone and breaks the uterine lining down. She then takes a second pill—usually Misoprostol—a day or two later to evacuate the contents of her uterus, thus completing the abortion process. An "abortion reversal" is designed to step in in between those two pills. Here's how it supposedly goes: If a woman started having second thoughts about going through an in-progress medical abortion, she could go to the Women's Choice Center, take the “unabortion” pill (which is essentially just the hormone progesterone) to intervene and stop the process. This, apparently, only works if you haven’t taken the second Misoprostol pill. Although, honestly, who's to say if it works at all, since it's untested.

From Vocativ:

The Women’s Choice Center is the only clinic to explicitly advertise the service and provide it free of charge. However, Tyler says a network of 230 other pro-life OB-GYNs are open to offering the treatment—despite concerns that its efficacy and safety have gone largely unexamined.

So far, the center hasn’t had any patients seeking a reversal, and only one small 2012 study published in a minor medical journal has evaluated the treatment. Co-authored by Dr. George Delgado, the pro-life physician who claims to have developed the treatment, the study followed six women who were given progesterone shortly after taking the abortion pill, which resulted in four of the six going on to have a normal vaginal birth. The outcomes of the remaining two pregnancies are unknown.

“It’s a very incomplete report,” says Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB-GYN and member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “It’s not a clinical trial. We have no evidence that this is an effective regimen, and I would say that it is outside the standard of care to use a treatment that has not been examined in clinical trials.”

Vicki Tyler, the executive director of Women’s Choice Center stated, “Because of our close proximity to Planned Parenthood, we know that there would be a woman who would take that first pill and want to reverse the procedure.”

In other words, they've set up shop next door to Planned Parenthood, affording them optimal opportunity to engage in the ethically bankrupt practice of trying to take advantage of women immediately post-abortion, at the moment of their greatest emotional vulnerability. (I don't care who you are, or what factors went into deciding to have an abortion, or how completely sure you are about your choice—walking out those clinic doors afterward will be an immensely vulnerable moment, even if it's also an incredibly empowered and positive one.)

From a medical standpoint, clearly there are a lot of big, scary unknowns here. Six women were involved in the study who were given this treatment. Of those, four are said to have given birth to healthy, full-term babies—but what happened to the other two? I want to know whether those babies are okay. Because outside of the responsibility of the medical community to protect a safe environment for women to make informed choices about their bodies from a range of well-tested, safety-proven options in a pressure-free environment, I think our main concern here should be for the children we’re supposedly “saving.” Will "reverse abortion" babies be healthy? Will they suffer from side-effects of the treatment? Will they suffer brain damage? Will they develop normally? Those answers should be available already. And they’re not, which is terrifying and unacceptable.