Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah made the baffling decision this weekend to sign into law an abortion measure that would benefit exactly no one on neither the pro-choice nor pro-life side of the debate. The new mandate forces doctors to tell women that medication abortions are "reversible," a claim unsupported by any medical or scientific studies.
What pro-life Utah legislators hope to achieve by peddling such a falsehood is a mystery. It's quite possible that this will backfire in pro-life proponents' faces, in that this may actually encourage women who are unsure about whether they'd like to terminate their pregnancies into pursuing a medical procedure they mistakenly believe can be undone.
Medication abortions, which are carried out through the ingestion of the "abortion pill," can be safely done for pregnancies caught in the very early stages — ten weeks is usually cited as the latest this procedure should be attempted. By taking two pills in the space of two to three days, women can essentially induce an early miscarriage.
Legislators who attempt to pass similar measures — "reversible abortion" laws have cropped up in other states like Arizona and Arkansas — usually cite a study conducted by Dr. George Delgado in 2012, in which four out of seven pregnant women remained pregnant after interrupting their medication abortions by taking progesterone tablets after taking the first pill meant to terminate the pregnancy.
Delgado's study, however, is not considered credible by most other doctors or medical organizations. A fact sheet by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states:
A 2012 case series describes six women who took mifepristone and then had a series of progesterone injections. This paper describes a handful of experiences, these women received varying regimens of injected progesterone, and this was not a controlled study. Therefore it does not provide evidence that progesterone was responsible for the reported outcomes. In addition, there was no oversight of an institutional review board or an ethical review committee for this intervention.
Taking mifepristone (without misoprostol) will not always cause abortion by itself, so no intervention may lead to the same result as this case series.
There are no reliable research studies to prove that any treatment reverses the effects of mifepristone.
Overall, the ACOG concluded that, based on the general body of evidence available, " doing nothing and waiting to see what happens" is "just as effective" as attempting to interrupt a medication abortion by taking progesterone.
According to former Vice President for Research at Ibis Reproductive Health Dr. Dan Grossman, Delgado's claims were "not at all proven. It's really kind of a skeletal report."
Rep. Kevin Stratton, who authored the current Utah bill, explained his reasoning by insisting the new law would help women be more informed when making the decision to seek an abortion. “If you’re pro-choice, I would say that it helps you be educated in making the choice,” he said. “If you’re pro-life, it gives an opportunity to look at the options if a decision is made to reverse course.”
Stratton will undoubtedly be disappointed with the results he'll see.