Lawmakers Wants Doctors to Tell Patients Some Abortion Attempts Can be Reversed

Rebecca Medina took the first of two pills that would induce an abortion and lay down to take a nap. The 26-year-old nursing student told Christianity Today when she awoke, she realized taking that pill was a mistake.

Rebecca wanted to keep her baby.

Like any millennial, Rebecca went to Google for a life-saving solution. She discovered a clinic in San Diego where doctors said they had a treatment to reverse a medication abortion.

Today, her son, Elijah Gabriel, is 4 months old.

Even though Rebecca was in nursing school at the time, she had no idea it was possible to reverse a medication abortion. Neither did her colleagues.

Two Utah Republicans, Rep. Keven Stratton and Sen. Curt Bramble, want to be sure no pregnant woman in their state has to go to Google for the information Rebecca credits with saving her baby’s life.

Stratton and Bramble plan to introduce legislation in January that would make doctors tell patients that it’s possible to undo a medication abortion.

Good for them, said physicians Mary L. Davenport and Donna J. Harrison from the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Michigan.

“Many women are ambivalent about their abortion decision, and there is increasing evidence that many abortions are coerced. These women welcome the opportunity to reverse their initial decision, and should be given accurate information about this process,” said Davenport and Harrison in a statement to Christianity Today.

But mainstream medical organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say Rebecca’s baby might have been born with or without the treatment. They also warn of serious side effect from what ACOG calls an unproven medical procedure.

South Dakota, Arizona and Arkansas have enacted so-called “abortion reversal laws” like the Stratton-Bramble proposal that force doctors to tell patients that a medication abortion could be reversed.

Soon after the Arizona legislation was approved, Dr. Ilana Addis, chairwoman of the Arizona Section of ACOG, wrote in an Arizona Capitol Times op-ed that the idea that a medication abortion could be reversed was “tantamount to quackery.”

The Arizona law was repealed.

Stratton said the legislation he and Bramble plan to propose is “fairly straightforward” and is all about allowing people to make an educated choice.

“If you’re pro-choice, I would say that it helps you be educated in making the choice,” Stratton told the Deseret News. “If you’re pro-life, it gives an opportunity to look at the options if a decision is made to reverse course.”

A medication abortion involves two drugs: mifepristone, a drug that blocks the hormone progesterone, and misoprostol, which produces a result that mimics a miscarriage.

George Delgado, MD, the medical director at Culture of Life Services headquartered in San Diego, said the effects of the first pill, also known as the RU-486 abortion pill, can be reversed by administering progesterone by injection, orally or vaginally.

Delgado told MedPage Today that if progesterone is administered before the second pill is taken it protects the fetus. He claimed a 57 percent success rate with the treatment.

“We believe that if further trials confirm the success without complications of this or similar protocols, it should become the standard of care for obstetrician-gynecologists, family physicians, and emergency department physicians to attempt mifepristone reversal on patient request,” he said.

However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement that criticized Delgado’s study for only describing “a handful of experiences” and said it was “not a controlled study.”

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, told STAT, a publication that serves the medical community, that proponents of reversing medication abortions are “essentially trying an unproven, experimental protocol on pregnant women.”

“As physicians,” Grossman added, “we can’t experiment on patients, willy-nilly.”

But Delgado said since that study ACOG criticized came out, he has documented the births of 220 babies after treating women with progesterone and another 100 women who are pregnant.

“I do believe it’s viable because we’ve had over 300 successes,” Delgado said. “They are fully confident that it works and it’s safe. So I do feel that (women) have the right to know.”

Pro-Life Utah supports the abortion-reversal legislation.

“I understand how that feels, to think that you have made the biggest mistake of your lifetime,” Pro-Life Utah President Mary Taylor told Deseret News.

Taylor said she still regrets having an abortion 35 years ago.

”And part of the problem for me, with that decision, was the information I had when I made the choice,” she said. “You just can’t make a real true choice if you don’t have all the facts in front of you.”

Stratton said that’s what his legislation is intended to do: make sure pregnant women know about all of the options that are available.

“The genesis of the legislation is to help those that are considering terminating the pregnancy help them to understand that there is a potential option to reverse,” Stratton told KUER-FM.

“Good policy would say,” Stratton added, “let’s make all the information available that’s there.”

But Dr. Leah Torres, an OB/GYN in West Valley, Utah, said Stratton’s abortion-reversal law would force doctors to talk to patients about an unproven medical technique that could have disastrous consequences.

“To use something that is not scientifically based, that is not a standard of practice on patients,” Torres said, “is unethical any way you slice it.”