A new and groundbreaking study has thrown the U.S. abortion establishment into a tizzy, and it’s easy to understand why.
For years, proponents of medication abortion (or chemical abortion, as some call it) have criticized a protocol aimed at reversing drug-induced abortions on the primary ground that the number of cases where such reversals have succeeded is small. Now, thanks to research by physicians who devised the abortion pill reversal regimen, evidence has been amassed that a model technique can be effective up to two-thirds of the time in saving the baby.
First, some background: Various methods are used to carry out abortions. These procedures differ based on the stage of pregnancy and technological developments or even the preferences of abortionists. The procedures include those broadly described as surgical, where a physician is present and uses instruments to remove the unborn child in pieces, or medical, where a drug cocktail causes the demise of the unborn child and then induces contractions to expel it from the womb.
Chemical abortions, aided by policy changes at the Food and Drug Administration that have expanded their use, have been on the rise over the past two decades, to the point where they constitute roughly 30 to 40 percent of all abortions in the United States. The most common regimen is to use mifepristone followed by misoprostol. This “RU-486” regimen was developed in France and came to the United States in 2000 under the Clinton Administration.
Initially approved for use in pregnancies up to seven weeks’ gestation, the regimen was expanded by the Obama FDA in 2016 for use up to 10 weeks from the last menstrual period, despite minimal scientific studies on the women who use Mifeprex that late in pregnancy.
The abortion industry, suffering from declining public support, has been looking for ways to make the process more accessible, even via pharmacies and mail-order suppliers.
The allure of this convenience-oriented approach to abortion has a significant downside, however. In the effort to take abortion out of a doctor’s office and put it in the family home or a student’s dormitory room, chemical abortion makes the woman an active participant in the abortion. She must take one drug to start the process of ending the growing embryo’s life, and a second, up to 72 hours later, that causes contractions.
These are deliberate steps in which, typically, she is alone, undergoes pain and bleeding that may last for days or even weeks, and becomes a witness to the lost life of her child. She is also alone for complications, which send approximately one in 50 to one in 20 women to the emergency room.
Understandably, many women are deeply ambivalent about abortion and the factors — lack of income, unsupportive boyfriends — that have driven them to such a fateful place. With chemical abortion and the reversal process, however, women can change their minds after taking the first drug.
The evidence is now clear, from more than 600 calls per year to the national Abortion Pill Reversal hotline, that hundreds of women do change their minds. Thanks to the brainstorm of Dr. George Delgado of San Diego, Dr. Mary Davenport, and Dr. Matthew Harrison, protocols to administer progesterone, a natural hormone widely in use for decades to sustain pregnancies for women at risk of miscarriage, were developed and offered to women seeking to preserve their pregnancies after taking Mifeprex.
The new research, released this month in the peer-reviewed journal Issues in Law and Medicine, looked at 261 successful mifepristone reversals, showing that the reversal success rates were 68 percent with the high-dose oral progesterone protocol and 64 percent with the injected progesterone protocol. Both rates are significantly better than the 25 percent survival rate for the pregnancy if no treatment is offered.
Moreover, no increased risk of birth defects or preterm births was found.
With as many as 350,000 U.S. women procuring medication abortions each year, and word inexorably spreading that this type of abortion is especially harrowing, imagine how many women and their children might benefit from knowing about APR. The testimony of dozens of women who have used this option is further evidence that the abortion industry, alarmed at even the slighted chink in their armory, will fail in its efforts to suppress information about APR.
Skepticism about any scientific question is wise, but the logic and results of APR have moved past that point with this new study. Even critics of APR and experts with no stake in the fight concede that the protocol makes “biological sense” or is “totally feasible.”
As more and more women embrace APR, the protocol should become common knowledge amid our ongoing national debate over the meaning of pregnancy and the value of human life. We owe every woman and girl the truth.
That’s what informed consent is all about.
Donna Harrison, M.D. is an obstetrician and executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Charles Donovan is president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
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