Reversible Abortions? New Arizona Law Requires Physicians to Tell Patients It’s Possible

Yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1318, a bill whose support is almost entirely partisan (yup, from the party that hates, hates, hates government regulation) and restricts abortion coverage in insurance plans.

Oh, and it also includes an amendment to the state’s informed consent laws to tell women about abortion reversals:

The law requires a health care professional to tell women at least 24 hours before they obtain an abortion:

(h) It may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence.

(i) Information on and assistance with reversing the effects of a medication abortion is available on the department of health services’ website.

Now, if it were actually possible to reverse an abortion, obviously this be pertinent information that should be shared with the person considering the procedure. The problem is, of course, that this is a load of hooey.

Think ProgressTara Culp-Ressler explains:

So-called “abortion reversal” involves injecting the hormone progesterone into a patient after she has taken mifepristone, the first dose in the two-part process to terminate a first-trimester pregnancy with medication. This reversal procedure was pioneered by an anti-abortion doctor named George Delgado, who claims that his progesterone method has helped four women who initially took mifepristone go on to have healthy live births.

But medical professionals say there’s no scientific evidence to suggest the hormonal injection is effectively reversing the effects of mifepristone. It takes two different medications to end a pregnancy, and mifepristone is not always effective on its own.

“There’s no evidence of any demonstrable effect of the ‘treatment’ these anti-abortion centers are marketing,” Dr. Cheryl Chastine, an abortion provider in Kansas, told reporter Robin Marty earlier this month. “The medical literature is quite clear that mifepristone on its own is only about 50 percent effective at ending a pregnancy. That means that even if these doctors were to offer a large dose of purple Skittles, they’d appear to have ‘worked’ to ‘save’ the pregnancy about half the time.

Pretending that there is a “reversal” to abortion when there is not is not informing patients; it is misinforming patients. Skipping the second step, misoprostol, may result in a live birth, and it may not. That’s not a reversal procedure, and forcing physicians to claim that such a procedure exists could lead to an unreasonable expectation of effectiveness in the patient. If someone is wavering between aborting or not (presumably, the person intended to benefit from this misinformation), talking about snake oil “cures” for abortion is not going to help her make a grounded, reality-based decision.

Women who get abortions are often represented in anti-abortion circles as uncertain, misguided, frightened and/or manipulated into the choice. Which, while serving to infantilize women, is probably still more well-intentioned than the competing evil, sex-crazed baby-killers meme. But, if you really think most women go into the abortion clinic full of doubts and leave full of regrets… wouldn’t lying about a reversal be a counterproductive strategy? After all, if you believe a woman doesn’t really want an abortion and only thinks she does, it seems that telling her that there’s a medical procedure to help her if she changes her mind mid-abortion might give her a false sense of security: it’s okay to start the process even if I’m not sure, because they can always “reverse” it.

On the contrary, it seems that knowing that taking that pill is pretty final, that her best hope for continuing the pregnancy after that is that the first dose didn’t fully work, might encourage the doubting patient to hold off until she’s made up her mind one way or the other.

(via Slate. Image via Shutterstock)

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