Women in Utah may soon be getting unsolicited advice on how to take back their abortions.
Two Utah state lawmakers are drafting a bill that would require doctors to tell women about an unproven method of reversing their abortions. The method can only be used in medication-induced abortion, which account for only a quarter of all abortions in the US. Also, it has never been tested in a clinical trial.
Still, that hasn't stopped three states from making doctors tell women about this unproven procedure. South Dakota passed the requirement this April, and Arkansas did so last year. Arizona legislators recently repealed a similar law after legal challenges.
"We're not doctors," one author of the forthcoming bill in Utah told Deseret News. "We're trying to formulate good policy."
"Abortion pill reversal" is the brainchild of pro-life gynecologist George Delgado.
Delgado calls the reversal method a "blessing." In reality, it is a large dose of progesterone, provided orally to women who have taken half of the medication required to complete their abortion.
Medication abortions involve two pills, taken between 24 and 72 hours apart: mifepristone, which blocks progesterone, and misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions. Delgado believes that supplying large doses of progesterone after the first pill can reverse the effects of the mifepristone, and result in a healthy pregnancy.
"The 'second choice' we offer women who change their minds after taking mifepristone not only gives their unborn babies a fighting chance, it also provides an avenue for emotional and spiritual healing on the mothers’ and sometimes the fathers’ parts," he said on his website.
However, the method has never actually been proven to be effective.
The only evidence for its success is Delgado's own study, where he tested the procedure on six women. After taking both the mifepristone and the progesterone, four of the women gave birth to healthy children.
"Our success rates with our most effective protocols are 65-70% survival," Delgado told Broadly.
Unfortunately for Delgado, the majority of this "success" is likely a result of the women not taking the second pill. According to the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ACOG), between 30% and 50% of women who take mifepristone alone will still give birth to a healthy child:"The medical literature is quite clear that mifepristone on its own is only about 50% effective at ending a pregnancy," Dr. Cheryl Chastine told Talking Points Memo. "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."
Not only that, the treatment could have negative side effects.
The drugs have never been tested for potential side effects when used in reversing abortions. When used in other settings, high doses of progesterone led to side effects like fatigue, acne, drowsiness, fever, headache, depression, breast discomfort, irregular bleeding, and other generally undesirable symptoms.
Progesterone isn't life-threatening, but the ACOG warns that it can cause adverse cardiovascular, nervous system, and endocrine reactions.
It's also pretty much unnecessary.
Studies show that 95% of women who have had abortions believe they ultimately made the right decision. In fact, women who get abortions are as sure — or more sure — about their decision as women planning mastectomies, getting prenatal testing, or choosing to use antidepressants while pregnant.
"It's exceedingly rare to have a woman change her mind after undergoing abortion counseling and then actually taking the abortion pill," Dr. Daniel Grossman told Vocativ. "This seems more like a media campaign than an attempt to provide a service that is actually needed."