Academic Review Finds Abortion Reversal Study Incomplete

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 6:48pm

An academic review of the study the Arizona abortion reversal law is based on found the research to be incomplete. Earlier this year, legislators in Arizona and Arkansas passed a law that required doctors to tell patients about the possibility of stopping a medication abortion halfway through the procedure.

Seven doctors reviewed the 2012 case report detailing the reversal procedure. Dr. George Delgado and Dr. Mary Davenport published research on seven patients who participated in this abortion reversal process. The article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy details that the patients were given high doses of progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, after taking the first pill in a series of two as part of a medication abortion.

To get a medication abortion, patients take mifepristone first to block the hormone progesterone, which is essential early in pregnancy. The second pill, misoprostol, completes the abortion by terminating the pregnancy.

The review article in Contraception: An International Reproductive Health Journal criticized the case report: “The limited data on mifepristone reversal grew out of anecdotal experiences of physicians who performed experimental treatment on pregnant women, without usual research safeguards.”

Lead author of the review article, Dr. Daniel Grossman, said the authors didn’t report their study had an ethics board or institutional review board approval, which is typical of most scientific research.

“The new laws in Arizona and Arkansas have now bypassed the research process, in effect making all women who undergo this treatment subjects in an uncontrolled, unmonitored, experiment,” Grossman wrote in the article.

Grossman said the law is forcing physicians to make recommendations that may contradict their clinical judgement.

“This is legislative interference in patient physician relationship,” he said. “And it forces a doctor to tell a woman about a treatment that really isn’t proven.”

In a March interview with Delgado, he said he has a network of 270 doctors around the country who preform these abortion reversal procedures. He said he was planning to wait until doctors in his network recorded between 150 and 200 births before he submits another paper for publication.  

Planned Parenthood of Arizona filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Arizona law. The law is temporarily on hold, and the director of the Arizona Department of Health has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because she claims no doctor has been disciplined for violating it yet.