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Arizona Puts "Abortion Reversal" Law on Hold

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Arizona officials have agreed to delay the implementation of a new abortion law requiring doctors to tell women that medication-induced abortions may be reversed until federal courts can review it.

Three Arizona doctors and Planned Parenthood, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit earlier this month contending that the law, which was scheduled to go into effect July 3, violates doctors’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to promote what they call an experimental procedure.

The courts were set to hear the case June 23, but the two sides have requested to reschedule for October. 

To abort a pregnancy using medication, a woman must take two pills: one, mifespristone, which blocks the absorption of the hormone progesterone, and a second, misoprostol, which ejects the fetus.

Referencing the work of San Diego-based Dr. George Delgado, the law’s backers argue that women who are treated with a high dose of progesterone after taking the first pill may, in some cases, go on to deliver healthy babies.

Delgado has published only one peer-reviewed study on abortion reversal, an examination of six women published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. But he runs a website, abortionpillreversal.com, and a hotline that has paved the way for hundreds of women across the country to obtain the treatment, which he claims has a 60 percent success rate.

“We know that an unplanned pregnancy can be scary and many women make decisions to abort their babies when they are terrified and stressed,” the website reads. “We know that after some time thinking about it, many women would like to change their minds about a chemical abortion. It may not be too late, if you call quickly.”

The American Congress of Obstetricians, however, maintains that the idea that a medication-induced abortion can be halted halfway through is “not supported by the body of scientific evidence” and is “not recommended.” Even without progesterone injections, not all women will abort after taking just mifespristone, the organization stated, so it is impossible to know whether the progesterone treatment is effective without further research.

In ACLU court documents requesting an injunction, Dr. Courtney Schreiber, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that there are “serious problems” with drawing conclusions from Delgado’s published case study.

“A single published case series does not provide reliable evidence upon which to base a treatment regimen,” she wrote. “The number of patients reported is so small that no responsible researcher or physician would generalize from the outcome reported.”

Delgado’s work, Schreiber wrote, amounts to “research on human subjects” without “proper informed consent, ethical review, or data collection.”

Although some studies support the general safety of using progesterone during pregnancy, Schreiber wrote, the hormone has also been associated with complications such as depression, hypertension, birth defects, and stillbirth.

“At a very practical level, progesterone injections are painful and expensive,” she wrote. “It is unethical to recommend a treatment that causes pain and potential economic hardship when there is not evident benefit.” 

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Follow Elizabeth Stuart on Twitter: @elizMstuart

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