When Mom changes her mind: Reversing pill abortions in progress

At the National Press Club in Washington, DC Monday, six other physicians and I testified about how to reverse a medical abortion in progress. Our press conference was sponsored by the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Priests for Life.  Currently we have documented 78 babies born after abortion reversal, a relatively new procedure, with 45 women still pregnant, a 57% success rate out of 223 attempted reversals. Abortions by pill (as contrasted with surgical abortions) are increasing world-wide as a percentage of abortions. In recent years there are approximately 200,000 medical abortions annually in the USA.

Medical abortion is actually performed in early pregnancy with TWO pills, the first – RU-486 – mifepristone or Mifeprex, antagonizes the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for pregnancy. This cuts off the nutritional supply to the pregnancy, ending in the unborn baby’s death.  One or two days later the woman takes a second pill, misoprostol or Cytotec, which causes uterine contractions and expels the pregnancy. Medical abortion is frequently a horrible experience for the women, lasting up to 2-4 weeks with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhage, and intense pain.

Soon after legalization of mifepristone in the United States, the deaths of four young California women from toxic shock from Clostridium sordellii led to an investigation by medical authorities. A major culprit was U.S protocols from the defunct organization Abortion Rights Mobilization. The “ARM protocols” changed a medically supervised procedure in clinics and hospitals (as done in the 1990’s in Europe) to essentially a do-it-yourself process.  Senator Barbara Boxer bullied the FDA into tolerating the new protocols that caused the deaths of the four California women. Monty Patterson, father of Holly, the first to die under the new do-it-yourself system developed a website warning against medical abortion. The best statistics on medical abortion are obtained from Finland, which has a national health system with linked medical records that accurately capture abortion complications. We find that a whopping 20% of medical abortions result in hemorrhage, infection, retained tissue and other serious problems.

We know that women undergoing abortion are often ambivalent, in less than perfect life circumstances, and not infrequently coerced into abortion clinics by their partners or parents. As Andrea, our young mother at the press conference described, she was bullied into swallowing the pill by the clinic doctor; mifepristone is expensive and must be taken under direct observation. But now the interval between the first and second pill allows an opportunity for a mother to change her mind and save her baby, as well as spare herself possible complications of a medical abortion. 

If the mother calls our national hotline at 1-877-558-0333 and makes contact with one of the 230 physicians nationwide who have signed up to do abortion reversals, she will be given progesterone injections that will overcome the effect of the mifepristone pill most of the time. Andrea showed off her beautiful baby Gabriel at the press conference, accompanied by her beaming partner and parents.

Dr. George Delgado and I reported the first seven cases in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. It does not appear that mifepristone is associated with an increased incidence of birth defects.  Dr. Matt Harrison, who performed the first medical abortion reversal, developed a kit to help medical professionals offer abortion reversal. Please encourage any interested medical professionals and pregnancy help centers to receive a kit and sign up as potential providers with Dr. Delgado’s website.

It is been a great privilege for me to participate in the care of these women and their babies, some of the best moments of my entire medical career. Please tell young women you may encounter that not only is abortion reversal possible but there are doctors and pregnancy help clinics who will assist her.