I’m an OB/GYN and a practicing physician. I cannot state strongly enough that there is no such thing as abortion “reversal.” It is dangerous to pregnant people, and it should not be a part of medical practice or public policy.
This is about ideology, not science. The people pushing it want to end abortion, and they are willing and eager to lie to pregnant people to achieve that goal. They do not care about the health or well-being – physical or emotional – of people seeking abortion care.
Major national organizations like the American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists and the American Medical Association strongly oppose abortion “reversal” as not based in science and a violation of the ethical obligations between doctors and patients. So does Physicians for Reproductive Health, the national medical practitioner organization of which I am a proud member.
“Facts are important, especially when it comes to policies and discussions that impact patients,” says the College of Obstetrician Gynecologists. “Claims regarding abortion “reversal” treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards… Despite this, in states across the country, politicians are advancing legislation to require physicians to recite a script that a medication abortion can be ‘reversed’ with doses of progesterone, to cause confusion and perpetuate stigma, and to steer women to this unproven medical approach. Unfounded legislative mandates like this one represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”
The American Medical Association sued North Dakota after that state passed an abortion “reversal” law. In its statement, the AMA said, “The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of health care, and depends upon honest, open conversations about all of a patient’s health care options,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “North Dakota’s law undermines this relationship by requiring physicians to mislead and misinform their patients with messages that contradict reality and science.”
The anti-abortion centers pushing abortion “reversal” do not empower pregnant people but rather shame them about their sexual and reproductive health care decisions. They target vulnerable people who are looking for trusted and sound medical advice to steer them away from having an abortion. They use deceptive tactics to discourage people from making fully-informed decisions about their health.
Anti-abortion centers, sometimes known as crisis pregnancy centers, are not medical facilities, despite what they tell people on billboards and the internet. These centers use deceptive advertising, misrepresenting themselves as legitimate health centers and staff, to intercept patients and steer people away from abortion care. Anti-abortion centers intentionally delay patients’ access to real medical care, provide them medically inaccurate information about their pregnancy and options, such as discussing so-called abortion “reversal”, do not comply with medical privacy laws, and even harass patients by misusing their private health information.
A bill introduced at the Colorado General Assembly would go after these deceptive practices. Supported by the grassroots organizations New Era Colorado and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights this bill would:
- Prohibit the use of deceptive advertising by anti-abortion centers
- Prohibit advertising for abortion pill “reversal” as a deceptive trade practice
- Make the prescribing, offering or facilitation of abortion pill “reversal” unprofessional conduct for licensed, registered or certified health care providers
This would go a long way to ensuring people seeking reproductive health care get sound, evidence-based advice, without coercion or ideology.
It’s important that patients and providers are able to create trusting relationships without anti-abortion extremists interfering. We trust abortion care providers to provide compassionate, evidence-based care to their patients, and we trust patients to know what decision is best for them and to be the experts on their own lives.
Furthermore, the notion that pregnant people lack moral agency about their decision and regret abortion is both wrong and insulting. Five years after having an abortion, 99% of women said it was the right decision for them, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine. What did make them feel bad was the kinds of guilt, shame, and stigma we hear from anti-abortion centers and abortion “reversal” proponents.
Shaming and lying to patients doesn’t help anyone. Patients should be treated with dignity and respect and they deserve to be given medically accurate health information. That does not and should not include the dangerous practice of abortion “reversal”.
Michael Belmonte, M.D., of Denver, is an obstetrician gynecologist. He is an advocate fellow for Physicians for Reproductive Health, and an advocate for The Committee to Protect Health Care. Twitter: @TheBelmontStop