News Law and Policy

Arizona Owes $600,000 for Pushing Unproven Abortion ‘Reversal’ (Updated)

Nicole Knight

Arizona doctors blasted Republicans for backing the state law, branding it as "tantamount to quackery."

UPDATE, November 7, 1:15 p.m.: A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said the state paid $550,000 in legal fees on Friday related to the “abortion reversal” case.

The state of Arizona is on the hook for more than $600,000 in legal fees over a 2015 Republican-backed law promoting an unproven treatment described as abortion reversal.

A federal judge signed the legal fees order Monday, as the Associated Press reported. Arizona now owes a total of $1.7 million in legal fees to opponents over the state’s anti-choice laws, according to a statement from Planned Parenthood Arizona.

A group of advocates, including Planned Parenthood Arizona, had sued to block the state law that required doctors to tell patients it was scientifically possible to undo a medication abortion. As the case wound its way through court, the state failed to produce a single credible expert to vouch for that claim, as Rewire‘s Sofia Resnick reported. Last year, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit after Arizona’s governor signed a bill repealing the measure.

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“No one should be forced to hear medically inaccurate information because of politics,” Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in a statement. “When politicians use junk science and things go wrong, they hand taxpayers the bill.”

It’s unclear how Arizona will come up with the money to cover the legal expenses. The governor’s office didn’t respond by publication time to a Rewire inquiry by phone and email.

Medication abortion requires that two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, be taken in the span of a few days to be effective. Only a single published report supports the notion a medication abortion may be reversed when a woman doesn’t take misoprostol and is, instead, injected with a dose of the hormone progesterone. The paper relies on anecdotes from a tiny sample—seven women in total—and was conducted without an ethics oversight review.

Arizona doctors blasted Republicans for backing the state law, calling it “tantamount to quackery.” A systematic review of medical literature found that failing to take the second medication, misoprostol, may be just as likely to forestall an abortion as injecting women with progesterone.

“In the extremely rare case that a patient changes their mind before taking the second pill, watchful waiting and inaction appears to be just as effective as the ‘reversal’ treatment,” wrote Renee Bracey Sherman, a reproductive justice activist, and Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of a reproductive rights research group at the University of California, San Francisco, in a recent opinion piece for the Guardian.

Arizona isn’t the sole state to amass sizable legal fees over anti-choice laws. Texas owes upward of $4 million, Wisconsin is on the hook for $1.6 million, Alaska spent nearly $1 million, and Idaho must pay more than $150,000.

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