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Pro-Choice Advocates Hit Back Against Abortion ‘Reversal’ Deceit

Nicole Knight

“We have to make a public statement and really raise public awareness that this is misleading information, not based on science, and it’s politically motivated purely to deceive, pressure, and shame our patients."

Amid reports about a key Trump official who discussed “reversing” the abortion of a pregnant immigrant teen in custody, a nationwide network of independent abortion clinics is pushing back in a billboard campaign to “end abortion deception.”

Six billboards will appear on Monday around the San Francisco Bay area, debunking claims that abortion “reversals” are sound health care in a pointed message: “Patients Need Medically Accurate Information Not Politically-Motivated Deception About Abortion.”

The billboard campaign is organized and funded by the Abortion Care Network, which numbers more than 90 providers.

The campaign comes days after an explosive report by Vice News revealed the Trump administration official in charge of the Office of Refugee Resettlement discussed “reversing” the abortion of a pregnant undocumented teen after barring the teen from accessing abortion care until a court intervened. And the campaign follows a controversial decision by the California nursing board to award continuing education credit to nurses taught so-called abortion pill reversal.

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“We have to make a public statement and really raise public awareness that this is misleading information, not based on science, and it’s politically motivated purely to deceive, pressure, and shame our patients,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network.

The anti-choice movement has long championed unproven abortion “reversal.” The treatment promises to stop a medication abortion with a large dose of the hormone progesterone after a patient takes the first of two drugs required for a medication abortion. Abortion rights foes contend a 2012 study of six pregnant patients showed the “reversal” treatment works. Since then, Republican legislators have passed laws legitimizing “reversal” in Arkansas, Arizona, Utah, and South Dakota.

But as Monica McLemore, an abortion care provider, nursing professor, and researcher at University of California-San Francisco, explains, “These claims are not supported by sound research—we don’t know if it’s effective, or even safe for patients.”

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found “reversal” isn’t “supported by … scientific evidence.” Simply not taking the second abortion drug, according to a leading reproductive health doctor, produces the same result as so-called reversal.

“Such claims are part of a larger and concerted effort to deceive patients and to undermine a woman’s ability to get abortion care from a qualified provider,” McLemore, who will be featured on the billboards, said in a statement.

Madsen said providers worry patients might believe abortion pill “reversal” is fully vetted medical treatment.

“We’ve heard from providers in Maine and Michigan that protestors outside the clinics are really talking about it,” she told Rewire. “Providers in Illinois and Massachusetts said patients are reading about it online. Some patients are saying the fake health-care clinic across the street told them about it.”

The billboards will be placed near Bay area anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers because these facilities typically refer patients to “reversal” programs. The Abortion Reversal Program now numbers more than 400 doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and midwives nationwide, according to its executive director.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), who co-authored a comprehensive study debunking the “reversal” treatment, worries that patients may not understand that abortion “reversal” is experimental.

Regarding the case of the teen in immigration custody, he warned, “It is particularly concerning that this treatment might have been considered without informing the young women that it is an experimental therapy and obtaining her informed consent. This is potentially reproductive coercion.”

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