Published November 8, 2021
Three major pro-life organizations have teamed up to promote “abortion-pill reversal” (APR), a method that doctors have pioneered to halt and reverse the effects of unwanted chemical abortions.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has unveiled a new page of its website to educate health-care professionals about APR and encourage them to become providers. In conjunction with two other pro-life groups, Heartbeat International and Live Action, AAPLOG has produced a lengthy video and an FAQ page offering detailed information about the science and success of APR.
Earlier this year at NRO, I wrote an in-depth piece on APR, which has been used successfully more than 2,000 times to help women save their unborn child after taking chemical-abortion drugs. Chemical abortion is the most common type of abortion procedure in the early weeks of pregnancy. In recent years, the rate of chemical abortions in the U.S. has been rising, and they now account for about half of all annual abortions. By some analyses, an uptick in chemical abortions was likely the reason for an overall increase in the U.S. abortion rate in 2018.
The mechanism behind APR is relatively simple, and its high success rate makes sense given that the method is consistent with basic principles of chemistry. To understand how APR works, it’s important to understand what happens in a chemical abortion. First, a pregnant mother takes a drug called mifepristone, which blocks progesterone, a hormone essential for an unborn child’s survival and development. One to two days later, she takes a second drug, misoprostol, which contains prostaglandins that induce cramping and bleeding to expel the unborn child.
APR works only if a woman begins the course of treatment after she has taken mifepristone but before she takes misoprostol. If a woman regrets her abortion and seeks APR treatment within 72 hours of taking the first drug, she will be given a sustained regimen of progesterone, which competes with mifepristone and, if successful, prevents it from cutting off support to the unborn child.
In the largest case series studying the effects of APR, nearly 70 percent of the 754 women studied were able to undo the effects of mifepristone and carry healthy babies to term. Women who received treatment and successfully reversed an attempted abortion had no increased risk of complications or birth defects.
Though abortion advocates often refer to themselves as champions of women’s health and the “right to choose,” abortion providers and advocacy organizations have poured their resources into fighting APR technology.
In several states, lawmakers have required doctors to tell women about APR as part of seeking informed consent from those wishing to obtain a chemical abortion. Those states have found themselves subject to lawsuits from “reproductive rights” groups, which claim that telling women about APR is akin to medical malpractice. They insist, contrary to all available evidence, that APR harms pregnant women — even though doctors regularly prescribe progesterone to pregnant women with a risk of preterm birth or a history of miscarriage. Surely, progesterone wouldn’t be used as a corrective in such cases if it were dangerous for pregnant women.
Meanwhile, using progesterone for the purpose of APR has never been shown to have any safety risks. In fact, the chief study that abortion supporters cite when arguing that APR is unsafe demonstrates the exact opposite: Mifepristone poses significant risks to pregnant women, and APR treatment appears to do nothing but help.
And it isn’t just abortion providers that have fought pro-life efforts to make women aware of APR. In September, Google blocked all of Live Action’s advertising, including an ad for APR, citing the ads’ supposed “unreliable claims.” This was especially concerning to APR proponents, as Internet searching is the primary way that women who regret a chemical abortion find a doctor who can provide the reversal treatment.
Dr. Christina Francis, board chairman of AAPLOG and an APR provider, told me about a patient of hers who successfully reversed an unwanted abortion using APR. The patient told Francis “that as soon as she took the abortion drug, she immediately regretted it, and she went home and Googled, ‘Can I reverse my abortion?’” That search led her to Francis, and after a course of APR, she carried to term and delivered a healthy son.
This new campaign is an effort to make more doctors aware of APR, to help them understand the simple science behind it, and to expand the network of health-care providers who can offer it to women. Especially as the rate of chemical abortion continues to increase, and as abortion activists work to remove federal safety requirements from abortion-inducing drugs, it is imperative that women have access to care that can help them undo an unwanted abortion.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.