An abortion 'reversal'? The method is unproved, but Ohio lawmakers want women to consider it

Jessie Balmert

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican lawmakers in Ohio want every woman seeking a medical abortion informed that they could reverse that procedure.

But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says abortion-reversal treatments are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.

A new Ohio bill would require doctors prescribing medication abortions, which are performed up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, to provide information about a procedure to reverse abortions in the event the woman changes her mind.

It's backed by Ohio Right to Life, the state's largest organization that opposes abortion.

"I find it really kind of perplexing why anyone would be opposed to a woman choosing to give life," sponsor Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said at a Tuesday news conference, where opponents protested the bill.

"Frankly, this is a piece of legislation that one would think we could come together on. The only side effect of this legislation is a healthy baby being born."

Dr. George Delgado, a San Diego doctor who labels himself "pro-life," popularized the idea of abortion reversals using progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain pregnancy. But the concept is controversial and doesn't have Food and Drug Administration approval. 

Medication abortions involve two drugs. Mifepristone blocks the release of progesterone, which is needed for a healthy pregnancy. Next, misoprostol is taken a day or two later to cause the uterus to contract and expel the embryo or fetus. 

How an abortion 'reversal' unfolds

Under Delgado's method, a woman would take progesterone after the first drug to halt its effects. He published a study of 754 patients with a 64% rate of successful reversals. 

Other scientists have questioned the study's methods, calling the statistics inflated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called Delgado's work unproved and unethical in a statement.

One University of California-Davis researcher was recently awarded a grant to thoroughly study abortion reversal drugs, but Dr. Mitchell Creinin's work won't be finished for months. 

In the meantime, states have passed laws to inform women seeking abortions about the option.

Arkansas was the first in 2015, followed by Arizona and South Dakota. Ohio joins a handful of other states considering the bill this year. 

About one-fourth of all abortions performed in Ohio involved medication. Mifepristone was the most commonly used drug. It was used in 5,279 abortions in 2017, according to Ohio Department of Health records.

Lehner said she plans to introduce the bill later this week. Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, will introduce identical legislation in the Ohio House. The proposal has support from Students for Life and Citizens for Community Values.

More: Babies killed after failed abortions? Trump's oversimplifying, AP finds

Protesters oppose a bill to require women seeking abortions be informed of a "reversal" method.

Details on the bill and other anti-abortion efforts

Opponents of the bill say doctors should not have to inform patients of medically dubious options.

"This is not proven science," said Jaime Miracle, Ohio deputy director of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice. "We're forcing doctors to deceive and lie to their patients and no one should be for that."

The Ohio bill is one of several being pushed by GOP lawmakers to restrict access to abortion or stigmatize the procedure.

Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township in Clermont County, wants to ban private insurance coverage of abortions. Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Miami Township, wants to bury or cremate fetal remains

Ohio's GOP-controlled Legislature recently passed laws to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected or after a diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

More: Strict anti-abortion laws aimed to arrive at Supreme Court

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: An abortion 'reversal'? The method is unproved, but Ohio lawmakers want women to consider it