Christian Ministry Tells Pregnant Women To Use Bogus ‘Abortion Pill Reversal’ Treatment
The Family Policy Alliance, the political arm of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family, is pushing a bogus medical procedure called “abortion pill reversal.”
Brittany Jones, Policy Manager of Family Policy Alliance, writes on the group’s website:
States are beginning to push for laws that would require abortionists to provide women with information about a process called “abortion pill reversal.” This process introduces large doses of progesterone into the woman’s body, after she has taken the first of the abortion pills.
This is intended to “out-compete [mifepristone] at the receptor,” as explained by the leading doctor of this method, Dr. George Delgado.
The process is not always successful, but more often than not, women are able to deliver a healthy baby. This information can provide broken and hurting women with hope that their decision is not final.
However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes just the opposite:
Facts are important, especially when discussing the health of women and the American public. Claims regarding abortion “reversal” treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence, and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion.
Yet, politicians are pushing legislation to require physicians to recite a script that a medication abortion can be “reversed” with doses of progesterone, and to steer women to this care.
Unfounded legislative mandates represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.
The Family Policy Alliance cites Dr. George Delgado, an anti-abortion activist who promotes and offers the so-called “abortion pill reversal” method.
Delgado co-wrote a paper in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy that claimed: “Four of 6 women who took mifepristone were able to carry their pregnancies to term after receiving intramuscular progesterone 200 mg.”
However, David Grimes, the former chief of the abortion surveillance branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted in Rewire the many problems with Delgado’s paper:
First, the article recommends a progesterone regimen developed by Dr. T.M. Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction that has not been formally studied and vetted in the peer-reviewed medical literature.
Second, no evidence supports the statement in SB 1318 that “time is of the essence.” In Delgado and Davenport’s article, the interval between mifepristone and progesterone administration ranged from seven to 72 hours for five patients and was unknown for the sixth. Thus, no inference is possible regarding any potential effect of timing. Again, the language of the bill strays far beyond any evidence.
Third, the authors inferred a causal association between the progesterone treatment and continuation of the pregnancy. This error in logic is known as post hoc ergo propter hoc (after the thing, therefore on account of the thing). In other words, the fact that a pregnancy continued after this treatment in no way implies a causal association, only a temporal one.
The patients in this report received only mifepristone before their progesterone treatment. By the 1980s, the abortion success rate with mifepristone alone was recognized to be too low for general use; 7 to 40 percent of pregnancies continue after mifepristone alone.
The addition of a prostaglandin (uterine stimulant) like misoprostol after mifepristone improved success rates to greater than 95 percent and began the era of medication abortion.
Fourth, no control or comparison group was used, violating the essence of the scientific method. A suitable control group here would have been women who received mifepristone, changed their minds, and did not receive progesterone.
Since the article lacked a control group, one cannot say whether the progesterone treatment had any effect on the pregnancy. Even so, the article reports, “The experience of these patients suggests that medical abortion can be arrested by progesterone.” This statement is untenable.
Fifth, the tiny sample size limits any usefulness. A total of seven women underwent this therapy, but the authors were unable to follow up with one of them.
This is unexplained, since all births are reportable events: All births and deaths are required by law to be reported to state governments and then to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Four of six treated women (67 percent) continued their pregnancies. Any study provides only an estimate of the truth in the larger, general population; confidence intervals should be used by researchers to describe the precision of the estimate.
Narrow confidence intervals indicate good precision, and vice versa. The 95 percent confidence interval around the 67 percent of continued pregnancies in this report ranges from 26 to 94 percent.
If this natural experiment were repeated 100 times, the true figure for how often pregnancies would continue would fall within this 26-to-94 percent range 95 times out of 100. With this much imprecision, the article provides almost no information.
Finally, the article misuses epidemiologic terms. The report refers to two possible “confounding factors,” or potential causes for biased results: the lack of feticidal effect of mifepristone and lack of documentation of a viable pregnancy before receiving mifepristone.
A confounding factor must be related to both the exposure (abortion reversal) and the outcome (pregnancy continuation), but not involved in the causal pathway.
Neither “possible confounding factor” was related to the exposure and thus could not cause confounding bias. This suggests a lack of understanding of research methods.
(Sources: Family Policy Alliance, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Rewire, Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Photo Credit: Brittany Jones/LinkedIn)