Christian radio talk show host and author Eric Metaxas recently revived debunked claims of reversing abortions that are induced with RU486, sometimes called the abortion pill.
Writing an opinion article for The Christian Post, Metaxas recalled a story of a young woman who reportedly took a RU486 pill at a Planned Parenthood office in Arizona.
Metaxas said the woman regretted her decision and went "back to Planned Parenthood the next morning looking for help. But she's told that the abortion pill cannot be reversed, and she could face complications if she doesn't finish off the series of pills."
Metaxas claimed the young woman searched online for "abortion pill reversal" and found a national call center that referred her to Dr. Allan Sawyer who showed "her an ultrasound of her two-and-a-half-month-old unborn baby, which has a heartbeat and is moving around in her womb. He says it might be possible to save the child and prescribes the hormone progesterone to reverse the effects of RU486."
Metaxas then cited the pro-life Center for Arizona Policy to claim that "80 children have been born because of (Abortion Pill Reversal protocol), and more than 60 pregnancies, like this woman's, are ongoing due to this procedure."
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Metaxas noted that Sawyer has "said the abortion pill works by attacking progesterone in the pregnant woman, which kills the baby in utero. This effect can be reversed if progesterone is given to her quickly."
Metaxas concluded, "Thank goodness that we still have doctors like Allan Sawyer, and legislators willing to vote their consciences as well as common sense in support of the dignity of human life. Women deserve all the facts. Especially when it might save a life."
However, Metaxas left out "all the facts."
Dr. Daniel Grossman, a fellow at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, told Slate.com that in an "exceedingly rare" case in which a woman might take one pill (as Metaxas described), there's no research to show that progesterone shots will help stop the abortion and save the pregnancy.
The RU486 pill is taken in two separate doses of two different drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, the first pill, stops the hormone progesterone, while misoprostol, the second pill, causes a woman's womb to contract the way it would during a miscarriage.
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Grossman says that if a woman only took the first pill, the pregnancy would not likely be terminated.
According to Arizona Sonora News, "The Food and Drug Administration does not approve progesterone for (reversing abortions)."
Arizona is considering a bill that would require doctors to tell women about this so-called "abortion reversal," but Dr. Eric Reuss, treasurer of the Arizona Section of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, told Arizona Sonora News, "In the absence of any evidence, it’s foolhardy for the state to be telling women this information."
Dr. Ilana Addis, chair of the Arizona section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, added that after taking RU486 there is a 50 percent chance that the pregnancy will not be terminated, which means the "abortion reversal" protocol of injecting progesterone — mentioned by Metaxas and Sawyer — works "about as well as placebo."
Sawyer admitted that studies on "abortion reversal" are still going on. "This is not a clinical trial, it’s looking at outcomes of pregnancies and … that’s the way those studies are done," he said.
Addis countered that individual stories are not the same as scientific research.
Dr. Cheryl Chastine of the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas, told Talking Points Memo:
"There's no evidence of any demonstrable effect of the 'treatment' these anti-abortion centers are marketing. The medical literature is quite clear that mifepristone on its own is only about 50 percent effective at ending a pregnancy. That means that even if these doctors were to offer a large dose of purple Skittles, they'd appear to have 'worked' to 'save' the pregnancy about half the time. Those numbers are consistent with what these people are reporting."