Kansas Republican bill would require doctors to offer unproven abortion 'reversals’
Anti-abortion lawmakers have increasingly tried to normalize a practice in recent years that most medical professionals deem unethical and non-scientific.
The Kansas House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill Monday that would require physicians to notify patients receiving medication abortions that the procedure can be “reversed” — a claim that abortion rights advocates say is misleading.
Kansas House Bill 2439 claims that mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is “not always effective in ending a pregnancy” and “if you change your mind and wish to try to continue the pregnancy, you can get immediate help by accessing available resources.” It awaits a vote before the full state House of Representatives.
Iman Alsaden, Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood in Great Plains, told The Kansas City Star the concept of reversing the effects of abortion “is not even science, it’s just junk.”
“I just find it so appalling that this is the way the government thinks people should be treated and isn’t willing to trust the experts in the field of medicine,” Alsaden told the news outlet.
This is yet another attempt by anti-abortion lawmakers to limit reproductive health care in the state. In 2019, the Legislature attempted to pass a similar bill, but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed it.
Last year, Kansas citizens voted overwhelmingly to preserve the right to abortion in the state, but Republicans have continued attempting to unravel reproductive health in the state.
Mifepristone is the first in a two-step medication series that is the most widely used pregnancy termination method in the country. Some anti-abortion lawmakers and physicians insist that abortions can be reversed if patients take a high dose of progesterone after mifepristone and before taking misoprostol, the second drug in the series.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), abortion reversal treatments “are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.”
ACOG goes on to say, “Unfounded legislative mandates like this one represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”
Much of the basis for the “abortion reversal” theory comes from a study done in 2012 by Dr. George Delgado on seven women who took mifepristone and were then given progesterone. Four of the patients continued with their pregnancies, two had abortions within three days and the result for one patient lacked data, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health outlined in a 2020 brief.
The study was not scientifically sound, according to ACOG, because it was “not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee” and was conducted without a control group.
A similar study was conducted in 2019 by researchers from the University of California, Davis. The researchers’ goal was to enroll 40 women, but only 12 signed up. They were all given mifepristone and then randomly given either a placebo or progesterone. NPR reported that the study ended when three of the 12 women were hospitalized after they began hemorrhaging.
“Extrapolating a case review and then applying it to a whole population is like a wildfire of misinformation and possible morbidity and mortality,” Alsaden said. “You just can’t make decisions for a whole population based on a handful of people.”
Kansas state Rep. Ron Bryce, a Republican, testified to the House in early March that his support for the bill is based on his time as a medical resident in Fort Worth, Texas, working in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Bryce claimed that he found a crying infant who’d survived an abortion — a popular conservative conspiracy theory used to justify anti-abortion legislation. One such bill is the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed in January. The bill is now in the Senate, where it will likely fall short of the votes it needs to pass.
These so-called “born alive” bills are among a series of tactics by abortion opponents to create a medical issue where one doesn’t exist. Doctors are legally and ethically required to provide health care as needed, per Planned Parenthood. Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, explained to The New York Times that less than 1% of abortions in the U.S. are performed after 24 weeks.
Dr. Christina Bourne is the medical director of the Trust Women Foundation, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas.
“This is just frankly something that doesn’t happen,” Bourne told the Kansas City Star. “These bills, which are laughably nonsensical, over time they keep layering and continue to add to the stigma and confusion of what providing abortion care is.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Mifeprex (mifepristone) as safe to use in September 2000, and the medication accounts for 53% of abortions nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
But mifepristone’s availability in all U.S. states could be overturned. A federal judge in Texas, appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019, is considering a lawsuit to revoke or suspend government approval of the drug.
The Christian conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit against the FDA in November, arguing that the agency overstepped its authority in approving the medication.
Conservative Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will make his ruling after hearing arguments from both sides on March 15.
The U.S. Department of Justice would appeal the decision to outlaw the drugs. The FDA would also likely also seek an emergency injunction pending review of the case.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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