Utah GOP Pushes Bill Claiming Abortions Can Be Undone

"We're not doctors," said Utah state Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Orem), one of the latest lawmakers to advocate forcing doctors to tell patients that medication abortion is reversible. Arizona doctors called the state's 2015 abortion reversal law "tantamount to quackery."

The bill being drafted by state Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo) and Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Orem) would force doctors to tell patients that it's medically possible to undo a medication abortion, a two-pill regime taken early in pregnancy. Curt Bramble / YouTube

Two Republican lawmakers in Utah are drafting legislation claiming medication abortion is reversible, even though the science behind the idea is flimsy at best.

The bill being drafted by state Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Orem) and state Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo) would reportedly force doctors to tell patients that it’s medically possible to undo a medication abortion, a two-pill regime taken early in pregnancy.

“We’re not doctors,” Stratton conceded in an interview with Utah’s Deseret News. The measure is expected to be introduced at the start of the next legislative session in January, as the Deseret News reported.

The anti-choice movement has latched on to the notion of undoing an abortion based on a 2012 paper in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. The paper’s authors claimed to have reversed the medication abortions of four of six women in the study by giving them a large dose of hormones.

Since then, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Arizona—all states with GOP-held legislatures—have enacted “abortion reversal” laws. And anti-choice clinics, such as San Diego’s Culture of Life Family Services, have sprung up in recent years to offer this purported service.

Arizona doctors called the state’s 2015 abortion reversal law “tantamount to quackery.” The law, passed by Arizona’s Republican legislative majority, never went into effect because of a court challenge and was ultimately repealed.

“The problem is that so-called medical abortion reversal is not FDA approved and has no good evidence to support it,” Dr. Ilana Addis, chair of the Arizona Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Dr. Julie Kwatra, legislative chair of the Arizona Section of ACOG, wrote in an Arizona Capitol Times op-ed after the bill was signed.

But GOP lawmakers remain intent on advancing anti-choice medical laws that are unsupported by mainstream medicine. Stratton and Bramble were also the chief architects of legislation this year that made Utah the first state in the nation to require anesthesia during an abortion for fetuses beyond 20 weeks of development—a law doctors called unfeasible and pointless.

Medication abortion involves taking two pills within a few days of each other. Proponents of “abortion reversal” claim that taking a large dose of progesterone after the first abortion pill, mifepristone, will undo an abortion.

“That is not how science works,” Dr. Leah Torres, a Utah OB-GYN, said of the abortion reversal claims in an interview with Deseret News. “That’s not how you should practice medicine.”

Medication abortion requires that both pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, be taken for the regime to be 92 to 95 percent effective, according to Food and Drug Administration labeling and the Guttmacher Institute.

Nearly one-third of the 2,767 abortions performed in Utah in 2014 were medication abortions, according to the most recent data from the Utah Department of Health.

The impending measure is backed by Pro-Life Utah, according to the Deseret News. Pro-Life Utah was also a proponent of the fetal anesthesia legislation.

Stratton, one of the lawmakers drafting the bill, said the measure should be “fairly straightforward.”

“If you’re pro-choice, I would say that it helps you be educated in making the choice,” Stratton said. “If you’re pro-life, it gives an opportunity to look at the options if a decision is made to reverse course.”