GOP Lawmakers Are Pushing ‘Make-Believe Health Care’ Across the US

“Abortion reversal is not based in science or medicine. It is not an actual thing."

In Idaho, a proposed bill would require patients seeking abortion care to learn about so-called abortion reversal, an unproven method of stopping a medication abortion.

Proponents of abortion pill “reversal” aim to gain a foothold in Idaho with Republican legislation to tell those seeking abortion care about the unproven treatment.

Patients would receive a “fetal development packet” with information on “interventions, if any, that may affect the effectiveness or reversal of a chemical abortion” and where to find providers, under a bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian).

Abortion pill “reversal” purports to stop a medication abortion by delivering a large dose of the hormone progesterone before a patient takes the second pill in a series of two required medications to have a medication abortion. Backed by anti-choice lawmakers, legislation advocating for the experimental treatment has appeared in at least ten states since 2015, with limited success. Colorado legislators are also considering an abortion pill “reversal” bill this year.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has condemned the so-called reversal treatment, saying it is “not supported by the body of scientific evidence.” Abortion rights foes point to a 2012 study of six pregnant patients they say demonstrates the treatment works.

“Some women change their minds or have regrets after taking the first of two pills necessary to complete the chemical abortion,” Den Hartog told Rewire in an email. “I believe it is important for women in Idaho who are considering these choices during a potentially stressful time in their life to know what options might be available to them.”

More than 400 providers of so-called abortion pill reversal have sprung up around the country in a network that includes doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and midwives, according to Sara Littlefield, executive director of the Abortion Pill Reversal program, which is based in Escondido, California. The California nursing board, after much dispute, now offers continuing education credit for a course on abortion pill “reversal.”

Littlefield told Rewire that Idaho has one registered provider of abortion pill “reversal,” and others can be found across the border in Montana, Utah, and Washington state.

Den Hartog sponsored the same bill last year, but told Rewire she held it over to this session to give the legislation more time.

“We worked with the Idaho Medical Association (who took a neutral position on our bill last year) to not have language that compelled a doctor to say something about the protocol treatment,” she told Rewire.

Reproductive rights advocates had criticized the bill last year for advancing “make-believe health care.”

“Abortion reversal is not based in science or medicine. It is not an actual thing,” said Mistie Tolman, Idaho public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii.

Last year, a panel of medical experts convened by Louisiana lawmakers to study the effectiveness of abortion pill “reversal” found “neither sufficient evidence nor a scientific basis to conclude that the effects of an abortion induced with drugs or chemicals can be reversed.”