No, You Can’t Reverse an Abortion—so Why Is the FDA Allowing This Scam?

Abortion rights opponents have long pushed the reversal of medication abortion as a legitimate procedure. It's not.

[Photo: A person looks at a website that sells pills for medication abortions.]
In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to AidAccess and Rablon, organizations that sell medication abortion pills directly to patients—a move applauded by congressional Republicans. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A watchdog group wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put a stop to anti-choice organizations from marketing an unproven—and in some cases, dangerous—procedure known as “abortion reversal.”

Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit organization focused on public accountability, sent a letter to the FDA on Wednesday asking the agency to seize the websites of any entity improperly marketing an unapproved procedure known as ‘Abortion Pill Reversal.'” Previously, the watchdog group has blown the whistle on anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups’ misuse of personal data and privacy with their Google and Apple apps.  

The letter references Abortion Pill Rescue, the American Pregnancy Association, and Obria Medical Clinics as a few of the websites that market the procedure. Abortion Pill Rescue’s website states that “abortion reversal” is an “effective process … that can reverse the effects of the abortion pill and allow you to continue your pregnancy, but time is of the essence.” The website is operated by Heartbeat International, which runs a network of crisis pregnancy centers.

Abortion rights opponents have pushed the “reversal” of medication abortiona two-drug regimen taken within the first ten weeks of pregnancy—as a legitimate procedure for those who might regret ending their pregnancy. (A recent study found that 99 percent of people don’t regret their abortion five years after undergoing the procedure.)

The unproven process consists of taking the hormone progesterone, which can supposedly “reverse” the effects of taking the first dose of abortion medication. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other reproductive health experts say “abortion reversal” does not meet clinical or scientific standards.

Alice Huling, counsel for Campaign for Accountability, said the Trump administration needs to stop anti-choice organizations from promoting “abortion reversal” as a proven, scientifically vetted procedure that’s safe for pregnant people. In 2019, researchers at the University of California, Davis had to stop an “abortion reversal” study after three of 12 women in the study were hospitalized with severe vaginal bleeding.

“Ideologically driven zealots are promoting misuse of a federally regulated drug despite indications that such use can result in dangerous health outcomes,” Huling said in a statement. “The FDA must put an end to the promotion and use of this unsound treatment. … Absent FDA action, women have no way of knowing that abortion reversal isn’t real or safe.”

The letter comes about two weeks after anti-choice groups, including Heartbeat International, asked the FDA to seize the website domains of providers offering medication abortion pills for at-home use. In 2019, the FDA cracked down on organizations that sell medication abortion pills directly to patientsa move applauded by congressional Republicans.

Republican-held state legislatures have passed laws in recent years forcing doctors to tell their patients about the option of “abortion reversal.” This legislation was largely based on anecdotal evidence about reversing medication abortions published by two doctors who oppose abortion rights.

Dr. Mitchell Creinin, the lead researcher in the UC Davis study, told NPR in December 2019, “Encouraging women to not complete the regimen should be considered experimental.” 

“It’s not that medical abortion is dangerous,” he said. “It’s not completing the regimen, and encouraging women, leading them to believe that not finishing the regimen is safe. That’s really dangerous.”