‘Junk Science’ Anti-Choice Bills Advance in Indiana, Idaho (Updated)

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‘Junk Science’ Anti-Choice Bills Advance in Indiana, Idaho (Updated)

Teddy Wilson & Nicole Knight

So-called abortion reversal is "make-believe health care, because it requires doctors to give information that is not accurate,” said Mistie Tolman, Idaho legislative director and public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii.

UPDATE, APRIL 18, 10:44 A.M.: An Idaho bill advancing the notion of “abortion reversal” died without a hearing. The state’s 2017 legislative session ended March 29.

Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing legislation that would require doctors providing abortion care to inform patients about medically unfounded information described by doctors as “tantamount to quackery.”

The Indiana State House on Monday passed a bill mandating that physicians provide patients with information about so-called abortion pill reversal. HB 1128, sponsored by Rep. Ronald Bacon (R-Boonville), would require the doctor to inform the pregnant patient, both verbally and in writing, prior to providing a medication abortion about “possibly reversing the effects of an abortion obtained through an abortion inducing drug.”

The bill was passed in a 54-to-41 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in voting in favor of the bill and 17 GOP lawmakers joining Democrats in voting against the measure. 

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Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) claimed the bill was intended to provide pregnant people with more information about medication abortions, reported the Indianapolis Star. “We’re just saying you have the right to try,” Smaltz said. “We’re not saying it’s going to work.”

Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) said the bill injects politics into the relationship between doctors and patients, reported the Associated Press. “This bill seeks to dictate medical practice based on junk science,” Lawson said. “This is not a political event, ladies and gentlemen. This is between doctors and their patients.”

The written materials for pregnant patients would include a statement that “no scientifically validated medical study confirms that an abortion may be reversed after taking abortion inducing drugs.”

During the floor debate, several Indiana women legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, spoke out against the bill. 

“There is not sufficient evidence that this method can reverse the damage of a drug-induced abortion, while keeping both the unborn baby and mother safe,” Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove) said, reported the Indianapolis Star. “To mandate providers to give information on this reversal process, regardless of if they support or refute the outcome, is irresponsible and far reaching.”

Meanwhile, Idaho on Wednesday became the latest state to advance an “abortion reversal” measure. The legislation, SB 1131, requires that the state’s “informed consent” pamphlet include “information and assistance in locating a health care provider” that provides “interventions, if any, that may affect the effectiveness or reversal of a chemical abortion.”

“SB 1131 is make-believe health care, because it requires doctors to give information that is not accurate,” Mistie Tolman, Idaho legislative director and public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, told Rewire. “Abortion reversal is not based in science or medicine. It is not an actual thing.”

Tolman said Planned Parenthood had reached out to Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare, which produces the state’s informed consent materials, to find out how the department might vet health-care providers and comply with the legislation should it become law.

She said the state was home to several crisis pregnancy centers, or fake clinics, but she wasn’t aware of any providers of the “abortion reversal” pseudoscience in Idaho.

Since 2015, bills requiring pregnant patients be informed about “abortion reversal” have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in California, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah, and governors in Arizona, Arkansas and South Dakota signed similar bills into law. The bills are based on copycat legislation drafted by Americans United for Life, an anti-choice legislation mill.

A law passed in 2015 by Arizona lawmakers was blocked by a federal court in response to a lawsuit brought by reproductive rights advocates, and the law was subsequently repealed by state lawmakers after the state’s lawyers could not produce any evidence to support the law.

This year a similar bill was passed by Utah’s Republican-held house,

Medication abortions are typically provided early in a pregnancy, and the procedure involves the administration of two pills: mifepristone and misoprostol.

The first pill, mifepristone, blocks receptors for the hormone progesterone, softens the cervix, and promotes uterine contractions. The second pill, misoprostol, causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.

Dr. George Delgado, a California physician who opposes abortion rights, introduced the concept of “abortion reversal.” Delgado is the medical director of Culture of Life Family Services in San Diego and the medical director of the organization’s “Abortion Pill Reversal” program.

A hotline on Delgado’s Abortion Pill Reversal website can connect people seeking to reverse their medication abortions with what the website claims is “350 participating physicians all over the country.”

Delgado’s concept is based on a 2012 paper he co-authored published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. The paper claimed that medication abortions, a two-pill regimen, were reversed among four of six women included in the study.

The article has been criticized for methodological and scientific flaws.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has questioned the veracity of the study, and the organization concluded in a statement that there are “no reliable research studies to prove that any treatment reverses the effects of mifepristone.”

Indiana’s HB 1128 has been sent to the state senate and referred to the senate judiciary committee, and Idaho’s SB 1131 was introduced by the senate state affairs committee.