When it’s Not Too Late: Can the Abortion Pill be Reversed?

By William Toffler
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conversation with a health care worker
iStockPhoto.com/AlexRaths
Even if you’ve already taken the abortion pill, it might not be too late to reverse the effects of a chemical abortion.

Juanita had been nauseous to the verge of vomiting, and she suspected she was pregnant. And yet she wondered: Should I tell my husband? They already had three children under the age of 7, and she was concerned about how another would put even more strain on their family. After all, her husband was already working extra hours to make ends meet.

Her fears were confirmed by the appearance of an extra blue line on the pregnancy test. Juanita had seen a billboard from Planned Parenthood that offered assistance with unplanned pregnancies. She decided to schedule a visit.

At the facility, an ultrasound confirmed that she was six-weeks pregnant. The medical assistant explained the procedure for a medical abortion: She was to take a single abortion pill (RU-486 or mifepristone) and follow it the next day with four other tablets (misoprostol).

The clinic staff told Juanita that the side effects of misoprostol were limited to mild cramping and bleeding. She was skeptical about how the side effects were minimized but felt like she had to end her pregnancy. She swallowed the first pill quickly. She placed the envelope with the other four pills, which she would take the next day, in her purse.

A Change of Heart

Juanita told her husband as soon as she got home, and she began to regret her decision almost immediately. Her husband had seemed excited that she was pregnant and was disappointed to learn she had gone to Planned Parenthood. Juanita felt awful. She desperately wished she could somehow turn back the clock.

She called Planned Parenthood about reversing the effects of the pill she had taken. They told her there was nothing they could do.

Her mood changed from regret to anguish. Lord help me, Juanita prayed silently. There must be a way. She Googled “abortion reversal” and found Abortion Pill Rescue. The website offered her the assistance she was told wasn’t possible only moments before, along with a toll-free, 24-hour phone number.

Juanita called, and within 20 minutes my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. Kelly, one of hundreds of volunteer nurses in the Abortion Pill Reversal Network (APRN), quickly conveyed the key details of Juanita’s story, her phone number and when she’d taken the first abortion pill.

I phoned Juanita and told her that I was one of the network’s physicians. I confirmed the facts of her situation, reviewed her medical history and asked additional questions. I then explained the reversal process, arranged for her to obtain the medication she needed at her pharmacy and set a time to meet with her at my office.

I saw Juanita and her husband a few days later. While she had experienced some light spotting and cramping, a bedside ultrasound confirmed her baby’s heartbeat and as well as fetal movement. She decided to continue prenatal care with me in my practice and she successfully delivered a healthy baby boy just a couple of months ago.

An Agonizing Decision

Many women agonize about the decision to abort a child. Frederica Mathewes-Green, a researcher and author who once identified as “pro-choice,” summed up the feelings of many on both sides of the debate: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

And yet Juanita’s story is increasingly common in an age where about 40% of abortions are now chemical rather than surgical. The abortion pill, after all, seemingly simplifies the process. Instead of a surgical procedure, a woman only has to take a single mifepristone pill followed by additional medication to cause cramping and the evacuation of the now-dead baby. These pills can be used up until nine weeks of pregnancy. A research study by Planned Parenthood claims that the regimen is 98% effective in ending a pregnancy.

Mifepristone works by blocking the receptor sites for progesterone – a naturally occurring hormone that typically rises rapidly in early pregnancy and is critical for the sustenance of a developing fetus in the first trimester. The antidote, therefore, is to provide enough additional progesterone to the mother to overwhelm the abortion pill and keep it from successfully blocking the hormonal support necessary for the baby.

While many women and health care professionals are unaware of the option, the abortion pill reversal strategy has been in place for almost 10 years and the network has grown to more than 600 physicians around the country who volunteer to assist women who’ve changed their minds after an initial decision to have a chemical abortion.

Reversal is Both Possible and Safe

How well does the reversal process work? Since Dr. George Delgado first started APRN, more than 900 babies have been rescued from a death initiated through chemical abortion. Initial studies show that 64-68% of women who take progesterone within 72 hours of having taken the abortion pill are able to continue their pregnancies.

Of course, this means that some 35% of women won’t be as fortunate as Juanita and will lose their baby. For perspective, approximately 20% of normal pregnancies end in miscarriage even if the mother never takes an abortion pill. That makes the impact of the abortion pill reversal protocol even more significant.

Whether or not a woman who changes her mind after beginning a chemical abortion is able to carry the pregnancy to term, she ought to at least be offered the choice. Yet many doctors who claim to be “pro-choice” are opposed to offering this information to women.

Supplemental progesterone has been used safely during pregnancy for more than 40 years and is a critical treatment offered to women who have inadequate hormone production from their own ovaries during the first trimester. Moreover, there is no evidence to date linking mifepristone or progesterone to an increase in fetal birth defects.

Simply put, abortion reversal for medical abortion is both possible and safe. When the proper protocol is followed, it is successful in about two out of three pregnancies when given to a woman who has changed her mind after taking an abortion pill. Explaining this option is a simple matter of matter of open, honest and informed consent.

To hide the option from a woman or deny her access to this treatment is unethical. Thankfully for Juanita and her baby, she found the Abortion Pill Network in time.

If you or someone you know has taken the first dose of the abortion pill, only to regret the decision and wish to reverse the process, visit www.AbortionPillReversal.com or call their 24-hour helpline at 877-558-0333. Time is of the essence.

Copyright © 2019 by William Toffler. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About the Author

William Toffler

William L. Toffler, M.D., is professor emeritus of Oregon Health & Science University and a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council.