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Arizona Requires Doctors To Say Abortion Pill Is Reversible

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Arizona Requires Doctors To Say Abortion Pill Is Reversible

Health

Arizona Requires Doctors To Say Abortion Pill Is Reversible

Arizona Requires Doctors To Say Abortion Pill Is Reversible

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Arizona is requiring doctors to tell women using the "abortion pill" that it can be reversed. NPR takes a look at whether that's true.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Arizona will now require doctors to tell women who use the so-called abortion pill that the procedure can be reversed. We asked NPR health correspondent Rob Stein whether that's true. Here's his report.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: The drug people call the abortion pill has a couple of different names. Some people call it RU-46. Some people call it mifepristone. Whatever it's called, it works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which a woman's body needs to keep a pregnancy going. The idea of reversing the abortion pill comes mostly from a family physician, George Delgado in San Diego.

GEORGE DELGADO: There are some women who after they take mifepristone, change their minds and want to know if they can reverse the effects of mifepristone.

STEIN: So Delgado decided to try giving these women shots of progesterone to counteract the effects of the abortion pill. Delgado, who's the medical director of Abortion Pill Reversal, says it works well.

DELGADO: Our experience has shown that giving the progesterone early after the woman has taken the mifepristone can make a big effect and can reverse the effect of mifepristone. Our success rate has been approximately 60 percent.

STEIN: Delgado says he and other doctors have tried this for about 200 women around the country.

DELGADO: We've had 87 deliveries of healthy babies and another about 75 women are pregnant.

STEIN: Delgado says he's recruited a couple hundred doctors around the country to do this and set up a hotline women can call to find one of them. But other doctors are skeptical. While it's plausible that progesterone might counteract the effects of the abortion pill, Stephen Chasen says Delgado hasn't come anywhere close to proving it. Chasen's an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. He points out that Delgado's only published one paper in a medical journal and that involved only six women.

STEPHEN CHASEN: It's junk science because it hasn't been tested in any clinical trial. There's no evidence that injecting a woman with progesterone would cause any reversal. Perhaps it could, but I have no way of knowing, and nobody has any way of knowing, and he has no way of knowing.

STEIN: Until someone publishes a formal study to find out. And, Chasen says, there's another reason to be skeptical. Women who take the abortion pill are also supposed to take a second drug that's needed to complete the abortion. None of the women Delgado's treated did that.

CHASEN: Skipping the second drug may result in the pregnancy continuing.

STEIN: While there's no reason to think what Delgado's doing is dangerous, Chasen says there's no way to know until it's been studied carefully, and Chasen worries that telling women about this could be misleading.

CHASEN: The real problem is it creates the false expectation in a woman who might not be certain of her choice to undergo abortion that well, she could take RU-46 and then she could change her mind. And any abortion provider is used to counseling patients that they should not be having an abortion, whether it's surgical or medical, if they are wavering - if they're uncertain about their choice.

STEIN: Arizona's new law will go into effect within months. And a similar law is already being considered in at least one other state, Arkansas. Rob Stein, NPR News.

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