Can You Reverse an Abortion?

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Sorta transcript:

Did you know you can reverse an abortion? If you know anything at all about human anatomy and what an abortion is, you’re probably super concerned at this point, but I assure you that it’s not what you’re thinking. And I’m not even going to describe what you’re thinking, because you’re already thinking it and there’s no reason to go there.

So no, “abortion reversal” is a pretty big misnomer, but that somehow works for this procedure because the entire thing is idiotic. It’s actually just an abortion pause.

For a medical abortion, usually you need to take two pills. First you take RU-486, which cuts off your progesterone supply, which is needed to keep a pregnancy going. Then you can go home and take misoprostol a day or so later, which causes your uterus to empty out. It’s very safe, and very effective.

But what if, on your way out of the clinic, someone at the storefront next door ushers you in and convinces you that you’ve just done a terrible thing and you’ll soon be roasting in hell for murder? The good news is that they can “reverse” it: they tell you they can completely negate the abortion by supplementing your progesterone, which the RU-486 had stopped. Then you just throw that misoprostol in the trash and start painting your nursery!

That’s the goal of anti-abortion activists, who are setting up clinics right next to Planned Parenthoods in the hopes of convincing women to un-abort. There’s just one problem: actual scientists aren’t convinced the “reversal” actually works, since it hasn’t been properly tested. It was invented by an anti-abortion doctor in 2012 and it’s been used on hundreds, and possibly thousands, of women since. According to the guy who invented it, the success rate is about 55%, which already should give people pause — this isn’t by any means a guarantee, even according to the guy who invented it.

But for women who only take the first pill and don’t bother to take the second, the abortion is “reversed” in 30-50% of cases, without any supplements.

In other words, anti-abortion activists are preying on frightened, confused, and misinformed women to sell them a treatment that might not work any better than chance.

You may be wondering why states don’t step up and regulate this unethical medical practice, considering that the FDA hasn’t even approved it–well two states have! South Dakota and Arkansas have passed laws requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions that abortion reversal is a thing they can do. Yep, that’s how legislators chose to address a potentially dangerous treatment that could “cause significant cardiovascular, nervous system and endocrine adverse reactions as well as other side effects.” Force doctors to mention it to patients. Brilliant.

I hope you keep that in mind every time you vote — politicians are continuing to meddle in science, forcing actual doctors to misrepresent facts to scared and confused patients. Vote them out of office.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I saw something about RU-486 being teratogenic. Is this true? Because if so, giving something to “reverse” the effects may increase the risk of a child with mental or physical handicaps.

  2. I immediately thought of how Connie Pinkerton-Uri actually learned of the IHS sterilization program when a woman actually came to her asking about reversing a sterilization.

  3. Good news everyone, reproductive freedom can now be rolled back, so the details of reversing an abortion no longer matter.

    Hooray for fucking america.

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