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Abortion pill reversal treatments on trial


WORLD Radio - Abortion pill reversal treatments on trial

A Colorado district court protects the right of pregnancy clinics to offer abortion pill reversal treatments for women who decide to keep their babies

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the freedom to reverse chemical abortions.

A couple weeks ago, WORLD’s Life beat reporter Leah Savas told you how chemical abortions work. The drug at the center of a legal battle in Texas is mifepristone. It blocks the hormone called progesterone that is necessary for pregnancy to continue.

NICK EICHER, HOST: One way crisis pregnancy centers help pregnant mothers is by offering treatments to reverse the effects of mifepristone and letting their pregnancies continue.

But pro-abortion forces oppose these treatments. Back in April, the governor of Colorado signed a law effectively banning such abortion-reversal treatments.

That same day, lawyers for a clinic called Bella Health and Wellness filed a federal lawsuit against Colorado. It argued that the state was targeting its religious practice—namely, working to save lives.

REICHARD: On Friday, the judge ruled that the court would not block Colorado’s law because the state agreed not to enforce it. Case closed? Maybe not.

Joining us now is Rebekah Ricketts. She was previously an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and now serves as counsel for the religious liberty law firm, The Becket Fund.

Good morning, Rebekah.

REBEKAH RICKETTS: Good morning, Mary. Thank you for having me.

REICHARD: First of all, why did Colorado lawmakers want to pass this law? What are their concerns about abortion reversal treatments?

RICKETTS: That's a great question, Mary. As you alluded to, you know, just over two weeks ago, Colorado passes a law that bans offering progesterone to pregnant women only in one circumstance, where that woman has taken the first abortion pill. That's the treatment that's often referred to as abortion pill reversal, that the legislative record in the case we think indicates an intent to target religious actors. There's a lot of discussion in the legislative record about, you know, the faith based providers in within the pro-life movement. So we do think that's clear on on the legislative record. There are also claims about the abortion pill reversal process itself, claims that we think and certainly our client thinks are misguided and misstate the science behind abortion pill reversal.

REICHARD: Well, the judge's ruling seems like it’s not a direct victory for the Catholic clinic. It just basically says that Colorado was committed to not enforcing a law it passed. Feels a little bit like limbo here. Rebecca, is that enough to protect clinics that offer abortion reversal treatment? Or do you see further legal action?

RICKETTS: So Mary, we are, that there is really meaningful protection that comes out of the judge's order last week. And as you alluded to earlier, what's really interesting here is that once we filed in federal court, with the list the long list of constitutional violations that come from this law, the state did not show up to defend the constitutionality of the law. The state did not address the merits of the law at all. All the state said when they showed up to court is that we promise not to enforce it, we promise to act like the law doesn't exist until the medical boards convene for rulemaking process in the fall. And so effectively what the judge did in his order last week is say that the court is going to hold the state to those promises. And those protections, it's worth noting, extend not only to Bella Health and Wellness, but to all providers in the state, because the state of Colorado has said that it is not going to enforce this law against any licensee pending this rulemaking process. And so the upshot of that is that, you know, our clients are free to continue serving the women that they currently serve and others are free to do so as well.

REICHARD: Let’s talk about the treatments themselves. ABC News ran a story asking, “What does science say about abortion pill 'reversal' treatment?” Now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that abortion pill reversal is “not supported by science.” It points to studies of the treatment that were either invalid or ended early because of safety concerns. Should we be concerned about the safety of women who change their minds and use progesterone to keep their unborn child after mifepristone is already in the works?

RICKETTS: So the short answer to that is no, Mary. Progesterone is the naturally occurring hormone that regulates the female reproductive system. It's critical at all stages of a healthy pregnancy. And so it's been used in fertility care and care for pregnant women for for decades, right. It's used to treat recurrent miscarriage. It's used in IVF. It's true used to treat everything from premenstrual syndrome to post menopausal conditions. It's a really long list of conditions that are treated with progesterone. And, you know, there's also good scientific reason to think that uh, that using progesterone to counteract mifepristone increases the likelihood that the baby will survive, it increases effectiveness. So that the other side will commonly point to one study by a doctor named Mitchell Creinin, who claims that abortion pill reversal is is dangerous. And that's really, we think, a misrepresentation of what that study can be read to mean. What actually happened in that study was that there were two groups of women, one who received progesterone after mifepristone, one who received a placebo after mifepristone. And three women ended up seeking emergency room treatment. But two of those women were in the placebo group, meaning that if anything, we think that study demonstrates a risk of harm from the mifepristone, not from the progesterone.

REICHARD: Rebekah Ricketts is counsel for the Becket Fund. Rebecca, thank you so much.

RICKETTS: Thank you, Mary.

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