Should Senate Bill 614 pass the Oklahoma state legislature, it would require doctors to tell patients seeking medication-based abortions that they can “reverse” the process halfway through, should they change their minds mid-procedure. The reversal theory is not accepted by the vast majority of the medical establishment and seems to track back to a San Diego doctor and anti-choice activist named Dr. George Delgado.
According to the Intercept, Delgado began promoting his controversial theory around 2015, through a program of Heartbeat International known as the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, to which he serves as a medical advisor. Delgado’s theory asserts that, after taking the first pill of a medication-induced abortion, the patient could perhaps not take the second, and instead take a large dose of prescription progesterone in an attempt to flood the body and overwhelm the hormone-blocking properties of the initial mifepristone pill.
“Nobody had heard of this before,” Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB-GYN and member of the U.C. San Francisco Medical School faculty who serves as director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, said of his first encounter with Delgado’s “reversal” procedure. “I just thought, ‘This is pretty crazy.’”
Delgado’s work has been used to justify policies similar to Oklahoma’s new bill in Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah, despite serious concerns that have been raised by other doctors. Among the issues raised were that Delgado’s case study featured only six patients, did not include a control group, did not explain how the women in the study were selected, and the research was not overseen by any review board or ethics committee.
Ultimately, there was “no evidence that the treatment they were describing was likely to be better than doing nothing,” Dr. Kari White, a researcher who looked into Delgado’s study, told the Intercept. Arizona’s law was struck down after a lawsuit, during which the state was unable to find a “credible expert” willing to defend the scientific basis of the policy.
Last year, Delgado completed a new, larger study, which he claims corroborates his theory, but White and Grossman uncovered issues with the study protocol that echoed the previous research, plus a new concern: It appeared some women were dropped out of the study to inflate the rate of success.
“It’s really unclear if patients have been given adequate informed consent, and the reports are just incomplete,” Grossman said. “It’s really poorly done research.”
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