Telling the Truth About Abortion Politics

Sens. Yee and Barto asked. We answered. It’s Our Turn to share the truth behind abortion politics. We have submitted the following op-ed to the Arizona Republic, but they have not (yet?) published it.

Thank You PP croppedAs a medical professional, I am dismayed at the recent “Our Turn” published in the Arizona Republic titled, “Make doctors tell the truth on abortion drug.” I would like to do just that — tell the truth and correct the record, because the opinion by legislators Barto and Yee was laden with revisionist history, misstatements of legal fact, and most important, non-medical junk science.

Doctors practice up-to-date, evidence-based medicine. I appreciate lawmakers repealing their intrusive foray into the practice of medicine, SB 1324. This law attempted to mandate how doctors dispense abortion medication according to an outdated, 16-year-old protocol contained in the original drug label. SB 1324 was an attempt to re-start a legal case that Arizona was losing. Despite the FDA’s update of the drug label to reflect current medical practice, policymakers and the governor stubbornly insisted on enacting SB 1324. Why, I cannot imagine. The repeal of this legislation was certainly welcome.

Real doctors reject junk science. More disturbing than the FDA label issue is Sens. Yee and Barto’s assertion that “at least 170 healthy babies have been born when medication abortions were reversed.” There is no scientific support for this assertion, just as there is no peer-reviewed medical evidence for the whole notion of “abortion reversal.” A handful of doctors with a moral agenda have attempted to use progesterone to “stop” a medication abortion. However, there is nothing in the literature to justify this practice, save for one report of six informal clinical anecdotes. No significant sample size, no control group, no oversight, no peer review. Regardless, last year these same legislators passed SB 1318, violating physicians’ and patients’ constitutional rights by forcing physicians to inform their patients that it is possible to reverse a medication abortion, which is untrue.

Proponents of junk science have failed to prove their case. Sens. Yee and Barto say “SB 1112 rewrites last year’s law to ensure the ‘abortion industry’ cannot hide from women factual information that it readily admits in court filings.” What the litigants in this case have said is that mifepristone, when taken alone, is only effective some of the time. No one has ever denied this fact; it is the reason mifepristone is prescribed for this use only as part of a combination regimen (with the drug misoprostol). Remember, SB 1318 didn’t direct doctors to say that all steps and both medications are necessary to safely complete an abortion (we do that anyway); it commanded us to say that medication abortion may be possible to reverse. It’s not. Arizona was forced to agree to a court order blocking the law from taking effect after the State was unable to put together evidence supporting the law. Specifically, the case was delayed because the State could not locate a qualified medical expert to testify regarding the junk science the law is based on. No surprise.

Stop passing laws that second-guess doctors, endanger patients, and cost taxpayers millions. SB 1112 was necessary because our legislators repeatedly ignore medical evidence and disregard the constitution in their pursuit of an extremist, anti-abortion agenda. Neither Ms. Yee nor Ms. Barto is a medical professional. The Center for Arizona Policy, which exists solely to lobby for laws that make it harder for women to access health care, provides no medical care of any kind. Yet they provided the legal framework for what amounts to a dangerous, widespread, uncontrolled medical experiment on women seeking medication abortion. It is irresponsible to say the least. Further, these cases and others like them have cost Arizona taxpayers over $1 million in legal fees. This madness must stop. Leave the practice of medicine to doctors. And leave women alone. Period.

William Richardson, M.D.
Medical Director
Planned Parenthood Arizona, Inc.