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Kansas lawmakers introduce ‘abortion reversal’ bill promoting controversial practice

A bill introduced in the Kansas House this week would require abortion providers to inform patients that the effects of the abortion pill can be reversed, but pro-choice advocates and medical organizations say it’s not proven science.

Medical, or non-surgical, abortions actually involve a sequence of two pills, the first being Mifepristone, better-known as RU-486. House Bill 2274 would require a notice to patients that an abortion could be stopped if a doctor intervenes before the second dose of medication, known as Misoprostol.

The first pill stops the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone, the second makes the uterus contract to complete the abortion, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

“It may be possible to reverse its intended effect if the second pill or tablet has not been taken or administered. If you change your mind and wish to try to continue the pregnancy, you can get immediate help by accessing available resources,” the bill reads, in part.

The intended “reversal” is done by administering a dose of progesterone after the patient has taken the RU-486. But a large body of medical professionals, including ACOG, say administration of progesterone is not a proven method for stopping abortions.

A 2017 report from ACOG said bills like the one introduced in Kansas represent “dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”

“Facts are important, especially when discussing the health of women and the American public,” the report said. “Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.”

Rep. John Eplee, a Republican from Atchison who introduced the bill, said he was approached by the lobbying group Kansans for Life about the bill.

“It did appear to be a needed opportunity going forward,” Eplee said. “As I discussed and vetted it with them, it seemed like it was a logical thing to promote awareness of the RU-486 reversal as a possibility.”

The bill already has 55 co-signers, Eplee said, including Republican Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman.

“Anyone who runs an abortion clinic, or who is extremely pro-abortion and says they’re for reproductive choice, should be all in favor of this bill,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.

According to the ACOG, medical—or non-surgical—abortion is most commonly performed within the first 63 days, or nine weeks of pregnancy, but is also effective afterwards. The Centers for Disease Control estimated in 2015 that about 25 percent of abortions were medical abortions conducted at less than eight weeks’ gestation.

Rachel Sweet, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the organization strongly opposes the bill.

“We think that patients deserve honest and accurate medical information, not politically-motivated misinformation. And that’s how we perceive this bill,” Sweet said. “If this were to be law, the legislature would basically be requiring our providers to recommend to patients an untested and unproven course of treatment, which I don’t believe is ethical.”

Similar laws are currently in place in Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho, according to ACOG.

“Don’t get me wrong, this is somewhat controversial in medical circles,” Eplee said. “But it’s our best attempt at trying to give due notice to women that they might have an opportunity to reverse the effects of the first dose.”

The bill has been referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee, of which Eplee is vice chair. A hearing date has not been set.