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Law and Criminal Justice

House Committee Passes 'Unproven And Unethical' Abortion Reversal Bill

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Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified in the House Public Health Committee on legislation to would require doctors like her to tell patients about abortion reversal treatment. (Screenshot of iga.in.gov)
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Indiana doctors would be forced to tell patients their medication-induced abortions can be reversed under legislation approved by a House committee Monday.

The broader scientific community says that claim is unproven and unethical.

Medication-induced abortions require two pills, taken at different times. Proposed legislation would require doctors to tell patients their abortions can be reversed if they don’t take the second pill and take a different medication.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard is an OB-GYN. She said if the state requires her to tell patients about abortion reversal treatment, it will be forcing her to commit malpractice. She called it an “experimental treatment that has been soundly disproven.”

“Not only that is not effective but in fact that it has dangerous and potentially deadly complications,” Bernard said.

But Dr. Christina Francis, also an OB-GYN, claimed otherwise. She called abortion reversal “groundbreaking.”

“It would just ensure that those who regret their decision would have a ray of hope of being able to save their child," Francis said. "It would be dishonest and cruel not to make this information available to them.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said claims about abortion reversal treatment are not based on science.

Francis cited several studies that show evidence of success in abortion reversals when using doses of progesterone. But ACOG and Bernard said those studies weren't adequate to establish a scientific basis for the claims. 

There was a study – with adequate controls – to establish such evidence initiated in 2019. But it was discontinued out of safety concerns after multiple patients experienced significant side effects.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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The anti-abortion legislation would also require notarization of the parental consent form required for a Hoosier under age 18 to get an abortion.

Supporters say the provision will help prevent fraud. But opponents say it’s another costly, unnecessary hurdle to abortion care.

Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville) is the bill’s author.

“Clearly, children tend to forge their parents’ signatures or bring someone who is not their parent,” Mayfield said.

More than a thousand Hoosiers under age 18 got abortions over a recent five-year period. Mayfield pointed to two cases of people trying to commit fraud on parental consent – both of which were caught before the abortion occurred.

Dr. Tracey Wilkinson said the notarization requirement will delay care for minors.

“This will also be a breach to the minor’s privacy if these notary documents are taken outside of the clinic," Wilkinson said. "And no other medical procedure consent requires notarization.”

The bill now heads to the full House.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.