The Republican Party is promoting “abortion reversal,” an untested medical treatment opposed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Proponents of abortion reversal claim the procedure can reverse the effects of medication abortion, better known as the abortion pill.
Because the GOP is winning the war on women, a growing list of states passed laws that mandate abortion providers tell patients that reversal is an option, including: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.
But the first rigorous scientific study isn’t scheduled to be complete until Feb. 2020.
What Is Medication Abortion?
In the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, women can choose surgical or medication-based abortion. The abortion pill is actually a series of two pills taken up to 48 hours apart.
The first pill, mifepristone, stops the pregnancy from growing by blocking progesterone. On its own, the medication is 60%-85% effective.
The second pill, misoprostol, causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Taken together, the pills are 91%-98% effective. The sooner you start treatment, the more effective it is.
What Is Abortion Reversal?
Abortion reversal focuses on the window after a woman takes the first pill but before she takes the second. Women who change their mind after taking the first pill receive large doses of progesterone.
This is a problem for multiple reasons:
- There’s no scientific evidence that the treatment is safe or effective.
- The studies that have been done were seriously flawed.
- Progesterone has been linked to depression and is unsafe for women with arterial disease, breast cancer, liver disease, and vaginal bleeding.
But advocates like the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists say it’s better than letting nature take its course.
The abortion reversal protocol was developed in 2012 by Dr. George Delgado, who was trying to help a woman who changed her mind after taking the first abortion pill.
He figured that administering progesterone might stop the progesterone blocker and halt the abortion. It worked, so he continued administering progesterone and developed a network of physicians around the country who follow the same protocol.
It is unclear whether the process actually helps women maintain their pregnancies. On its own, mifepristone has a 15%-40% failure rate.
Google Search Promotes Abortion Reversal
Most women probably learn about abortion reversal through one of these websites:
- Abortion Pill Rescue. A project of pro-life group Heartbeat International, the Abortion Pill Rescue is a network of medical providers in the U.S. and around the world who offer abortion reversal.
- American Pregnancy Association. An organization that presents itself as an unbiased medical resource, but offers misleading information and funnels women to crisis pregnancy centers.
Google’s search algorithm helps promote misleading information by giving the APA prime real estate on the first search page, and via the People Also Ask function.
If you search “abortion reversal,” you might see a series of related questions. Here’s mine:
The first question features a disturbingly misleading result from the APA that presents abortion reversal as scientific fact:
“The abortion pill reversal (APR) procedure can only occur after the first dose of a medical abortion (mifepristone/RU-486) is taken orally and is ineffective after the second set of pills (misoprostol).”
The full page steers women to Abortion Pill Rescue:
“There is a 24-hour, nurse-staffed hotline that you can call, The Abortion Pill Reversal Hotline, at 1-877-558-0333. You can also visit them online at www.abortionpillreversal.com.”
The organization goes on to promote the untested protocol as safe:
“If you give the helpline mentioned above a call, they can connect you with a doctor who will help you. Though there is not a 100% chance of the progesterone influx saving the pregnancy, progesterone has not been shown to be harmful overall. Therefore, even if the process does not maintain your pregnancy, there are no likely side effects of the added progesterone.”
Why Does Google Promote An Unsafe Procedure?
Sometimes Google finds itself in the uncomfortable position of promoting false information with a right wing bias.
Like the autocomplete function, which two years ago The Guardian found promoted websites that declare being gay is a sin and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook never happened.
It’s not a conspiracy by Big Tech. Anyone individual or organization can use Google’s algorithm to promote their own agenda.
Republicans legislatures across the country are encouraging women to pursue an untested treatment that is potentially harmful to their health. Google search results add credibility to their cause.
With anti-abortion activists and Republicans taking every opportunity to spread lies about abortion, we need accurate information.
Google, if you’re listening, please fix this.