"Abortion Reversal": No evidence it works, and probably harmful
Updated: May 10
There is no scientific evidence that suggests the effects of Mifepristone, usually taken to start abortion, can be reversed by giving women Progesterone. This practice, often called "abortion reversal" or "abortion pill reversal," received much attention and hype following the publication of a two incomplete case series that were later shown to be deeply flawed.
The possibility of "reversing" abortion after women have taken the first abortion pill was seized upon by anti-abortion activists and politcians, who suggested that this treatment works and should be available when there is no evidence it actually works. This prompted a warning by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stating that the abortion reversal case study "was not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee, required to protect human research subjects, raising serious questions regarding the ethics and scientific validity of the results." It added that "so-called abortion “reversal” procedures are unproven and unethical."
A subsequent study tried to investigate the abortion reversal claim in the more conventional randomised controlled study format, however this study was terminated due to safety concerns after women in both the treatment and control groups experienced haemorrhages, suggesting that using Progesterone or omitting Misoprostol after taking Mifepristone is dangerous.
The scientific evidence suggests that when medical abortion is started with Mifepristone, it should be completed with Misoprostol. Women starting medical abortion should not stop halfway, as this will likely increase their risk of haemorrhage. The decision whether to have an abortion should be made before the first abortion pill is taken.
We advise women to steer clear of any service or organisation offering "abortion reversal." This treatment is unlicenced and potentially dangerous. Anti-choice organisations should not use the promise of "abortion reversal" to lure women to their services, let alone offer such hazardous treatment.
By Dr Chris Barbara