Abortion-Pill Reversal in Australia
With abortion-pill reversal becoming more common in the US, a secular Australian organisation has begun to garner support for this life-saving service here.
Thanks to Deb Garrett from Real Choices for answering my questions about mifepristone reversal in OZ.
[Note: Since we conducted this interview, there have been several more inquiries by women who have changed their minds about their medical abortion.]
Deb, what made you decide to set up an abortion pill reversal website in Australia?
We had been following the outcomes that were being published in the United States on this therapy with interest and were then approached by one of the clinicians when speaking at a US conference last year. They were keen to see this treatment made available in Australia and to locate an organisation with the skills and expertise to oversee it.
We had tabled the project for discussion, but it wasn’t until we received 2 enquiries within 10 days from women seeking reversal that we realised how in demand such a treatment would be. We have now begun the enormous task of setting up the national network, however it is going to need substantial funds in order to see it rolled out successfully.
What kind of successes has abortion-pill reversal had overseas? In Australia?
There have been more than 100 babies born in the US after successful reversal. This is a success rate of around 55%. All babies have been born healthy so there have been no demonstrated negative effects from either the mifepristone or the progesterone treatment.
While there has been a number of women undergo treatment in Australia, there has been no means of collecting and collating the data so we have no reliable way of determining outcomes here. This is why we need a national focus for data collection.
Do you expect to see an increase in the use of the abortion pill now that phone abortions are available in Australia?
It is hard to know. When women are feeling in desperate circumstances, sometimes the quickest fix seems the best. We are extremely concerned that telephone consultations are wholly inadequate for appropriately assessing a women’s needs and circumstances. This may actually increase the number of requests for reversal as more women hit that point of anxiety and ambivalence about what they have begun when they haven’t been adequately assessed and counselled.
What kind of response have you had from Australian doctors? Why?
We are only just beginning recruitment so we are unsure what the response will be. This is an experimental treatment and doctors can be reluctant on that basis. Of course we also expect to see misplaced ideological concerns that may be barriers as well.
How popular do you think this procedure will be with pro-choice doctors?
I would hope that the need for this treatment will highlight the very real anxiety and ambivalence that often accompanies an abortion decision for women. The difference with medical and surgical abortion is that we know women sometimes waken after a surgical abortion and are hit with the reality of what they’ve done and there is no way to go back. At least with a medical abortion, after taking that first pill, there may be some hope for them. It would be preferable that women were better supported and offered more alternatives before being forced to choose an abortion they may not really want.
From a pro-choice perspective this treatment simply offers women another choice at the point at which they withdraw consent to abortion, which is effectively what they are doing when they want a reversal. Anyone interested in women’s autonomy and freedom to choose should support it.
What action can Australian pro-lifers take to support this initiative? For example, will it help for ordinary people to bring this up with their own doctors?
I think anyone concerned about the wellbeing of women, regardless of ideology should spread the word about this treatment. What we do need is a large network of doctors so that we can actually offer effective service to women before we widely market the treatment. We are in the process of finalising the protocol and consents so that doctors will be able to access this information and apply to be part of the network in the next few weeks.
Wherever we have a doctor offering the treatment we will need to identify community supports for the woman as well. The things that drove her to an abortion decision will usually still exist and we want to ensure that she these needs are appropriately and effectively addressed and that she feels supported. To this end we will also be seeking organisations and people interested in undertaking this important role as well.
Here are the links to all of the Real Choices websites:
For information on abortion-pill Reversal in the US, go to abortionpillreversal.com
If you are pregnant and unsure about what to do, please call the friendly counsellors at Pregnancy Counselling Australia on 1300 737 732 (24-hour helpline)