HSE's mixed messages on abortion pill reversal

Following an Irish Independent article on abortion reversal this week, it's interesting to see the HSE seems to contradict itself, and contradict medical evidence, in what it says about abortion reversal.

First, it says abortion is irreversible, once a pregnant mother takes the first of two abortion drugs. Strangely, it immediately goes on to say 'if' she doesn't take the second drug and continues the pregnancy, there is a "risk of harm to the foetus" 

It says"if"...so this is a possible outcome after all, then? 

Screenshot from the HSE's website

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Of course, if she does take the second drug, there is an almost certainty (not just risk) of death (not just harm) to the developing baby. We're supposed to be concerned about risk of harm but not about certainty of death, it seems? And no comment by the HSE how much risk...likely, or unlikely, or extremely unlikely but in theory could happen? 

If we check elsewhere, the limited research suggests babies who are born alive after abortion pill reversal - and yes, they have been - have a similar risk of developmental problems as the general population. In other words, most are born healthy.

So according to the HSE, is medical abortion irreversible or not? And why say it is, if it's not?

And why is the Irish Independent labelling abortion reversal as "controversial" and "unproven", but making no complaint about the minister for health authorising abortion drugs (which can cause women to be hospitalised for bleeding, as reported last December by the same paper) to be prescribed over the phone...and he failed to answer Dáil questions as to what medical expert advice he took about the safety of this?

If a woman chooses to change her mind after starting an abortion, and a registered professional medical doctor prescribes her progesterone for abortion pill reversal (progesterone has been widely used for many years for preventing miscarriage), and the baby's life is saved in line with the mother's choice - personally I call that good news. 

Aren't we doing all sorts of unproven things, that carry their own risks and downsides, to try to save lives from Covid-19? Would the journalist prefer us to refrain from doing anything that has a chance to save lives unless it's scientifically proven beyond any doubt? If so, maybe she'll have an article tomorrow on the continuing empty beds in private hospitals because of Covid-19 while cancer screening goes undone. Or maybe she will write about how abortion is unproven to benefit women's mental health (but it's legal to abort a baby up to about 24 weeks on mental health grounds).

There are risks with most things, the thing is to assess them in a balanced, objective and informed way. If you read the Independent piece, I suggest asking yourself whether it does that.

On another note - we have heard plenty from abortion advocates that say it's all about choice and we should "trust women". So are they willing to trust a woman and her choice of abortion reversal, and be glad that another baby might get to live instead of die? If not, what does that say about them, their values, and their motives?

Sometimes, what people say about others actually tells us more about themselves.


ROSE WALSH lives and works in Dublin 


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