Doctors using ‘rescue therapy’ treatment that reverses abortion pill told it may be dangerous
Women who suddenly change their minds after taking the abortion pill are turning to a controversial treatment in a bid to keep their babies.
Doctors at the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) have treated 90 women in Britain with its ‘abortion rescue therapy’ in the past year and say almost 50 per cent have maintained their pregnancies.
By contrast, the CMA says, the chance of the foetus surviving if the woman follows NHS advice is only about 25 per cent.
But the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has heavily criticised the therapy, arguing it is based on scant evidence and could be dangerous.
The treatment involves giving large doses of progesterone – a female sex hormone crucial during pregnancy – to counter the blocking effects of the first abortion pill, mifepristone.
Doctors at the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) have treated 90 women in Britain with its ‘abortion rescue therapy’ in the past year and say almost 50 per cent have maintained their pregnancies (file photo)
Last night, Dr Dermot Kearney, president of the CMA who is leading the service, insisted it was safe and helped save unborn babies’ lives. He said more and more women were contacting them as a result of the NHS ‘Pills by Post’ service put in place during the pandemic, in which both abortion pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – are mailed out to take at home following a telephone consultation.
Dr Kearney said: ‘Since last April, 141 women have contacted the abortion pill rescue programme, of whom 90 started progesterone treatment to reverse the lethal effects of the first abortion pill, mifepristone. Of 73 who continued treatment, 38 have managed to hold on to their pregnancies – a success rate of around 50 per cent.
‘So far, ten women have delivered healthy babies, while 28 are still pregnant.’
He said NHS advice for women who regret taking mifepristone is to watch and wait what happens without taking the second pill, called ‘expectant management’. But he claimed only about one in four women who follow this guidance maintain their pregnancy.
Dr Kearney insists the CMA scrutinised evidence before starting the service, although critics say the data came from US pro-life groups that ‘cherry pick’ favourable results.
An RCOG spokesman said: ‘There is very little evidence to show that a treatment with progesterone will reverse an abortion, and what this is doing is providing false reassurance to women that this is a possible option – which is very distressing for the women involved.’
University of California researchers last year abandoned a trial into the effects of taking progesterone after mifepristone over safety concerns. The team warned of a ‘high risk of significant haemorrhage’.
The RCOG said the study showed the method was ‘consequently dangerous for women’.
But Dr Kearney said heavy bleeding was a recognised side effect of mifepristone, and that while three of the British patients needed blood transfusions for haemorrhages there had been no deaths or other serious complications to date.
NHS England said that in rare instances where a woman does not take the second abortion pill, the chance of pregnancy continuing is between eight and 40 per cent.
A spokesman added: ‘There is not sufficient evidence to suggest that progesterone does what is claimed in these circumstances.’