California Sues Pregnancy Resource Centers for Reversing Abortions
Have you ever wanted to be a political punching bag? Try opening a pro-life pregnancy resource center (PRC) in California. Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced a lawsuit Thursday against two faith-based organizations, Heartbeat International (HBI) and RealOptions Obria, which operate pro-life pregnancy resource centers in California and provide abortion pill reversal services. This is not the first time a California attorney general has targeted pro-life pregnancy centers.
The lawsuit is allegedly over “fraudulent and misleading claims to advertise an unproven and largely experimental procedure called ‘abortion pill reversal (APR),’” as the AG’s press release claims. But he’s really just targeting them because abortion pill reversal humanizes the unborn baby and makes the abortion industry look bad.
But, to give Bonta the benefit of the doubt, it’s worth asking, what are the “fraudulent and misleading claims” he had in mind? The press release provides examples.
“The evidence shows that the vast majority of people do not regret their decision to have an abortion — more than 95% of patients who undergo an abortion later say they made the right decision,” said Bonta. Let’s stop right there. Bonta begins by claiming these PRCs are advertising a product almost nobody wants. Usually, businesses unscrupulous enough to advertise “fraudulent and misleading claims” are seeking to get rich quick, so they target a substantial market. No one is out there advertising the “most effective migraine-causing treatment on the market” or a “cream which four out of five doctors says will worsen your toe fungus.”
Even if Bonta’s claim were true, it would not logically contradict what Real Options states on their website, “after taking the first pill, some women regret their choice and want to reverse it.” Less than 5% is still “some women.”
In fact, Real Options offers a 24/7 helpline for women seeking to reverse their abortions. That would be a colossal waste of resources if no one ever called. The very existence of this hotline undermines, if not Bonta’s statistic, at least the force and implication of it — that the number of women seeking help during an abortion is negligible. That false narrative does nothing but pad the abortion lobby’s bottom line by pressuring women to follow through with the second phase of an abortion they already regret. HBI’s 24/7 contact center “answers more than 150 mission-critical calls a month.”
In a Journal of Medical Ethics article discussing “the prevalence of abortion regret,” published in March 2023, the author noted, “Much less well-covered is a study by some of the same researchers using the same data set which found that 96% of women who were refused abortions did not regret having the child 5 years on.”
Bonta continued, “Advocates of APR falsely claim that if a pregnant person takes high doses of the hormone progesterone within 72 hours of taking the first drug, mifepristone, it will safely and effectively cancel the effects of the mifepristone.” The PRCs he sued claim nothing of the kind. “Initial studies of APR have shown it has a 64-68% success rate,” said Real Options. “However, the outcome of your particular reversal attempt cannot be guaranteed.” Both pro-life organizations repeated phrases like, “There may still be time,” or “It may not be too late.”
Bonta added that there was “no scientific basis” for abortion pill reversal. Yet HBI cited academic sources for their claim that “The protocol used in the Abortion Pill Reversal process is nothing new. In fact, progesterone has been used routinely and safely with pregnancy since the 1950s.” Real Options simply explained how doses of progesterone could help. “By giving extra progesterone, we hope to outnumber and outcompete the mifepristone in order to reverse the effects of the abortion pill (also known as mifepristone). Mifepristone blocks progesterone’s actions by binding to progesterone receptors in the uterus and the placenta.” Bonta’s demand for studies of progesterone being used specifically to reverse a chemical abortion is disingenuous because the chemical abortion regimen itself has only been widely used over the past few years.
This spring, Colorado passed a law prohibiting abortion pill reversals, also alleging a lack of scientific evidence, but the state’s lawyers rolled over and didn’t even attempt to defend it when a Catholic health system presented a mountain of scientific evidence in its favor. “Across the country and around the world, pregnant women facing threatened miscarriages are commonly treated with progesterone — a naturally occurring and safe hormone that supports pregnancy,” Bella Health and Wellness argued in a lawsuit in May.
As evidence for his extreme position, Bonta mentioned a single study. “The first and only credible study that tried to test the safety and efficacy of APR had to be halted after three of its 12 participants experienced severe bleeding and had to be rushed by ambulance to the emergency room, raising questions about the risks of stopping a medication abortion midway and of APR,” he wrote.
The same, failed study was cited to support the 2023 Colorado law. What Bonta failed to mention about the study is that two of the three women who had to be rushed to the emergency room were only given mifepristone (the first dose of a chemical abortion regimen) and a placebo — not progesterone — and emergency surgical abortions; the one woman who was given progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone eventually needed no surgical intervention. The trial was conducted by Dr. Mitchell Creinin, a paid consultant of Danco Laboratories, which produces abortion pills.
Bonta further stated, “HBI and RealOptions falsely and illegally advertise APR as a valid and successful treatment option, and do not alert patients to possible side effects, such as the risk of severe bleeding.” If emergency application of a naturally occurring hormone, with a 64-68% success rate, is invalid and unsuccessful, it’s difficult to see what options would be justified in an emergency. As to severe bleeding, that is already a direct effect — not a side effect — of a chemical abortion. Creinin’s failed trial showed just how severe it can be. If a woman calls a 24/7 helpline for abortion pill reversal, it’s likely because she has already experienced just how bloody this allegedly “safe” procedure can be.
There is no logic, no science, and therefore no law undergirding Bonta’s lawsuit. But he did have a reason for filing it: politics. The California attorney general’s office is often seen as a launching point to seek higher office. It’s two previous elected occupants — Kamala Harris and Xavier Beccera — leveraged their role into high-profile posts in the Biden administration. But the way to be a popular — and therefore upwardly-mobile — attorney general of California is to appease rabidly progressive constituencies, such as the abortion lobby, who want to see the legal system weaponized against pro-lifers.
In fact, this is not the first time that a California attorney general has attempted to police the speech of faith-based PRCs. Harris began and Becerra continued an effort to force PRCs to refer for abortion. That case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled their effort violated the First Amendment in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra (2018).
Having lost an attempt to compel the speech of PRCs in favor of abortion, the California attorney general’s office is now attempting to suppress the speech of PRCs who provide abortion reversal. He has chosen “fraudulent and misleading claims” as an excuse. Yet the clinics are straightforward about abortion pill reversal, its scientific basis, and its likelihood of success.
The real problem for California is not that PRCs take advantage of vulnerable women with misleading advertising, but that their true claims are an embarrassment to the radical agenda of the abortion lobby. Chemical abortions are reversible with emergency progesterone treatments. Women do regret their abortions and seek to have them reversed. And PRCs are potentially saving mothers’ lives — not to mention the babies. That’s what abortionists — and California’s attorney general, apparently — can’t abide.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.