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  • A study about so-called abortion reversal just got pulled because of ethical concerns

    BuzzFeed news reported that a study about the scientifically unproven method to stop an abortion -- championed by anti-choice activists -- lacked "formal ethical approval"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, BuzzFeed News reported that a published study about the practice of so-called abortion reversal had been pulled from a scientific journal due to ethical concerns, further proving that one of right-wing and anti-abortion media's favorite talking points is nothing more than harmful junk science.

    BuzzFeed News’ Azeen Ghorayshi wrote that the study by well-known anti-choice personality George Delgado had “been temporarily withdrawn from” the April edition of the Issues in Law & Medicine journal “because [the study] falsely claimed to have received formal ethical approval.” The study hinges on Delgado’s belief that people seeking medication abortions can reverse the procedure by taking only the first pill required in the two-pill regime. The person would then be injected with “a large dose of progesterone to—in theory—reverse the effects of mifepristone” in the first pill. To prove this theory, Delgado set up a hotline in 2012 for people who were seeking abortion reversals and published a limited study about the procedure that same year.

    Delgado’s theory caught fire in right-wing and anti-abortion media, with outlets including The Daily Wire and Live Action publishing accounts from people who had supposedly successfully reversed their abortions. When pro-choice organizations warned that abortion reversal was both scientifically unproven and potentially dangerous, outlets including The Federalist attacked these organizations as “anti-science” and said they were ignoring “the scientific reality of abortion pill reversal for a more ideological reason.” Anti-abortion site Life News inaccurately claimed that opposition to abortion reversal stemmed from a financial incentive for providers to continue performing abortions. Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard alleged that pro-choice advocates didn’t “really want women to choose to change their minds.”

    Then, in April 2018, Delgado and several co-authors published another study alleging the efficacy of the practice in the Issues in Law & Medicine journal. As Ghorayshi reported after publication, “the University of San Diego — which employs two of Delgado’s coauthors — launched an investigation into the study’s ethical approval.” The university then “asked for the paper to be withdrawn, spokesperson Pamela Payton told BuzzFeed News, because it had ‘ambiguous’ wording regarding the university’s ethics board, ‘leading many readers to incorrectly conclude that the [school] reviewed and approved the entire study.’”

    According to Delgado, the issue was “just a technical problem,” and that his team would “redo” the ethics review (although, as BuzzFeed noted, it’s not entirely clear how such a “redo” would work.) However, there is ample reason to believe that even if Delgado could “redo” the ethics review, the outcome would be largely the same because of his ideological viewpoint and the proven structural flaws of his studies.

    As Diane J. Horvath-Cosper, a reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, explained to Marie Claire, Delgado appears to have done his work “backwards, with a desired result in mind—one that would support an ideological agenda.” Marie Claire noted that Delgado has previously labeled abortion "a scourge and a plague on our society” and told a caller on a radio show during a 2013 guest appearance that even though the caller had AIDS, “it wasn’t acceptable to use condoms ever.”

    Delgado’s studies in 2012 and 2018 also suffered from several technical flaws. According to The Guardian, the 2012 study was “not done with the oversight of an ethical review committee.” Jezebel similarly reported that it also relied on an extremely small sample size of seven cases -- and Delgado considered only four of these cases successful. Although the April 2018 study had a larger sample size, it still relied on limited case studies, which HuffPost said are “the weakest form of scientific evidence because they lack control groups.” Newsweek further reported that the study “used a wide variety of injected progesterone protocols, ranging from one to more than 10 injections of unknown doses” and did not assess previous levels of progesterone in the subjects’ blood -- further skewing the reliability of the results.

    In general, anti-choice extremists like Delgado are making claims about “abortion reversal” as a tactic to promote the myth that abortion is pathologically linked to regret. In reality, this idea of abortion regret or, as some anti-abortion activists call it, “post-abortion syndrome,” has been widely discredited. To debunk claims that abortion reversal procedures are widely sought by patients who regret their decision, Rewire.News’ Sofia Resnick spoke to abortion provider Gabrielle Goodrick, who estimated “that she has seen six patients out of about 10,000 who did not want to continue their medication abortions after initiating the process” in the 16 years she has been a provider.

    Medical organizations have also weighed in to say that the science doesn’t back claims about reversal. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) submitted a report in August 2017 about alleged abortion reversal procedures, stating, “Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.” The report concluded that ACOG “does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion.” Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, told Refinery29, if a person simply decided not to take the second pill for a medication abortion, “there’s a good chance that the pregnancy would continue,” but “there’s no evidence” that injections of progesterone would work to “reverse” an abortion.

    Despite these issues, the junk science of abortion reversal has made its way into state laws in Idaho, Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah, and Arizona, where abortion providers are required to inform patients seeking an abortion that there is an option to reverse it.

    Right-wing media, anti-abortion activists, and some lawmakers may continue to spread misinformation about the dubious efficacy of so-called abortion reversal procedures, but as BuzzFeed’s report demonstrates, the facts are piling up: This practice is based on junk science that is more likely to hurt than help.

  • Myths And Facts About HB 2, The Anti-Choice Law That Could Overturn Abortion Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits women's access to abortion and medical care. In covering the case, some media outlets have relied on right-wing media talking points about the purported medical necessity of restricting women's access to abortion, as well as the false claim that HB 2 would prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic. Here are the facts.

  • What You Need To Know About Indicted Anti-Choice Activist David Daleiden

    The Center For Medical Progress' Website Did Not Originally Label Its Employees As "Citizen Journalists"

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    On January 25, David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor charge of violating the "prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs" for the actions he took to manufacture smear videos of Planned Parenthood officials. Daleiden has a history of working with conservative groups on anti-choice campaigns.

  • Anthony Kennedy's (And Right-Wing Media's) Favorite Abortion Myth Debunked In New Briefs To Supreme Court

    Pro-Choice Briefs In Whole Woman's Health v. Cole Push Back At Discredited Conclusion That Abortions Cause Depression And Regret

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    The first set of amicus briefs for Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, a Supreme Court case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law that severely limits women's access to abortion and broader medical care, has recently been filed. Many of these briefs respond to Justice Anthony Kennedy's past invocation of "post-abortion regret" and the "severe depression" that supposedly follows, an "antiabortion shibboleth" repeated in right-wing media's long-standing effort to stigmatize women who have had abortions.

  • Latest Video Attacking Planned Parenthood Full Of More Deceptive Edits


    In its latest deceptively edited video, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) claims to have caught a Planned Parenthood official "haggling" over the price of "baby parts" and agreeing to change abortion methods to aid the fetal tissue collection process. But the full video and transcript show the official confirming that any change in procedure is done pursuant to medical advice without additional risk to the patient, and that the compensation being discussed was about legal reimbursement for costs associated with tissue donation.

  • GOP Candidates Try To Cash In On Phony Outrage Over Edited Planned Parenthood Video

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Planned Parenthood

    Republican presidential candidates are attempting to capitalize on right-wing media's manufactured outrage over a deceptively edited video attacking Planned Parenthood, using conservative media platforms to call for investigations into Planned Parenthood and fundraising off of the drummed up outrage.

    On July 14, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a deceptively edited video purporting to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortion. But the full, unedited video makes it clear that Planned Parenthood actually facilitates tissue donation with full patient consent, at no financial benefit to the organization, and in full compliance with the law.

    Right-wing media seized on the video, with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly calling for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood, and Megyn Kelly accusing the organization of "celebrating its practice of harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money."

    And now the GOP is capitalizing on right-wing media's phony outrage despite the fact that numerous media outlets have called out CMP's "shady video," concluding it "shows nothing illegal."

    The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) along with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee agreed to conduct the investigation.  

    Republican presidential candidates are following suit. Ted Cruz advocated for federal and state criminal investigations and Senate hearings, pledging to hold congressional hearings himself to defund Planned Parenthood on the July 15 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File

    On Twitter, Jeb Bush called the video "shocking and horrific," Ben Carson urged Congress to "eliminate every last dime" of funding for Planned Parenthood, and Bobby Jindal called the video "disgusting." Jindal also ordered an investigation in Louisiana as governor. 

    Some candidates are even hoping to cash in on the right-wing media frenzy with fundraising emails. Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are both urging donors to "chip in a contribution" to defund Planned Parenthood.

    UPDATE: CQ Roll Call reported that at least two Republican members of the House Pro-Life Caucus, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) -- who is also chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee that is conducting an investigation following the video -- viewed the video attacking Planned Parenthood weeks before CMP officially released it.

  • Attack On Planned Parenthood: 3 Deceptive Edits In The Video Claiming Planned Parenthood Is "Selling Aborted Baby Parts"


    A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released by the group undermines their sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.

  • Live Action's Latest Abortion Clinic Undercover Video A Bust

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    The anti-abortion rights group Live Action released today an undercover video claiming to reveal "illegal and inhuman practices" at an abortion clinic in New York City, and accused a doctor at the clinic of committing murder. The video reveals nothing of the sort, and actually undermines Live Action's baseless allegations that the clinic is performing illegal procedures and endangering the lives of patients.

    Live Action and its founder, Lila Rose, have a long, disreputable history of perpetrating hoaxes and concocting false allegations against abortion rights supporters, Planned Parenthood in particular. This latest "undercover video" project is timed to coincide with the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider facing multiple murder charges resulting from the monstrous and horrific procedures he is alleged to have carried out under the guise of women's reproductive health.

    The Live Action video depicts a woman at Dr. Emily Woman's Health Center in the Bronx inquiring after an abortion in the 23rd week of her pregnancy -- a procedure that is legal in New York State. The woman speaks to both a clinician and a counselor at the facility, and the video is edited down to make it appear as though the clinician describes a procedure in which a baby that survives an abortion is killed using a toxic solution.

    Based solely on this exchange, Live Action claimed that the doctor who performs abortions at the clinic "has violated" the state's law against murder in the first degree and called on the state's attorney general to launch a homicide investigation. But Live Action edited out from the video the portion in which the clinician makes clear that the situation they're talking about has never happened in her experience and the discussion is hypothetical, and the video shows the counselor explaining to the woman that the doctor would have to resuscitate the baby if that situation did occur.

    Despite these flaws, the Live Action video has already been written up by the the New York Post, the Daily Caller, and Michelle Malkin's Hot Air. The story has spread to Fox News and will likely offer grist for other conservative outlets that have been using the Gosnell trial to attack legal abortion. 

  • Live Action Brings Deceptive Attacks On Planned Parenthood To Hawaii

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID SHERE

    The anti-choice group Live Action has released the latest in its series of undercover videos that attempt to create the false impression that Planned Parenthood encourages sex-selective abortion. This video contains clips from two visits to Planned Parenthood clinics in Hawaii by a Live Action activist claiming she wants to have an abortion because the fetus is female. The Planned Parenthood counselors shown in the video do not encourage the activist to receive a sex-selective abortion. Rather, one counselor tells the activist that a woman's reasons for having an abortion are her own, which is in line with Planned Parenthood's stated policy, and the other is not shown discussing the activist's motives.

    The video is part of an effort by Live Action and its founder Lila Rose to concoct a problem. Sex-selective abortion does not happen with any regularity in the United States. The fact is that most abortions are performed before the sex of the fetus can be determined. Furthermore, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, has written that "the U.S. sex ratio at birth in 2005 stood at 105 boys to 100 girls, squarely within biologically normal parameters."

    The first encounter in the new video is introduced with the text, "Planned Parenthood provides a sex-selective abortion," but that's not what the video shows. It depicts a counselor in Maui telling the Live Action activist that the only way to be sure of the sex of a fetus is to have an ultrasound. The counselor also tells the activist that "it's really up to the patient whether -- I mean, everybody has their different reasons why they choose to have a termination and, of course, everybody's story matters. And if that's -- you know, if that's what you want to base your decision on, really, you know, it's really up to you."

    The counselor goes on to say that while Planned Parenthood performs ultrasounds, it doesn't perform them for the purpose of determining gender and that the activist would have to go elsewhere to do so. The counselor also consoles the activist after she tells a story about a doctor showing disapproval of her reason for wanting an abortion.

    The second video is introduced with the claim that "Planned Parenthood provides multiple sex-selective abortions." In fact, it shows a counselor telling the activist that it's "not healthy" to have abortions too frequently. The activist asks if it would be OK to have another abortion after a year, and the counselor tells her it would.

    The next clip is labeled, "Planned Parenthood uses state funds to cover a sex-selective abortion." In reality, the activist is shown saying that she is disappointed the military will not pay for an abortion. After confirming that the military won't pay for abortions, the Planned Parenthood counselor points out that the woman can pay for an abortion out of her own pocket or through the state's Medicaid program, which would mean meeting several eligibility requirements.

  • Lila Rose's AZ Video Doesn't Change The Facts On The Rarity Of Sex-Selective Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

    Anti-choice activist Lila Rose's campaign to stoke fears that America faces an epidemic of sex-selection abortion sputtered once again, as Rose released another video that utterly failed to alter the fact that sex-selection abortion is not a growing problem.

    Rose and her group, Live Action, released a video showing a woman posing as a patient at abortion clinics in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. As with Live Action's previous videos, the fake patients claim that they want to have an abortion because the fetus is female and discuss their options.

    Live Action is trying to use these videos to distort the reality about sex-selective abortion in America -- facts show that it is rare:

    • The absence of a gender imbalance in the U.S. indicates that sex selection is not happening on a large scale. As the Guttmacher Institute wrote, "the U.S. sex ratio at birth in 2005 stood at 105 boys to 100 girls, squarely within biologically normal parameters."
    • Most abortions are performed before gender is identifiable. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2008, 91.4 percent of abortions were performed before the 13th week of pregnancy. Robert Shmerling of Harvard Health Publications noted that gender identification by means of ultrasound, by far the most popular method, is usually only available by the 16th to 20th week. Although there are methods to detect gender earlier on in a pregnancy, "these procedures are usually performed to detect potential health problems such as Down's syndrome, spina bifida, or cystic fibrosis, not to find out a baby's gender."

    Rose's barrage of videos has coincided with an effort by House Republicans to outlaw some abortions on the false premise that sex selection is widespread problem. The end result of the movement behind the legislation, which was voted down, would be to eliminate abortion rights entirely.

  • Cutting Room Floor: Live Action Edited Out Adoption Discussion

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    Earlier today, anti-choice activist Lila Rose and her group Live Action released a heavily edited video designed to falsely portray a Planned Parenthood employee as having helped an activist posing as a patient get an abortion because of the sex of the fetus. While the edited video includes less than seven minutes of clinic footage, the full video runs for a more than an hour, and the activist's encounter with the employee featured in the video lasts for more than 30 minutes.

    So, what did Live Action edit out of the finished product? That the Planned Parenthood employee brought up the idea of giving the child up for adoption, that the employee declined to refer the activist to an OB/GYN who "would be understanding of [the activist's] situation," and that the employee repeatedly noted that the activist's decision about whether to have a sex-selective abortion would be hers alone.

    Despite Live Action's suggestions in the edited video, at no point did the Planned Parenthood employee encourage the activist to undergo a sex-selective abortion.

  • Lila Rose To Benefit From The Fox Cycle's Media-Intimidation Phase

    Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

    A Fox News promo indicates that tonight's edition of The O'Reilly Factor will answer the question of whether journalists are conspiring to "silence" the manufactured attack on Planned Parenthood that is being ginned up by anti-choice activist Lila Rose and her group Live Action:

    VOICEOVER: Press protection of Planned Parenthood? Has the media intentionally silenced the story about the group's gender-specific abortion counseling?

    If "the media" -- in Foxspeak, that means "every outlet other than Fox" -- chooses not to cover Rose's videos, perhaps it's because there is no story. Statistics show that sex-selective abortion simply does not happen with any regularity in the United States, as the vast majority of abortions are performed before gender is detectable, and the gender birth ratio in America is close to even. The videos Live Action has released thus far do not show a pattern of Planned Parenthood encouraging women to have sex-selective abortions.

    What's really at work here is the Fox Cycle. As we've documented, this is a strategy Fox News uses to help right-wing activists and fringe figures catapult bogus stories into mainstream outlets.

  • Hoax Du Jour: Live Action Brings Bogus "Sex Selection" Attack To New York

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    Anti-choice activist Lila Rose and her group Live Action have released an undercover video of an activist in New York City pretending to want to abort a fetus if it's not a male. This is part their effort to manufacture evidence that Planned Parenthood facilitates gender-based abortion -- even though statistics show that sex-selective abortion simply does not happen with any regularity in the United States, as the vast majority of abortions are performed before gender is detectable, and the gender birth ratio in America is close to even.

    In the video, the activist tells an employee at a Planned Parenthood clinic that her fetus "looks like it's gonna be a girl, another girl," and "we'd really like to have a son." The employee gives the activist advice on prenatal care and testing, and she explains the services the clinic offers.

    Despite Live Action's suggestion, at no point is the Planned Parenthood employee in the video shown encouraging the phony Live Action "patient" to undergo a sex-selective abortion -- in fact, the employee specifically states that "it's not up to us to decide what is a good or bad reason for somebody to decide to terminate a pregnancy."

    This is in line with Planned Parenthood's stated policy: "no Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions (Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois)."

    Sex-selective abortion is not something that exists in real life in America to any notable degree. But you won't hear that from Lila Rose, who has declared it her mission to "take out Planned Parenthood." And don't expect to hear that from those in the right-wing media who uncritically hype Rose's hoax videos and dishonest activism, of whom Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin are merely the latest.

  • O'Reilly And Lila Rose Team Up To Spread More Lies About Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› MARCUS FELDMAN

    Discredited anti-choice activist Lila Rose went on The O'Reilly Factor to push her latest hoax video attacking Planned Parenthood. Rose and host Bill O'Reilly want people to think that, in the words of Rose's group, Planned Parenthood is complicit in "widespread sex-selection by means of abortion." In fact, Planned Parenthood has stated that it "finds the concept of sex selection deeply unsettling" and the organization "does not offer sex determination services; our ultrasound services are limited to medical purposes."

    Furthermore, Huffington Post reported that Planned Parenthood "condemns seeking abortions on the basis of gender, but its policy is to provide 'high quality, confidential, nonjudgmental care to all who come into' its health centers."

    O'Reilly and Rose mentioned none of this. Instead, they aired footage from Rose's hoax video of a person walking into a Planned Parenthood office and pretending to be a patient. O'Reilly and Rose pretended that the actions of the employee were representative of the organization. O'Reilly even asked "Are we now China in this country? If Planned Parenthood is advising woman to abort because of gender choice, then we are China. And you should remember that the next time a politician or famous person endorses Planned Parenthood."

    But Planned Parenthood has said that the staff member highlighted in the video was terminated "within three days of this patient interaction" and that "all staff members at this affiliate were immediately scheduled for retraining in managing unusual patient encounters."

    Also unmentioned by O'Reilly and Rose is that fact that statistics show no evidence of systematic sex-selection abortion, since the majority of abortions are performed before the gender can be identified, and the gender-birth ratio in the United States is almost even.

    This is nothing new for O'Reilly and Rose. O'Reilly repeatedly hypes Rose's attacks against Planned Parenthood but refuse to give their viewers the facts behind the attack.

    Maybe that's because once the facts are known, Rose's and O'Reilly's attacks fall apart.