Utah Just Passed a Law Requiring Doctors to Mislead Abortion Patients

March 28th 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Last week, Utah passed a law regarding abortion that ignores science.

Republican Governor Gary Herbert signed the law that would require doctors providing two pill medical abortions to tell patients that the process can be halted if only one pill is taken. But telling patients that they can simply stop the process after one of the pills is taken is misleading at best. 

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has refuted the validity of such a bill. Writing in 2015 regarding a similar law, ACOG explained: "Claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence, and this approach is not recommended in ACOG’s clinical guidance on medication abortion."

Research shows that this law to promotes misinformation 

The two pill medical abortion works by taking mifepristone—which removes the embryo from uterine lining—followed by misoprostol one to two days later, which forces the embryo out.

The Utah law purports that if a patient does not take the second pill and then takes the hormone progesterone, the pregnancy will continue. However, as ACOG explained in 2015, only 30% to 50% of women who take the first pill—mifepristone—alone will have a pregnancy that continues. That means that the first pill still ends 50% to 70% of pregnancies. Furthermore, studies have found that taking progesterone can harm the cardiovascular and nervous systems.


Bogus abortion laws aren’t new in Utah.

Last May, Utah passed a law requiring doctors to provide “fetal anesthesia” to fetuses of women seeking an abortion after twenty weeks. 

This law, also signed by Gov. Herbert, was criticized by doctors because it lacked details and ignored scientific evidence. The basis of the law — to protect a fetus at twenty weeks from feeling pain during an abortion — is scientifically unfounded, as a 2005 study found fetuses do not develop receptors for pain before the third trimester. The law has since gone unenforced.

There are many states with unfounded abortion laws.

Arizona and Arkansas and South Dakota have each passed laws identical to the Utah measure, which require abortion providers to tell patients that medical abortions can be halted halfway through the process. The Arizona law has since been repealed.

Earlier this year, Arkansas also passed a law prohibiting the "dilation and evacuation" technique due to its supposed barbaric nature. However, research has shown that the technique is "the safest way a woman can end a pregnancy after fourteen weeks."

Texas law requires women to be given literature on abortion when considering the procedure. Unfortunately, the information provided includes debunked science that links abortions with breast cancer.

There also currently 19 states that require doctors to be physically present when medical abortion pills are taken, even though the potential health risks of the pills are low. “It’s safer than penicillin,” Dr. Beverly Winikoff shared with Buzzfeed News in 2015. “Insulin is more dangerous. Viagra is more dangerous.” 

Abortion access is key—as is accurate information about the procedure.

The medical abortion procedure that Utah is targeting is a safe, effective and common method. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.2% of all abortions were non-surgical.  

Complicating the issue further is that laws like the Utah measure will do more harm than good: studies worldwide have shown that restricting and banning abortions actually lead to more, unsafe procedures.