The Trump administration, which has repeatedly attempted to block undocumented minors from receiving abortions, once even considered using a “controversial, scientifically unproven method” to reverse one girl’s abortion, reports Vice News.
According to court documents filed by the ACLU, which has challenged the Trump administration to court four times for blocking abortions sought by unaccompanied, undocumented teens, the Office of Refugee Resettlement delayed a teen’s abortion last March to determine the “health status” of the fetus and considered reversing the procedure after she had taken the first of two abortion pills. (In numerous rulings, federal courts have sided with the ACLU and ordered the administration to allow the teens to obtain abortions).
A medical abortion consists of two pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, administered between six to 48 hours apart. The first pill, Mifepristone, blocks the body’s progesterone, while the second pill (which can be taken at home) empties the uterus and induces the abortion. Medical abortions are safe and 98 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood. And according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in 30 to 50 percent of women who take the first pill but not the second pill, “the pregnancy will continue.”
According to a December deposition with ACLU lawyer Brigitte Amiri, ORR head Scott Lloyd—who once personally attempted to dissuade an undocumented girl under the ORR’s care from seeking an abortion—“may have” asked ORR “transition staff” and “attorneys” about the possibility of reversing the abortion for a pregnant, unaccompanied teenager in ORR’s custody in March. When asked why he would make such an inquiry, Lloyd replied,“I don’t know, I mean except to save the life of the baby.”
The abortion reversal medication Lloyd inquired about seeks to reverse the effects of Mifepristone by injecting the body with progesterone. But the method, a tactic promoted by anti-choice extremists, is tantamount to experimenting on women’s bodies. ACOG does not recommend medical abortion reversals, and has stated that they are “not supported by the body of scientific evidence.” Evidence suggests that progesterone, “while generally well tolerated, can cause significant cardiovascular, nervous system and endocrine adverse reactions as well as other side effects.”
The case documents also contained a memo dated March 4, 2017—hours after the teen took the first abortion pill—from Kenneth Tota, ORR Acting Director, in which he asked that she be taken “to the emergency room of a local hospital in order to determine the health status of [unaccompanied alien child] and her unborn child.” The memo continued, “If steps can be taken to preserve the life of the [unaccompanied alien child] and her unborn child, those steps should be taken.”
Vice reported that on that same day, the government-funded shelter housing the teen sent the abortion clinic an email inquiring about abortion reversal methods:
“On behalf of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, please answer this questionnaire as soon as possible,” the email begins. It goes on to ask four questions, including, “To the best of your knowledge and clinical practice, is the administration of progesterone following administration of Mefiprix [sic], but before the administration of Cytotec, for the purpose of aborting a chemical abortion process, widely practiced?”
Cytotec and “Mefiprix,” which is likely a misspelled reference to Mifeprex, are drugs used in medication abortion.
The clinic did not respond to the email, according to a source, and there’s no evidence to suggest that the government forced the teen to take progesterone. However, the multiple inquiries demonstrate the disturbing extent to which the Trump administration is willing to go to block a minor’s legal right to an abortion.
When asked to comment on the report, the Department of Health and Human Services’s Administration of Children and Families did not offer a comment, instead pointing to its previous statement on the ACLU cases. “The minors in this case — who entered the country illegally—have the option to voluntarily depart to their home country or find a suitable sponsor,” the agency said in December. “If they choose not to exercise these options, HHS does not believe we are required to facilitate the abortion.”