Capitol Alert

Abortion reversal, pregnancy centers targeted by billboard campaign

A national network of abortion providers launched a billboard campaign Monday in the San Francisco Bay Area that targets what it calls the deceptive tactics of “crisis pregnancy centers” and the decision by the state nursing board to allow training on an abortion reversal procedure.

The Abortion Care Network’s campaign, which comes as state lawmakers consider expanding access to pill-induced abortion on college campuses, will last for one month and feature six billboards posted near crisis pregnancy centers in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Redwood City and San Lorenzo.

Supporters say the pregnancy centers provide counseling and support to women, but the Abortion Care Network asserts they spread misinformation about the “abortion pill reversal” procedure.

“It’s important to us to push back against deception, shame and stigma,” the Abortion Care Network said in a statement, adding the costs of the billboards are in “the five-figure range.”

The California Board of Registered Nursing in December gave approval for Heartbeat International, a Columbus, Ohio-based organization that operates an international network of “pregnancy help centers,” to teach nurses the abortion pill reversal procedure for continuing education credit.

The controversial reversal treatment was developed by a San Diego doctor in 2009 to stop the effects of pill-induced or medication abortion. The reversal procedure takes place after women take the first dose of medication to abort a pregnancy and before they would administer the second dose a few days later.

The reversal procedure happens through the injection of progesterone, which is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this specific use.

The billboards will feature Dr. Monica McLemore, a nursing professor and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who also provides abortion care as a clinical nurse at San Francisco General Hospital.

The nursing board first approved Heartbeat International to teach the procedure in 2012 but reversed that decision last September following an audit of the course.

However, the board decided in December to reinstate Heartbeat International to teach the course after finding it satisfied the “board’s regulatory requirements for continuing education,” said Michelle Cave, information officer for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which includes the California Board of Registered Nursing.

The content of continuing education courses “must be relevant to the practice of nursing” and “related to the scientific knowledge and/or technical skills required for the practice of nursing, or be related to direct and/or indirect patient/client care,” according to Veronica Harms, deputy communications director for the Department of Consumer Affairs. Courses are also expected to enhance the knowledge of nurses “at a level above that required for licensure.”

McLemore countered that the board’s decision is “legitimizing the practice even though it is medically untested.”

Harms said the nursing board will consider a proposal to amend its criteria for courses on “experimental health care treatments” at a public meeting Feb. 15 in Sacramento.

Jay Hobbs, director of marketing and communications for Heartbeat International, said the treatment protects a woman’s “right to choose life for her child.”

“There is one group too often left out of the conversation, and that’s the 400-plus mothers who have saved their own children with abortion pill reversal,” Hobbs said. “These courageous women deserve a voice. Their children deserve a voice.”

Hobbs said various experts believe the reversal process rests upon solid scientific evidence, pointing to comments made in a New York Times Magazine article on the abortion pill reversal process.

“It makes biological sense,’’ Dr. Harvey Kliman, director of the reproductive and placental research unit at the Yale School of Medicine, said in the July 2017 article. “I think this is actually totally feasible.”

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the reversal procedure is not backed by scientific evidence, pointing to the only study on the procedure that involved six women but was not supervised by an institutional review board or ethical review committee.

Wynette Sills, director of Californians for Life, said the Abortion Care Network’s campaign is “deeply astounding and disappointing.”

“(The crisis pregnancy centers) are very positive, pro-women resource centers that are there to help women,” Sills said. “Why can’t that money spent on billboards go instead into buying maternity clothes, strollers, cribs, job vouchers or housing for women?”

Billy Kobin: 916-321-1860, @Billy_Kobin