Researchers Behind Abortion Pill Studies Land In Hot Water With Science Journal

Two studies used to justify a crackdown on mifepristone access were retracted Monday by the scientific publisher Sage over undeclared conflicts of interest with anti-abortion groups and a “lack of scientific rigor” used in the research.

Both of the studies have been used by anti-abortion plaintiffs and conservative federal judges in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to cast doubt on the Food and Drug Administration’s longstanding approval of the drug, which is used in the most common method of abortion in the United States.

The case is scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.

The academic publisher said in a statement that it took a closer look at the studies in response to a reader’s concerns.

“Sage confirmed that all but one of the article’s authors had an affiliation with one or more of Charlotte Lozier Institute, Elliot Institute, and American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all pro-life advocacy organizations, despite having declared they had no conflicts of interest when they submitted the article for publication or in the article itself,” the publisher said.

“As a result of Sage’s inquiry into the authors’ conflicts of interest, Sage became aware that a peer reviewer who evaluated the article for initial publication also was affiliated with Charlotte Lozier Institute at the time of the review.”

Researchers James Studnicki and Tessa Longbons said in a statement to States Newsroom that the retractions constituted a “baseless ideological attack on our scientific research and experts.”

Studnicki is also the vice president of the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Both studies — titled “A Longitudinal Cohort Study of Emergency Room Utilization Following Mifepristone Chemical and Surgical Abortions” and “A Post Hoc Exploratory Analysis: Induced Abortion Complications Mistaken for Miscarriage in the Emergency Room are a Risk Factor for Hospitalization” — appeared in the journal Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology.

A third, related study by the same researchers was also retracted.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk cited the “Longitudinal” and “Post Hoc” research in his April opinion that would have revoked the FDA’s decision in 2000 to approve mifepristone.

Plaintiffs “allege adverse events from chemical abortion drugs can overwhelm the medical system and place ‘enormous pressure and stress’ on doctors during emergencies and complications,” Kacsmaryk wrote in his 67-page opinion.

A panel of judges with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in part with Kacsmaryk, deciding that mifepristone access should be rolled back to pre-2016 guidelines. That would mean that pregnant patients could not be prescribed mifepristone via telehealth appointments and that the window allowed for taking the drug would be shortened.

Access to mifepristone is currently undisturbed — the FDA’s approval stands in effect as the Supreme Court pressed pause on all decisions about the drug until the appeals process is exhausted.