Senators ask Google why it removed ads for abortion pill reversal

Google Google offices in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York/ MNAphotography/Shutterstock

A dozen U.S. senators on Thursday sent a joint letter to Google’s CEO asking why pro-life ads for abortion pill reversal were removed by the search engine giant earlier this week. 

The group of 12 senators, led by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) accused Google of suppressing information about a viable alternative to chemical abortion, while leaving numerous ads for dangerous abortion pills intact. 

“While banning pro-life [abortion pill reversal] ads, Google continues to allow ads for purveyors of the deadly abortion pill mifepristone by mail, despite the fact this drug has resulted in at least 24 mothers’ tragic deaths and at least 1,042 mothers being sent to the hospital,” the Sept. 16 letter reads. 

“Google’s double standard on abortion is disingenuous and an egregious abuse of its enormous market power to protect the billion-dollar abortion industry,” the senators stated. 

“The practical consequence of Google’s abortion distortion is that pregnant mothers in crisis will only have the option to be marketed abortion drugs through Google’s ad platforms, while life-affirming alternatives are suppressed.”

Medical abortions, procured by way of a two-drug abortion pill regimen, have become an increasingly common method of abortion in the United States, making up between 30% and 40% of all U.S. abortions. 

The two drugs involved are mifepristone (also called Mifeprex) and misoprostol. Mifepristone effectively starves the unborn baby by blocking the effects of the pregnancy hormone progesterone. The second drug, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later, and induces labor.

Chemical abortions can be reversed after a woman takes mifepristone, but before she takes misoprostol - although this action must be taken quickly. The administration of progesterone to reverse the abortion pill regimen has not been specifically approved by the FDA, although many pro-life medical professionals consider it safe.

Live Action advertises a hotline for women seeking to potentially reverse the first step of a chemical abortion, with a physician available to help women. 

On Sept. 13, according to Live Action president Lila Rose, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s advertisements for abortion pill reversal, claiming they were “unreliable” and contained false information. The advertisements had been running for more than four months and had previously been approved by Google, she said. One of the 18 ads has since been reinstated, she said. 

Google also pulled ads promoting Live Action’s “Baby Olivia” video, a three-minute narrated look at the development of a baby in utero from fertilization until birth.

According to the president of the pro-life group Heartbeat International - which operates a 24-hour hotline for women seeking abortion pill reversal - calls to the hotline have dropped significantly since the abortion pill reversal ads were removed from Google.

“As of this morning, none of our APR [abortion pill reversal] ads or Live Action's are running,” Jor-El Godsey told CNA on Friday, noting that calls to the group’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network hotline had dropped by 75%, and chats had dropped by almost 100%.

“What we are getting is coming from organic search, small third party advertisers, and sidewalk counselor outreach,” he said. 

Google, in blocking the ads, cited a brief from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which called abortion pill reversal treatments “unproven and unethical.” The brief failed to cite any controlled studies done on the procedure. ACOG has released statements in the past advocating for increased access to abortion, and has pushed in court for the federal government to deregulate the abortion pill regimen. 

The reversal regimen, promoted by Live Action and other pro-life medical professionals, “involves an FDA-approved, bioidentical pregnancy hormone called progesterone that has been used for dozens of years to prevent miscarriage and has already saved thousands of lives,” Rose said. 

If an ultrasound confirms the unborn baby is still viable, the mother is given a large dose of progesterone to reverse the effects of mifepristone, with additional doses of progesterone needed throughout the first trimester.

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Each woman who undergoes an attempt to reverse her abortion is also referred to a help center for support throughout the remainder of her pregnancy.

The American Association of Pro-Life Gynecologists and Obstetricians (AAPLOG) has expressed support for the abortion pill reversal regimen, describing progesterone as an “antidote” to the mifepristone and noting that “There is a very long and solid history of safety of the use of natural progesterone in pregnancy.”

“[D]uring the development of Mifeprex, it was clearly demonstrated that Mifeprex is a REVERSIBLE blocker of progesterone,” the group said. 

"Google continues to deny women the choice to choose to keep their baby,” Godsey told CNA on Thursday. 

“Denying them the ability to find Abortion Pill Reversal is forcing these women to go through with an abortion they no longer want. More than 2,500 women have made this choice all ready. Google should not stand in the way of those seeking reversal help today."

Heartbeat International claims that more than 2,000 women have successfully used the abortion pill reversal to stop an abortion. 

A study published in 2018 in Issues in Law and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal affiliated with the pro-life organization Watson Bowes Research Institute, examined 261 successful abortion pill reversals. It showed that the reversal success rates were 68% with a high-dose oral progesterone protocol, and 64% with an injected progesterone protocol.

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Dr. Mary Davenport and Dr. George Delgado, who have been studying the abortion pill reversal procedures since 2009, wrote the study. Delgado sits on the board of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and co-founded the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. 

Delgado told the Washington Post that he believed more research should be done on abortion pill reversal, but that he believes there should be nothing to stop doctors from using the progesterone protocol in the meantime.

“[T]he science is good enough that, since we have no alternative therapy and we know it's safe, we should go with it,” he said.

The director of a women’s clinic in Denver told CNA in April 2018 that she has found the abortion pill reversal protocol to be safe and effective with her patients, and her clinic has successfully treated several women who come in seeking a reversal after taking the first pill.

“I think the fact that we have now over 300 successful reversals is evidence that it works,” nurse practitioner Dede Chism, co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado, told CNA at the time.

Disclaimer: CNA’s Executive Director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a board member of Heartbeat International