Two of three studies cited by a judge in Texas in a ruling that reversed the federal approval of the abortion medication mifepristone have been retracted by the publisher of the scientific journal in which they were published.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in April 2023 in a lawsuit filed by the anti-abortion legal group Alliance Defending Freedom that challenged the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug.
In its retraction statement, Sage Publications said it chose to have an outside independent review of the 2021 article by the study’s lead author, James Studnicki, a vice president at the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute, after being alerted by a concerned reader.
Sage’s retraction notice said all but one of the authors had affiliations with what it called pro-life advocacy organizations Charlotte Lozier Institute, Elliot Institute, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and that they had said they had no conflicts of interest when they submitted the article to the publication.
Sage found that the peer review of the article was done by a person also affiliated with Charlotte Lozier Institute and that that person had additionally done the peer review of two articles by Studnicki published in 2022 and 2019.
The Sage statement concludes that two of the three articles by Studnicki had problems with methodology and data, along with incorrect factual assumptions, and contained misleading information, ultimately demonstrating a lack of scientific rigor that either calls into question or invalidates the authors’ conclusions.
One study published in 2021 referenced in Kacsmaryk’s ruling falsely claims that emergency visits are more common among pregnant people who obtain medical abortions than among those who have surgical abortions. Another study, also cited in the lawsuit, published in 2022, found that when a patient comes to an ER and does not disclose a prior abortion, it is “a significant risk factor for a subsequent hospital admission.”
According to a study published by Dr. Ushma Upadhyay and published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2015, when comparing women in California’s Medicaid programs who had obtained medical or surgical abortions and then ended up in emergency rooms, neither group had significant complications such as a blood transfusion, admission to the hospital, or surgery, and emergency room visits were extremely rare in either case. The complication rate for those who had medical abortions was 0.31%; for those who had surgical abortions, the rate was 0.16%.
“For about 5% of patients who have medication abortions, an additional procedure will be required to complete the abortion,” Upadhyay told FactCheck.org.
Studnicki and co-author Tessa Longbons said in a statement, according to Reuters, “The Charlotte Lozier Institute rejects this baseless attack on our scientific research and studies.”
Part of a two-drug regime, mifepristone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1988 and is currently used in over half of all abortions nationwide.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tells its members that mifepristone is safe for patients to use.
In their lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the plaintiffs, a group of doctors, cited the studies in arguing that they had legal standing due to possible legal jeopardy they could face by treating patients with mifepristone.
The case is set to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months, and a decision could come in 2024.