By Katie Franklin
When Dr. Christina Francis learned about the abortion pill reversal protocol years ago, “it just made sense.”
She was at a conference, listening to a talk by physician George Delgado, when everything clicked.
The protocol, which attempts to restabilize a pregnancy and save an unborn baby from a chemical abortion, relies on progesterone, a natural hormone used to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
The science seemed obvious to Francis, an OB-GYN who was familiar with progesterone’s longtime use in fertility treatments. So she signed up to be a part of what was then a much smaller network of physicians offering the protocol and awaited the day a woman would need her help.
That day came about one year later when Francis was leaving a pro-life speaking event. She was just walking back to her car when her cell phone rang. The nurse on the other end was from the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, and she had a young woman in the area who was hoping to reverse her in-progress chemical abortion.
After consulting with the patient over the phone, Francis began the reversal process by prescribing her patient progesterone. She met with the patient, “Michelle,” in her office the next day and confirmed that her baby was still very much alive using an obstetric ultrasound.
Francis asked Michelle if she would be willing to share about her experience getting an abortion and what changed her mind. And so, the story unfolded.
Michelle had never in her life imagined having an abortion. But when she discovered she was pregnant at a time when she and her fiancé weren’t ready to start a family, she found herself at Planned Parenthood.
At her first appointment, she received counseling in a group setting. The women were told they could ask questions, but Michelle felt too self-conscious to ask questions and too embarrassed to be there in the first place. The experience was mortifying.
The next day, Michelle returned to Planned Parenthood for her second appointment. It was then that she saw her baby alive on an ultrasound scan. Seeing her baby gave her pause as she realized what she was doing. But a moment later, a worker came in with the first chemical abortion drug.
Caught between emotions, Michelle swallowed the pill and walked out of the clinic. The second the door closed behind her, regret set in.
As soon as she got home, she turned to the internet for a possible solution. “Can I reverse my abortion?” she typed into Google’s search bar. And up popped what is now abortionpillrescue.com.
Michelle called the hotline number she found on the website (877-558-0333) and was eventually connected to Francis.
That call ended up saving her baby’s life.
By Far, The Best
Francis continued to care for Michelle and her baby throughout the rest of her pregnancy. Both of her patients did “great” through the progesterone treatments and beyond.
“I joked around with [Michelle] that we did a little too good a job keeping her baby inside of her because she went about a week past her due date,” Francis said.
When it came time to deliver Michelle’s baby, Francis was taken by the moment.
“In my career, I’ve delivered thousands of babies,” she said. “But it, by far, was one of the best deliveries I’ve ever done. Just knowing that, had we not intervened, that little boy wouldn’t have been there.”
Michelle, too, was struck by the real-life impact of her decision to reverse her chemical abortion.
“It certainly was a very special thing for her, I think, knowing that that baby wouldn’t have been there, had she not done that,” Francis said.
So grateful was Michelle for the ability to change her mind and save her child’s life that she granted Francis permission to share her story publicly, in hopes that one day, her story would help other women in similar circumstances.
Since helping Michelle deliver her baby, Francis has been working to make a difference in the laws of her home state, Indiana.
As a board member of Indiana Right to Life and the board chair for the American Association of Pro-life OB-GYNs (AAPLOG), she has testified in favor of laws that help to ensure a woman’s full informed consent before an abortion.
One law requires that women receive counseling in private, rather than a group setting, and another requires that their ultrasound is performed 18 hours ahead of the abortion rather than the day of the abortion.
Now, Francis is advocating for Indiana Right to Life’s bill on abortion pill reversal. Passed last month by the Indiana House of Representatives, HB 1577 would require that women are told about the possibility of reversing their chemical abortion ahead of the procedure. Francis testified in favor of the bill.
“Importantly, this bill would not mean that women have to choose this option,” she said during her testimony. “It would just ensure that those who regret their decision would have a ray of hope of being able to save their child.”
Because there is such a short window of time during which abortion pill reversal is effective at saving an unborn baby’s life, Francis believes this legislation is all the more critical.
“Women shouldn’t have to go home and Google,” she said. “This is a time sensitive issue.”
According to a large study conducted by Delgado in 2018, abortion pill reversal is most effective if begun within 72 hours of taking the first abortion drug and before taking the second drug.
Mifepristone, the first drug which Michelle took, works by blocking a woman’s progesterone receptors, starving the unborn baby of the hormone needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The second drug, typically misoprostol, finishes the abortion, forcing the woman to deliver her deceased baby. This often occurs at home.
However, if a woman calls the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (877-558-0333) before taking the second drug, there may be hope. When administered within 72 hours after taking mifepristone, the reversal protocol has a 68 percent success rate in saving unborn babies. So far, the protocol has rescued more than 2,000 babies from an in-progress chemical abortion.
“If women were given that information at the time they went into the clinic, then they would be able to access this treatment readily if they decided they wanted to reverse it,” Francis said. “I think a lot of women just don’t know that it exists and would choose to take advantage of it if they did.”
That knowledge, she said, is a key component of informed consent.
“This is about giving them choices,” she said. “This is about helping them to know that this is an option. It’s not about forcing them to do it. It’s just about informing them that it’s an option if they choose to do so. So really, opponents of this are limiting women’s choices. They’re not pro-choice, they’re limiting women’s choices.”
Not only that, but Francis says they are also limiting women to the experience of lifelong remorse and long-term mental health effects. Abortion pill reversal offers women another way.
“Instead of living with a lifetime of regret, it gives them the chance to build a lifetime of memories with their child,” she said.