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Reversing an abortion: Here’s what a woman can do if she changes her mind

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There's a hotline -- and hope -- for women who want to reverse the effects of the abortion pill

The day after her abortion, Carrie Camilleri describes herself as having felt sadness, emptiness and, ultimately, regret. “I knew that day I had made a huge mistake,” she said. Although women tend to experience a range of emotions in the immediate aftermath of an abortion, Carrie’s feelings of grief and instant remorse are not uncommon. Many women find themselves uncertain about and even regretting the decision right after aborting their child. In fact, one study of post abortion women found that “At the time of the abortion, only 24 percent were happy with their decision, secure in their choice.”

Fortunately, for women whose method of abortion is the ingestion of the abortion pill, it’s now possible to spare their baby’s life if action is taken soon enough, and it starts by calling this hotline: 1-877-558-0333.

The organization is called Abortion Pill Reversal (APR), and came into existence through two physicians, Dr. Matt Harrison and Dr. George Delgado, who discovered the same treatment, although three years apart and on opposite ends of the country. “They had similar thought processes because they both worked with progesterone,” Sara Littlefield, executive director of APR explained.

The abortion pill, known as mifepristone, accounts for roughly 40 percent of abortions that take place before 10 weeks gestation. It acts by blocking the flow of progesterone, a hormone crucial to a woman’s reproductive system, particularly during pregnancy, since it sustains the life of the fetus.

“Both doctors knew that mifepristone could potentially be reversed by providing a woman with a high dose of progesterone to try to counteract that progesterone receptor blocker,” Littlefield said.

Today, 11 years after the first recorded reversal case, hotline nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through APR to answer calls from women who have second thoughts after taking the pill. The nurse then locates the nearest medical professional who is part of APR’s network and is able to prescribe the progesterone that may save the baby’s life.

But even with over 350 prescribers in the network throughout the country, some women still have to drive far distances to get to the nearest one. “One of my patients who has a healthy baby right now actually ended up driving two hours to get her treatment,” Caitlin Welsh, a nurse and volunteer for the APR hotline, said. For many women, receiving the progesterone can’t happen soon enough after they realize they’ve made a mistake and want to save their baby’s life.

“The hardest part is the time it takes to get all their information and actually get a doctor to be able to see them,” Welsh explained. “Each mom is so different. [There are] a lot of emotions, and some moms are really distraught, saying, ‘please help me’ and feeling like we really need to hurry up and do this.”

Ultimately, though, the chance to help these women in crisis is worth every second for the hotline nurses. “Right now I have two patients we got treatment for,” Welsh reported happily. “Both are in the end of their second trimester and have had healthy ultrasounds and are doing great.” For the mothers desperate to save their babies, APR’s actions are invaluable. “One of them sent me a picture of her ultrasound the other day saying it was a girl. She was so happy and … constantly thanking me and saying she hopes to meet me someday.”

“We like to call it a second chance at life,” Littlefield put it. “We’ve had some women [who] as soon as they’re sitting in their car outside of the clinic, start to feel that regret. I wonder how many women walk into the clinic uncertain about the choice they want to make, make that decision [to abort], and then realize, ‘That’s actually not the decision I was hoping to make.’”

Sadly, some of the women who contact the hotline choose to decide to ultimately follow through with their abortion.

“I’ve unfortunately had some moms who have called and you can usually tell in the tone of their voice that they’re not 100 percent [convinced] that they want to reverse the abortion,” Welsh said. “That’s really hard. Some of them have ended up following through … and taking the rest of their abortion pills.”

But APR’s nurses do not condemn those women, instead providing them with the help that’s available after the abortion takes place. According to Welsh, “I leave them with all the resources that they might need as far as post abortion healing.”

Another challenging aspect of the work is the possibility that the baby’s life cannot be saved. In describing one very difficult case, Welsh described: “She was really, really regretting [taking the pill], totally convicted, really wanted to reverse it.” Sadly, though, the baby did not survive. “It was really sad because she went back in and had an ultrasound and had already lost the baby.” When the grieving mother said to Welsh, “I just hope God forgives me,” Welsh lovingly reassured her of God’s unfathomable forgiveness.

Despite these unfortunate cases, APR’s remarkable mission is already making significant headway, even being in its early stages. “We’ve had over 300 successful cases,” Littlefield said. “That’s over 200 babies born, and over 100 babies on the way.”

Ultimately, the organization offers women something that so many of them feel robbed of after having an abortion: hope. It’s an effort to give mothers another chance to preserve the life within them. It’s mercy at its most vital, and it’s not going away any time soon.

For healthcare providers looking to join APR’s network, visit their website, www.abortionpillreversal.com, or email Sara Littlefield at apreversal@gmail.com.

And if you know someone who is considering an abortion or wants to reverse it, please share this number with them: 1-877-558-0333.

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