CNA Staff, Mar 25, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).- An international pro-life group on Thursday rejected claims about its abortion pill reversal service published by a U.K.-based political website.

Heartbeat International (HBI), which describes itself as the largest network of pro-life pregnancy help in the world, was accused of providing the service internationally without the approval of local medical authorities in a series of reports on the website openDemocracy.

The group said that it had noticed an influx of unusual inquiries before the reports appeared, leading it to suspect that reporters were posing as clients of the service. It added that it nevertheless responded to the requests in good faith.

In a March 25 statement, HBI president Jor-El Godsey said: “No woman should be forced to complete a medical procedure they no longer want.”

“It’s unconscionable to be lectured by the champions of ‘choice’ about denying women the choice to try to save their baby. Their efforts are more about protecting Big Abortion than helping women.”

“This group has not spent one moment investigating the sale of baby body parts, and instead devotes time and resources to hinder pro-life, non-profit charitable work that is trying to help women seeking to reverse their chemical abortion.”

The U.K.-based website posted four articles on its website March 25, written by the “openDemocracy 50.50” team, which produces “feminist investigative journalism & frontline reporting.”

The main report was headlined “UK women are being ‘used as guinea pigs’ by ‘abortion reversal’ doctors.” It was accompanied by reports titled “Revealed: Doctors worldwide offer ‘dangerous’ treatment to ‘reverse’ abortions,” “‘Abortion pill reversal’ spreading in Europe, backed by US Christian right,” and “‘Misleading and wrong’: South African experts condemn ‘abortion pill reversal.’”

The website said that “openDemocracy undercover reporters on four continents,” including eight European countries, contacted HBI’s abortion pill reversal hotline. It added that “European and British parliamentarians” were calling for the operation to be shut down.

HBI, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, and was established in 1971, says it has links to more than 2,800 affiliated locations in over 60 countries.

Its mission is “to reach and rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to renew communities for life in order to achieve their vision of making abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.”

HBI explains that its Abortion Pill Rescue Network “connects women who regret taking the first dose of the abortion pill regimen to a network of medical professionals trained to administer the reversal protocol.”

It says that from 2019 to 2020, the number of abortion pill reversal starts increased 91% and that about 150 women now begin the protocol every month.

In response to questions from openDemocracy, the organization said: “Every woman deserves to know the whole truth about abortion; that includes the facts about her unborn child, and the choices she can make every step of the way.”

“Abortion pill reversal is a cutting-edge application of a time-tested, FDA-approved treatment used for decades to prevent miscarriage and preterm birth. It involves emergency, ongoing doses of progesterone to counteract the effects of the first abortion pill.”

Asked to comment on a U.S. study of abortion pill reversal treatment that was stopped in 2019 after some participants were admitted to emergency rooms, HBI said that the principal investigator on the study, Mitchell D. Creinin, M.D., of the University of California, Davis, was affiliated with Physicians for Reproductive Health. Creinin is listed among “Physician Members” on the organization’s website.

A 2018 article for The New England Journal of Medicine noted that Creinin “reports receiving consulting fees from Danco Laboratories.” Danco Laboratories distributes the abortifacient drug mifepristone under the brand name Mifeprex.

HBI argued that the 2019 Creinin study “actually showed that the abortion pill carries major health risks to a mother.” It pointed to an earlier study that the physician took part in which, it suggested, “showed that the abortion pill regimen resulted in the very type of hemorrhaging reported in Creinin’s latest study, confirming that the bleeding is attributable to mifepristone and not progesterone.”

Questioned about the ethics of abortion pill reversal, the pro-life group said: “Statistics show that more than 2,000 women have successfully stopped an abortion and saved their children through the life-saving intervention of abortion pill reversal.”

“The reversal protocol involves emergency, ongoing doses of progesterone — a hormone used with pregnant women safely every day by doctors to prevent miscarriage, preterm birth, and support ongoing pregnancy.”

The U.K.-based website ran a previous investigative report about HBI on Feb. 17, 2020. According to its report, openDemocracy sent undercover reporters to clinics supported by HBI in 18 countries, who said that they uncovered the spreading of misinformation at some of the clinics and in training materials.

HBI suggested at the time that the report was fueled by pro-choice bias.

In a statement, it said that HBI’s affiliates “must adhere to basic principles that affirm alternatives to abortion and ensure non-discrimination, but all other matters of policy and management remain under the direction of the centers’ local leadership, allowing for autonomy.”

In response, openDemocracy told CNA that it is “a global news outlet that produces responsible, fact-based reporting on a wide range of issues, including the economy, environment, democracy, politics and human rights. It is not part of any pro-abortion lobby and we have not ‘misreported’ any of our findings.”

The website, founded in 2001, describes itself as an independent global media organization that seeks “to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world.”

The site is published by openDemocracy Limited, a U.K.-registered company. According to its website, its supporters in 2020 included “Open Trust/Ford Foundation” and “Foundation Open Society Institute,” which it listed under contributors of “£100,000+” (more than $137,000).

Open Society Foundations is a grant-making network founded by the American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros.

The website, which has the tagline “free thinking for the world” highlights in its 2020-22 strategic plan how an investigation into “anti-abortion misinformation … impacted lawmakers, health authorities and media.”

Disclaimer: CNA’s Executive Director, Alejandro Bermúdez, is a board member of HBI.

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