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Cynthia's choice

"Cynthia's choice" Continued...

Issue: "Boston Terrorthon," May 4, 2013

In the end, he did: He gave Galvan progesterone shots until about 30 weeks into her pregnancy, and on Feb. 24, 2011, Christian Jacob Michel was born. At 6 pounds, 3 ounces, Christian was slightly premature, but had no complications except for jaundice, a common condition in preemies. Contrary to Planned Parenthood’s dire warnings, the baby had no birth defects. “The doctor told me he was born in a praying position,” with “his hands together,” Galvan says.

Last December, Delgado published the first case study and medical protocol for reversing the effects of the abortion pill in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy. The protocol gives doctors the first guidelines for reversing medical abortions, recommending the dosage and frequency of progesterone shots.

For the study, Delgado used information gleaned from Galvan’s treatment, along with patient data from five other NaProTechnology-trained doctors who also treated medical abortions with progesterone. Out of six patients (including Galvan), the doctors blocked four medical abortions, and the women went on to give birth to healthy, normal infants.

In two cases, the babies miscarried. Delgado isn’t sure why, but it’s possible the babies were already dead when treatment began: “The latest we’ve started with success has been 72 hours after taking mifepristone.”

Delgado isn’t aware of any readily available drugs that could reverse an RU-486 abortion once the second pill in the regimen is taken, which starts contractions. That means a woman who decides to have her abortion reversed must make up her mind promptly. (Delgado believes progesterone treatment might also block Ella, the “week-after” abortifacient pill, if started quickly enough.)

Christian’s story has a good ending, but many others don’t. Nearly 200,000 pregnancies in the United States less than nine weeks along ended in medical abortions in 2008, the last year for which data is available. Few women realize the RU-486 process can be reversed once begun.

Delgado hopes to change that. His clinic set up a website last September, AbortionPillReversal.com, with a hotline to give women information on the progesterone treatment and connect them to local doctors willing to give the shots.

Debbie Bradel, the nurse at Delgado’s clinic who answers the hotline, said between September and March more than 70 calls had come in through the website. Most callers are in their 20s and are sorry they took the abortion pill. But many tell her they’re worried about birth defects if they try to stop the abortion. Bradel informs them birth defects are possible but seem to be rare. Medical research indicates mifepristone, if it fails to end a baby’s life, carries a very low birth defect risk afterward.

If a caller wants to pursue abortion reversal, Bradel connects her with one of the four dozen doctors in her fast-growing network of physicians willing to give the progesterone shots. As of March Bradel had doctors in the network from 22 states, plus Nigeria and Australia. Of the women who had called and agreed to pursue abortion reversal, the doctors had saved at least 15 pregnancies. Bradel tries to follow up with all the hotline callers, but many don’t return her messages. “I just pray a lot. I can’t save the whole world.”

The world seems interested, though. “We’ve even had a call from a woman in Poland,” says Delgado.

Galvan is glad she’s among the saved ones. Even though Christian is “going through his terrible twos” right now, she can’t imagine life without him. Christian remembers names and is learning words in both Spanish and English. Galvan, now 22, and her boyfriend-turned-fiancé Michel (they plan to have a Catholic wedding this summer) have an apartment in San Diego, and both are going to school.

“It’s hard. You’re a teenager. Your friends are doing all these things and going out,” Galvan says of being a mom at 19. But she believes the responsibility of a child motivated her and her fiancé to grow up quickly: While her friends went to parties and drank alcohol, she and Michel thought about finding good jobs and supporting a family. Having Christian so young “hasn’t ruined our lives,” she says.

Galvan hopes other young women in crisis pregnancies will think of the joys their baby could one day bring: “It is a blessing … though you don’t see it at the moment.”

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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