Cancel-Culture Science: Medical Journal Withdraws Studies That Document Abortion-Pill Harm

EDITORIAL: For the abortion lobby as a whole, ‘conflict-of-interest’ considerations can arise in only one direction.

Signs in opposition to abortion pills sit outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. The high court is scheduled to hear arguments in a key abortion-pill case on March 26, 2024.
Signs in opposition to abortion pills sit outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. The high court is scheduled to hear arguments in a key abortion-pill case on March 26, 2024. (photo: Bill Clark / AP)

On Feb. 5, in a shocking display of intellectual cowardice, a supposedly impartial medical journal announced that it was withdrawing three studies it had earlier published documenting the medical injuries that occur among women who take the abortion pill.

Why did Sage Publishing, which publishes a host of academic journals, instruct Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology to withdraw publication of these studies? It happened because a single abortion-rights activist complained about one of the three studies, triggering an investigation.

The central “flaw” that he flagged is the fact that the study was conducted by scientific researchers who work for pro-life organizations (as were the other two studies that have now been withdrawn). 

The activist, who is a professor of pharmaceutical science, contended that working for a pro-life group somehow constituted a “conflict of interest” that should have disqualified their findings from being published by a scientific journal. It was also claimed that the study’s researchers had failed to disclose their pro-life connections, even though the study stated clearly at its conclusion that it had been funded by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

The pro-abortion pharmaceutical professor wasn’t troubled by the reality that numerous other studies published by the same medical journal and by other Sage Publishing outlets have been authored by researchers who work for pro-abortion organizations, often without any disclosure of these affiliations. For this activist, as for the abortion lobby as a whole, “conflict-of-interest” considerations can arise in only one direction, when a scientist doesn’t share their own pro-abortion convictions.

The activist also cited some methodological issues that, in his view, undermine the studies’ findings regarding the substantial harms associated with use of the abortion pill.

While an assessment conducted by outside reviewers agreed that the studies had methodological shortcomings, the hypocritical “conflict-of-interest” issue raised by the activist appears to have been the primary reason behind the medical journal’s announcement that it had withdrawn all three abortion-pill studies. This obvious bias in favor of the abortion lobby’s perspectives was compounded with an additional move: In November, long before it had finalized its decision to withdraw the studies, James Studnicki, the lead research scientist of the three abortion-pill studies, was expelled from Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology’s editorial board.

In other words, in the judgment of a major publisher of scientific journals, pro-life convictions aren’t merely an impermissible “conflict” when it comes to publishing research related to abortion. They can also disqualify a researcher from expressing opinions about anything in one of their publications. 

Space doesn’t permit a comprehensive recapitulation here of the cynical process that led to this absurd outcome, but this Daily Wire article and the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s account of events provide a more detailed picture.

One aspect that’s crucial to understand is that the central finding of the withdrawn studies — that abortion pills can seriously injure women — is not in scientific dispute. These evil medications in effect artificially provoke a miscarriage, and the bleeding and other consequences associated with naturally occurring miscarriages not uncommonly require women to seek treatment at hospital emergency rooms and other medical facilities. 

It’s obvious that similar injuries necessarily will result from widespread use of mifepristone, the active ingredient in the abortion pill that is now responsible for more than half of all U.S. abortions. In fact, one of the three withdrawn articles found that as many as 60% of all visits to emergency rooms resulting from taking abortion pills are being miscoded by the hospitals as consequences of miscarriage.

Another significant aspect is the highly suspicious timing of the announcement of the withdrawal of the studies, coming just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a key abortion-pill case.

In that case, Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk cited the findings of one of the withdrawn studies in support of his ruling that revoked federal authorization of the use of mifepristone for abortions. Asked by the researchers in November whether the push to withdraw their studies was related to the impending Supreme Court consideration of Kacsmaryk’s decision, Sage huffed that it was “highly insulting” to suggest such a link between abortion politics and its decision-making. 

What Sage should actually regard as an insult is the obvious reality that the research-publishing entity has caved to the abortion lobby’s one-sided arguments. That’s not sound science — that’s cancel culture at its very worst.