A scientific paper that raised concerns about the safety of the abortion pill mifepristone was retracted by its publisher this week. The study was cited three times by Federal Judge Kacsmaryk, of the Norther District of Texas, who ruled against mifepristone last spring. That case, which could limit access to mifepristone throughout the country, will soon be heard in the Supreme Court.
The now retracted study used Medicaid claims data to track E.R. visits by patients in the month after having an abortion. The study found a much higher rate of complications than similar studies that have examined abortion safety.
Sage, the publisher of the journal, retracted the study on Monday along with two other papers, explaining in a statement that “expert reviewers found that the studies demonstrate a lack of scientific rigor that invalidates or renders unreliable the authors’ conclusions.” It also noted that most of the authors on the paper worked for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of anti-abortion lobbying group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and that one of the original peer reviewers had also worked for the Lozier Institute.
According to Sage, a reader contacted the journal with concerns about misleading presentations of data in the 2021 article on mifepristone. The person also questioned whether the authors’ affiliations with pro-life advocacy organizations, including the Charlotte Lozier Institute, present conflicts of interest that the authors should have disclosed in the article.
In a retraction notice published on February 5, Sage said an independent reviewer with expertise in statistical analyses evaluated the concerns and concluded that the article’s presentation of the data in certain figures leads to an inaccurate conclusion. The reviewer also found that “the composition of the cohort studied has problems that could affect the article’s conclusions,” according to Sage.
As part of the publisher’s investigation, Sage said, two subject matter experts conducted an independent post-publication peer review of the three articles and found that they “demonstrate a lack of scientific rigor.” In the 2021 and 2022 articles, the reviewers found problems with the study design and methodology, errors in the authors’ analysis of the data, and misleading presentations of the data. In the 2019 article, the experts identified unsupported assumptions and misleading presentations of the findings.
“I can’t prove that there was intent to deceive, but I struggled to find an alternative reason to present your data in such a way that exaggerates the magnitude,” pharmaceutical sciences professor Chris Adkins told States Newsroom at the time. “They’re misrepresenting its conclusions to begin with.”
The willingly duped Republican Judge Kacsmaryk. Kacsmaryk was once deputy counsel for the First Liberty Institute, the Plano-based conservative Christian law firm.
When anti-abortion groups wanted to challenge the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of an abortion-inducing drug, they didn’t file the lawsuit in Maryland, where the FDA is headquartered, or in any state where the pill is still legally prescribed.
They filed it in Amarillo, a Texas city that didn’t have an abortion clinic even before the state all but banned the procedure.
But Amarillo does have a federal courthouse with, importantly, just one federal judge presiding. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk hears 95% of the cases filed in Amarillo.
Kacsmaryk was appointed by now citizen Trump.