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Why a flawed study on medication abortion was retracted

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Flawed study of abotion med retracted

Earlier this month, the academic publisher Sage retracted three studies that had run in one of its scientific journals, citing a “lack of scientific rigor.” One of these studies had received particular attention in the context of a court case attempting to restrict access to the medication abortion drug mifepristone — a case with potentially far-reaching implications that will soon be heard by the Supreme Court.

Taking a closer look at this study shows that the decision to retract it was justified — and exposes the larger context in which unsound science is used to drive an anti-abortion agenda in courts and legislatures.

Mifepristone is not a new drug. It was first approved by the FDA in 2000 and had been used globally long before then. The extensive approval process at the time — and over two decades of actual use in the U.S. since then — have provided overwhelming evidence that mifepristone is safe and effective, and that serious complications are very rare.

The retracted 2021 study claims that mifepristone has a much higher rate of complications than previous research had found — making the study a clear outlier in the larger body of evidence. A study that goes against the established scientific consensus does not necessarily mean it’s wrong, but it does mean its findings and methodology deserve close scrutiny. And that’s where the retracted study falls far short.


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