Publisher retracts chemical abortion studies before SCOTUS case on FDA approval

One of the largest US academic publishers has retracted scientific studies about the risks posed by chemical abortions that are part of an upcoming Supreme Court case — prompting the studies’ authors to accuse the publisher of caving to pro-choice activists.

On Feb. 5, Sage Publishing retracted a 2021 study in the journal Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology that found a 507% increase between 2002 and 2015 in emergency room visits following chemical abortions with the pill mifepristone, according to an analysis of Medicaid data.

Another 2022 study published in the same journal that was withdrawn showed how complications due to chemical abortions are frequently misclassified as miscarriages and pose “a significant risk factor for a subsequent hospital admission.”

Both studies were cited in US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision to halt the FDA’s approval of mifepristone in April 2023, a decision was later put on hold by the Supreme Court after an appeal from President Biden’s solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar.

Oral arguments in the the appeal are set to heard March 26. The FDA and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have both said that mifepristone is “safe” and “effective” in terminating pregnancies up to 70 days of gestation.

After Kacsmaryk’s ruling, the lead co-author of the studies, James Studnicki told The Post that he had received a note of concern from Sage in July 2023 that cited “potential issues regarding the representation of data in the article and author conflicts of interest,” as well as a conflict of interest with one of the original peer reviewers.

Studnicki and his co-authors were kept in the dark about the individual who had reported the concerns — who was revealed in a States Newsroom article as South University School of Pharmacy professor Chris Adkins — and were told later that year that both studies had been retracted.

The Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology journal also kicked Studnicki off its editorial board without explanation.

In a response letter, Studnicki blasted Sage for the decision, saying that no finding in the studies had been “explicitly challenged, let alone invalidated,” that there was “no evidence of an error, miscalculation, fabrication or falsification,” that the criteria for retraction had not been met under the publishing guidelines and therefore withdrawing the studies was “demonstrably unwarranted.”

Sage’s retraction notice claims the two studies and one other article did not accord with the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) standards and that a post-publication peer review had found “fundamental problems with the study design and methodology” that “demonstrate[d] a lack of scientific rigor and invalidate[d] the authors’ conclusions in whole or in part.”

Studnicki and two other co-authors, Tessa Longbons and Dr. Ingrid Skop, are affiliated with the Virginia-based Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research organization, which they disclosed on the front page of the studies.

Studnicki is currently vice president of data analytics at the group, and Skop, who serves as its vice president of medical affairs, is a board-certified OB-GYN with more than 30 years of experience. Longbons is a senior research associate.

All of them told The Post that the retractions were “unprecedented,” with Studnicki saying the expression of concern came across as someone “trying to harass us.

“I’ve done 50 years in academics working at three different universities, and I’ve never been involved in a retraction,” Studnicki said. “There is absolutely zero, nothing, no suggestions that this science is in any way inadequate or flawed.

Longbons said, “It also feels like such a double standard, because, of course, you know, one of the arguments they made was that we did not report our conflicts of interest.

“And none of us are making a lot of money off doing the work that we’re doing. But nonetheless, these researchers that work for Guttmacher Institute and other very vocal, pro-abortion organizations never report their conflicts.”

Skop also said of their research on the potential risks of chemical abortion complications, “It undercuts their narrative that it is so safe.

“And clearly, I think that’s why we were targeted.”

Longbons said, “This incident points to a larger, newer phenomenon, which is that many of our scientific institutions and publications no longer stand in defense of open inquiry.

“Rather, we’re seeing a biased elite faction across the medical community with all the power attempting to suppress any research that cuts against their approved, pro-abortion narrative. Scientific research and publication should be grounded in science, not driven by ideology.”

The Post has reached out to Sage reps for comment.

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