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Journal Articles Cited in Hate Groups’ Case Against FDA Retracted

The academic publisher Sage issued a notice of retractions on Feb. 5 for two articles the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) cites in its lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) challenging the agency’s approval of the abortion medication mifepristone.

Mifepristone is a progesterone-blocking drug first approved in 2000 as a nonsurgical prescription option for medical termination of a pregnancy. ADF filed the lawsuit on behalf of four groups, including the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). ADF and ACPeds have been accused of asserting dubious claims in legal filings challenging reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights.

In the notice – published more than a year after ADF filed the case – Sage pointed to “undeclared conflicts of interest” and “a lack of scientific rigor that invalidates or renders unreliable the authors’ conclusions” as reasons for retracting the articles.

ADF cited one study, published in the journal Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology in 2021, to claim medication abortions – what it referred to as “chemical abortions” - are “over fifty percent more likely than surgical abortions to result in an emergency department visit within thirty days.”

ADF cited another study, published in the same journal in 2022, to claim “chemical abortion” was “miscoded as miscarriage in the emergency room...sixty percent of the time” which created “significantly greater risk of needing multiple hospitalizations and follow-up surgery.”

Both papers, which “rely on the same dataset,” make “unjustified or incorrect factual assumptions, material errors in the authors’ analysis of the data, and misleading presentations of the data” that “invalidate the authors’ conclusions in whole or in part,” according to a Sage Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) review.

A representative from the FDA told Hatewatch it does not comment on possible, pending or ongoing litigation.

ADF did not respond to a request for comment, but ADF Senior Counsel Erik Baptist told ABC News in an email, "ADF has never relied on these studies for the issues that are currently before the Supreme Court, so this will not have any impact on the court's consideration."

CNN reported that the federal district court judge overseeing the case, Matthew Kacsmaryk, used claims derived from both studies to support his 2023 order suspending the use of mifepristone.

Questions about evidence

ADF and ACPeds have previously faced questions about the presentation of evidence in support of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ litigation. ACPeds, a group that splintered from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002 over its support for marriage equality, has been accused of cherry-picking data to support anti-abortion arguments in cases challenging reproductive rights. Hatewatch previously reported that former ACPeds president Dr. Quentin Van Meter misrepresented his credentials in court filings challenging LGBTQ+ health care in two cases between 2022 and 2023.

Hatewatch also reported that ADF solicited anti-trans “research” from ACPeds, asking the group to help find evidence to “substantiate” its legal claims challenging civil rights protections for transgender school students as early as 2014.

In 2023, ADF litigator Erin Morrow Hawley, spouse of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo, faced calls for sanctions after inconsistencies in a court filing became known in the case of a Colorado website designer challenging that state’s nondiscrimination protections for gay couples.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled the state’s nondiscrimination law would unconstitutionally “compel” the web designer to “express messages contrary to her beliefs,” according to Oyez. Erin Morrow Hawley is listed as a member of the ADF legal team challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.

Creede Newton contributed to this report.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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