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On January 29, the Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments to be held in March for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, a case challenging decisions by the FDA to eliminate key regulations of the abortion drug mifepristone. Just one week later, a key study on mifepristone safety – which I coauthored – was retracted.

As far as I know, ours is the only study to measure total emergency room visits, and the subset specifically related to abortion, among women on Medicaid in the 30 days following an abortion. We found that the rate of ER visits was much higher with abortion drugs than for surgical abortions, and that rates for both methods of abortion have been increasing.

The retraction of that groundbreaking study (along with two others I coauthored at the same journal owned by Sage Publications) didn’t come out of the blue. Our research team had been informed that Sage had received a complaint from a single unnamed reader and opened an investigation into our work. But the retractions were baffling, because we had already responded to all of Sage’s concerns in full.

Sage’s justification for reopening review of our papers and then declaring them flawed was based on two allegations. First, Sage claimed that the authors had “undisclosed conflicts of interest,” since many of us are affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute (“CLI”), a pro-life research institution. However, as part of the submission process, we fully disclosed all relevant information, including our affiliations and the source of funding for the studies. We even included a short biography for each author with additional details on our work.

Second, Sage said that the original peer-review process had been “compromised,” since Sage claims that one of the anonymous reviewers was also affiliated with CLI. But if there was a breakdown in the peer-review process, there is nothing we as the authors could have done to stop it. The journal uses double-anonymized peer-review, meaning authors don’t know who the reviewers are and reviewers don’t know who the authors are. On top of that, Sage had exclusive control of the review process including the selection of the reviewers, not CLI. We still don’t know who this particular reviewer was, or whether he or she was even truly connected to CLI. Regardless, the other original reviewers and the journal editor agreed that our papers should be published.

Still, after the expression of concern from the unnamed reader had been raised, Sage brought in a new team of anonymous reviewers, and we closely reviewed and carefully responded to the methodological issues they raised. Upon closer examination, they turned out not to be issues at all. Sage failed to identify a single error or miscalculation in our work, and none of the criticisms undermined the core of our findings. Sage’s decision to move forward with the retractions was bewildering.

Retraction is a very serious step that damages the reputations and credibility of the researchers whose work is affected. But it’s not just my reputation that worries me. Few people go to work for a pro-life group expecting accolades from academia. Instead, I’m more concerned about the damage that decisions like this do to science in general.

We should be able to trust the scientific process to be impartial, focused on truth rather than opinion. Peer-reviewed journals are supposed to serve as the gold standard for scientific publication, ensuring that published studies are rigorous and reliable. But too often, journals seem to be focused more on barring “wrong” ideas from seeing the light of day.

We don’t know what went on behind the scenes in Sage’s decision to retract our work. Sage has shared only short excerpts from the reviews of the anonymous experts they called in to evaluate our studies. The name of the original complainant was never shared with us, although he was later identified in the media as a pro-abortion pharmacist disturbed that our work was having an impact in court. But it’s hard not to be disheartened by the timing, with the retractions coming just after a date was set for oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

And it’s discouraging that of all the studies published in Sage journals by researchers affiliated with organizations with public positions on abortion, apparently only those with a pro-life viewpoint are deemed to have a conflict of interest.

Most of all, I’m concerned about the impact this has on young women like me. Our research team has been attacked on multiple points, but no one has challenged our finding that drug-induced abortions are significantly more likely than surgical abortions to land women in the ER. Women deserve to know this, and now, the information is harder than ever to find.

Retracting our studies doesn’t erase the truth. Abortion drugs carry risks, and these risks have only increased as this method of abortion has become widespread and as the FDA has rolled back critical safeguards.

Sage may have hoped to silence us – but it’s American women who are the real losers.

Tessa Longbons is a Senior Research Associate for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.