Key study in FDA abortion pill case at the Supreme Court was retracted in ‘partisan assault’ authors say
A key study in the case against the FDA’s abortion pill approval at the Supreme Court has been retracted from an academic journal, and its authors say the move is an ‘unprovoked and partisan assault’ on scientific research.
On March 26, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case challenging access to the abortion pill and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory approval process. The FDA made several moves, intending to make it easier to access and use the mifepristone pill in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.
Legal arguments against the FDA’s push have cited a study published in 2021 which found that the rate of abortion-related emergency room visits following a chemical abortion increased over 500% from 2002 through 2015, according to an analysis of Medicaid claims data. That study was published by Sage Publishing, an academic publishing company.
However, on Monday, Sage announced it had retracted that 2021 study and two others, citing that the authors of the study failed to list their associations with pro-life organizations as a conflict of interest.
The author of the emergency room study, Dr. Jim Studnicki, is the vice president of data analytics for the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), who was trained at Johns Hopkins University. He has a 50-year career conducting scientific research and has 70 peer-reviewed studies indexed in PubMed.
CLI is a non-profit research arm of the Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America group – one of the most successful pro-life advocacy groups in the country. CLI says they are a network of over 70 associate scholars who are ‘credentialed experts in medicine, statistical analysis, sociology, science, bioethics, public health, law, and social services for women and families.’
Roughly two years after the study was published, an initially anonymous reader wrote to Sage with a concern that the graphs and figures in the study misrepresented data and that Dr. Studnicki did not appropriately disclose his affiliations with a pro-life group. CLI responded to the concern, saying that ‘no errors, miscalculations or deceptive practices are identified.’
CLI also said that ‘the affiliations of all authors are documented in the paper. In addition, a bio sketch for each author is included with the paper. Funding support for the research from CLI is also disclosed.’
CLI notes in its response that part of the Committee on Publication Ethics’ definition of conflict of interest describes ‘those which may not be fully apparent, and which may influence the judgment of author, reviewers, and editors’ and ‘which, when revealed later, would make a reasonable reader feel misled or deceived.’
‘All relevant information was fully disclosed,’ CLI said.
CLI continued in its response to Sage that ‘This paper is the single most read in the journal Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology. It has been repeatedly referenced in legal cases and legislative discourse in many states. It has enriched the scientific discourse on the relative safety of chemical induced abortion.’
‘Most importantly, it is excellent science, and the methods and findings are unchallenged. We respectfully ask that you not allow ideologically motivated and unsubstantiated ‘concerns’ to damage the reputation of this work and its authors,’ they said.
Four months later, with very little communication in the meantime, Sage notified CLI they were retracting the three studies.
In response to an inquiry from Fox News Digital, Sage Publishing referred to its retraction notification which cites ‘undeclared conflicts of interest’ and ‘lack of scientific rigor.’
However, lawyers representing CLI told the publishing firm that ‘the allegations raised in support of retraction are not only procedurally flawed but meritless, and Sage’s actions are unlawful.’
‘Your decision also reflects a regrettable pattern of using scientific publications as a sword against unpopular findings—regardless of their objectivity. This further undermines the public’s confidence in scientific bodies and does a disservice to your mission to ‘advance knowledge,’’ CLI’s lawyer David A. Shaneyfelt wrote in a letter to Sage in November.
‘Our clients have spent their careers building credibility and engaging in objective scientific discovery. Your decision to retract their articles, your recurring breach of confidentiality, and your blatant breach of contract have already done palpable damage to their reputation,’ Shaneyfelt wrote.
He also alleged that the timing of the retraction was ‘concerning,’ considering the studies’ connection to the Supreme Court case Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA.
Dr. Studnicki said in a statement to Fox News Digital, ‘I think Dobbs really accelerated this, there’s a sense of desperation among those in the abortion industry. They’ve always had the literature to themselves. All of the major health associations are pro-abortion, most of the journals are pro-abortion, all the academic departments in the universities are pro-abortion.’
‘It’s profoundly sad to me what is going on in science today. I’m at a point in my life, at 80 years old, where they won’t damage me,’ he said. ‘But what if I was a mid-career faculty member or someone aiming for tenure or trying to raise a family? Right now, the science industry’s message appears to be – ‘if we can do this to Dr. Studnicki, who’s had a 50-year career without blemish, imagine what we can do to you.’’
Tessa Longbons, a senior research associate for CLI, 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,’ she said.
‘Scientific research and publication should be grounded in science, not driven by ideology,’ she added.
The authors of the study told Fox News Digital they will be taking appropriate legal action.