California sues anti-abortion groups for saying pregnancy-ending pill can be reversed (1) Is is not a crime to wilfully disseminate misinformation that could lead to death and suffering?

22 September, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Below are extracts from a BBC news article, and a comment from me. Full text:


California is suing two anti-abortion organisations for telling patients they could reverse the effects of an abortion pill.

Heartbeat International (HBI) and RealOptions Obria claimed a high dose of the hormone progesterone could undo the effects of the mifepristone pill.

But the only clinical trial of the process was stopped after patients reported severe bleeding...

California's attorney general, Rob Bonta, accused the organisations of violating a law against fraudulent business practices in a complaint filed to Alameda County Superior Court.

"Those who are struggling with the complex decision to get an abortion deserve support and trustworthy guidance - not lies and misinformation," he said in a statement.


COMMENT (NPW): Work by HIFA and the New York Law School (2012) concluded that governments have an obligation under international human rights law to ensure their population has access to reliable healthcare information. Sadly, since then we have seen multiple cases whereby governments have not only failed to uphold this responsibility, they have actively promoted dangerous misinformation and undermined their own chief medical experts. Credit to the California government for taking action, but it is regrettable that they are doing so on the grounds of 'fraudulent business practices'. The real crime of the anti-abortion groups in this case is not fraudulent business practices, it is the wilful dissemination of very dangerous health misinformation that could lead to avoidable death and suffering. I would be interested to hear from any lawyers on HIFA: Is is not a crime to wilfully disseminate misinformation that could lead to death and suffering? If this is not already clearly stated in law, it should be. Presidents and policymakers, as well as civil society groups, should be held accountable.

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: