Abortion interrupted

Julie Filby

A primary source for this story chose to remain anonymous to maintain her privacy. The Denver Catholic Register changed her name to “Kim” to accommodate her request.

Kim, 32, was frantic when she left the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fort Collins Saturday afternoon. As soon as she took the first dose of the abortion pill, she knew she’d made a mistake. She pulled over in a nearby church parking lot.

“I started trying to throw up right away,” she said, struggling to speak as she recalled the traumatic day last September when she was grappling with how to proceed with her pregnancy. “I just kept forcing myself to throw up until I couldn’t taste the pill anymore.”

At the same time, she searched the Internet for “abortion reversal” on her smartphone. That search landed her at www.abortionpillreversal.com and their 24-7 hotline. Her call ultimately connected her with Dr. Edwin Anselmi, a physician with Our Lady of Hope Medical Clinic in Centennial.

Anselmi advised her to come directly to the clinic. About two hours had elapsed from the time she took the pill when she arrived at his office. There he examined her, did an ultrasound—including listening to the baby’s heartbeat—and immediately began a protocol to reverse the effects of the drug.

Dr. Edwin Anselmi at his Centennial clinic, Our Lady of Hope.

Dr. Edwin Anselmi at his Centennial clinic, Our Lady of Hope.

How it works
Kim had taken mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill. It has been available in the United States as an oral tablet since 2000 and is also referred to as RU-486 and the brand name Mifiprex. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it can be used to terminate a pregnancy up to 49 days after the first day of the last menstrual period.

Kim was about nine weeks along when she took it. The drug is administered under supervision in a medical facility, in her case at Planned Parenthood; and it induces abortion by counteracting the hormone progesterone needed to maintain a pregnancy. Without progesterone, placenta—a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy—fails, cutting off oxygen and nutrition to an embryo.

“When I went in they were still giving me the option of the pill or the machine,” she said. “They were really pushing the machine saying ‘We all agree we’d do the machine, it’s less emotional.’”

“The machine” is a suction device that empties the uterus, commonly called aspiration or vacuum aspiration. Planned Parenthood personnel recommended it as a way to “get it over-with,” “get it done fast,” she said.

However Kim chose the pill, rationalizing that it wasn’t really an abortion.

“It will just look like a miscarriage,” she told herself. “I knew in my heart it was wrong. … I was praying the whole time.”

Just in time
God answered her prayers by connecting her with Anselmi before she continued to the next step of the abortion pill process. Following mifepristone, a second drug, misoprostol, is taken 36 to 72 hours later. Misoprostol causes contractions to expel the fetus, a process that can range from a few hours to a few days.

To block the effects of mifepristone, Anselmi launched a protocol developed by Doctors George Delgado and Mary Davenport described in their case study “Progesterone Use to Reverse the Effects of Mifepristone” published in “The Annals of Pharmacotherapy” December 2012. It involves progesterone injections for three consecutive days, followed by an injection every other day for two weeks, then continued progesterone twice a week until the end of the first trimester.

“He was amazing,” Kim said of Anselmi. “He was so kind and loving and gentle. He’s really an exceptional person.”

Anslemi, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Latin Rite Church in Littleton, has been practicing pro-life family medicine for 20 years since graduating from Columbia University in New York in 1994. He is currently the only doctor in the Denver-metro area providing the progesterone protocol to reverse the abortion pill, though he would like to see more join the network started by Delgado that currently stands at 140 doctors across the country.

“If you’re pro-life,” he said. “Here’s something you can do directly. I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been (with Kim) if we didn’t give her progesterone.”

What the future holds
Kim, now 32 weeks pregnant, is excited to welcome her son in early May, along with his father. The couple plans to marry next summer. When facing the reality of an unexpected pregnancy last August, she was between jobs, had no health insurance, and was considering moving from Denver. Today she is employed full-time, secure in her relationship and “at peace.”

“I’ve had a lot of anxiety,” she said. “But at the same time I know God is the one with the ultimate say here. So far, he’s done nothing but carry me and carry the baby. … It took me a while to get here, but now I’m really excited, I’m really happy.”

Anselmi has been contacted by two other women: in one case he successfully reversed the abortion pill two days after the patient ingested mifepristone; and the other woman called with questions but in the end, did not receive treatment.

Since the website was established in January 2013, 330 women have called the hotline seeking abortion reversal counseling, 100 of them received the progesterone protocol, and 60 of those pregnancies continued.

“We have 18 living babies and 42 pregnant moms right now,” according to Debbie Bradel, coordinator of the program.

“If there’s any way to help a woman that wants to keep her pregnancy, I want to do it,” said Anselmi, who provides the progesterone at no charge. “Babies are so precious.”

For more information, visit www.abortionpillreversal.com or call 877-558-0333.

COMING UP: A man for strengthening others

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When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father’s House on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion.  Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon Ecce sacerdos magnus as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner’s composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski’s rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the a capella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner’s motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: “a great priest who in his days pleased  God.”

We were friends for some 30 years and I can say without reservation that I have never met anyone like Paul Mankowski. He was off-the-charts brilliant, an extraordinary linguist and scholar; but he wore his learning lightly and was a tremendous wit. He rarely expressed doubts about anything; but he displayed a great sensitivity to the doubts and confusions of those who had the humility to confess that they were at sea. He could be as fierce as Jeremiah in denouncing injustice and dishonesty; but the compassion he displayed to spiritually wounded fellow-priests and laity, who sought healing through the work of grace at his hands, was just as notable a feature of his personality.

His curriculum vitae was singular. The son of working-class parents, he put himself through the University of Chicago working summers in a steel mill. He did advanced degrees at Oxford and Harvard, becoming the sparring partner of a future Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, at the former, and delving deeply into the mysteries of Semitic philology – unfathomable, to most of his friends – at the latter. He taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was pastor of an English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan. Wherever he was, he lived like a true ascetic; he was also the best company imaginable at a meal or a party.

He was a writer of genius, although his published bibliography is considerably slimmer than it might have been, thanks to the years when he was silenced or censored by his religious superiors. A good example of his ability to combine keen insight and droll humor is his 1992 dissection of the goings-on at the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion (available here). More recently, Father Mankowski drew on his extensive experience as a confessor and spiritual director to pen, with his superiors’ permission, a respectful but sharp critique of his fellow Jesuit James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge (available here). In the decades between those two pieces, and when permitted to do so, he published essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, Church affairs, biblical translations and the priesthood, while sharing his private musings with friends in a seemingly endless series of pungent parodies, revised song lyrics, and imagined news stories.

Years ago, his friend Father Richard John Neuhaus dubbed Father Mankowski one of the “Papal Bulls:” Jesuits of a certain generation notable for their intellectually sophisticated and unwavering Catholic orthodoxy, which often got them into hot water of various temperatures (including boiling) with their Ignatian brothers and superiors. Paul Mankowski was no bull, papal or otherwise, in a china shop, though. He relished debate and was courteous in it; what he found off-putting was the unwillingness of Catholic progressives to fight their corner with a frank delineation of their position. This struck him as a form of hypocrisy. And while Father Mankowski, the good shepherd, often brought strays back to the Lord’s flock, he was unsparingly candid about what he perceived as intellectual dishonesty, or what he recently deplored as “ignoble timidity” in facing clerical corruption. Paul Mankowski was not a man of the subjunctive, and he paid the price for it.

He is beyond all that now, and I like to imagine St. Ignatius of Loyola welcoming him to the Father’s House with a hearty “Well done, my son.” In this valley of tears, freshly moistened by those who mourn his untimely death at age 66, Father Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, will be remembered by those of us who loved him as a man and a priest who, remaining faithful to his Jesuit and sacerdotal vocations, became a tower of strength for others. This was a man of God. This was a man, whose courageous manliness reflected his godliness.