https://reveal-player.s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/826_Reveal_A_Block_PC.mp3

Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that gave women in the U.S. the legal right to an abortion, has now been officially overturned. The Supreme Court rarely reverses itself. The ruling means states can set their own laws around abortion. Many plan to ban it outright. How did we get to this point? 

For decades, mostly White Evangelicals and Catholics joined forces to put political pressure on Republicans to oppose abortion access – which has serious implications for communities of color. Reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes talks with Jennifer Holland, a history professor and author of the book “Tiny You: A Western History of the Anti-Abortion Movement,” and Khiara Bridges, a reproductive justice scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, about the racial dynamics of the fight over abortion. 

Most abortions now happen with pills rather than a surgical procedure at a clinic. The ability to get the pills via mail and telehealth appointments has helped expand access to abortions. Now, religious anti-abortion activists are promoting the unproven idea that medication abortions can be reversed. Reporters Amy Littlefield and Sofia Resnick investigate the science and history of this controversial treatment called abortion pill reversal.

But there’s another religious voice that often gets drowned out by the anti-abortion movement. Reveal’s Grace Oldham visits the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, which back in the late ’60s was part of a national hotline for people seeking an abortion. Callers could be connected with clergy members who would counsel them and give a referral to a trusted doctor who would safely perform abortions. We hear how the church is continuing its legacy of supporting abortion access today, helping people in Texas who want abortions get them out of state.

Dig Deeper

Explore: What Abortion Looks Like in Every State – Right Now (The 19th)

Read: Facebook and Anti-Abortion Clinics Are Collecting Highly Sensitive Info on Would-Be Patients (Reveal)

Read: Abortion’s Last Stand in the South: A Post-Roe Future Is Already Happening in Florida (Reveal)

Listen: Crossing the Line: The Fight Over Roe (Reveal)

Credits

Reporters: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Amy Littlefield, Sofia Resnick and Grace Oldham (Roy W. Howard Investigative Reporting Fellow) | Lead producer: Katharine Mieszkowski | Producers: Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Jess Alvarenga and Richard Yeh | Editors: Cynthia Rodriguez and Jenny Casas | Fact checkers: Nikki Frick and Kim Freda | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Original score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Kathryn Styer Martinez | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson 

Special thanks: Reveal’s features editor, Nina Martin, and Emily Harris, plus the Physicians for Reproductive Health and Choice Project at the Columbia University Center for Oral History, which provided the archived audio of the Rev. Howard Moody.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Speaker 1:Reveal is brought to you by Progressive. Have you tried The Name-Your-Price Tool, yet? It works just the way it sounds. You tell Progressive how much you want to pay for car insurance, and they’ll show you coverage options that fit your budget. It’s easy to start a quote, and you’ll be able to find a rate that works for you. It’s just one of the many ways you can save with Progressive. Get your quote today at Progressive.com, and see why four out of five new auto customers recommend Progressive. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. Price and coverage match limited by state law.
Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. After almost 50 years, women in the U.S. will no longer have the constitutional right to an abortion. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that Roe v. Wade was egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided. It’s a dramatic reversal of this historic moment in the 1970s. At the time, Sarah Weddington is 27 years old. She’s standing in front of nine Supreme Court justices, all men. She’s there to argue that all women in the United States should have a constitutional right to safe and legal abortions.
Sarah Weddingto…:We do not ask this court to rule that abortion is good or desirable in any particular situation. We are here to advocate that the decision as to whether or not a particular woman will continue to carry or will terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by that individual. That, in fact, she has a constitutional right to make that decision for herself.
Al Letson:Seven justices agreed with Weddington. Only two dissented. Walter Cronkite delivered the news.
Reverand Howard…:Good evening. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court today legalized abortions. The majority-
Al Letson:Up until this moment, abortion was largely unavailable outside of four states.
Speaker 5:The basic legal fight is, in effect, over. But according to the Roman Catholic Church, the moral fight will never end.
Al Letson:And it didn’t end.
Speaker 6:And we fought for them for 50 years-
Al Letson:Outside the high court on Friday, the reaction from both sides was loud and immediate.
Speaker 7:We seek justice, for the 60 million victims of Roe v. Wade [Inaudible].
Speaker 8:Supreme Court! [inaudible] Supreme Court! [inaudible] Abortion ban! [inaudible] Forced motherhood! [inaudible]
Joe Biden:I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful, peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.
Al Letson:President Joe Biden accused the Supreme Court of taking the country back to the 1800s.
Joe Biden:With your vote, you can act. You can have the final word. This is not over. Thank you very much. I’ll have more to say on this in weeks to come. Thank you.
Al Letson:Reveal’s Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, breaks down how we got to this point with the help of Jennifer Holland, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma. She wrote the book Tiny You: A Western History of the Anti-Abortion Movement. Here’s Anayansi.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Jennifer Holland has been researching the history of the anti-abortion movement in the U.S. for years. But we’re going to jump right into 1973, when she says, that a mostly white Conservative group of Catholics are outraged that women now have the legal right to an abortion.
Jennifer Hollan…:They’re stunned that the state is no longer going to be punishing people who get abortions.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Professor Holland says they’re trying to figure out how to fight back, but they’re worried about framing the issue around religion alone.
Jennifer Hollan…:This was a moment in time, in the United States, where a lot of Americans were skeptical. They had a vision of religious movements as book burners, as zealots.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:So instead, they land on this idea that abortion, just like Jim Crow and slavery, is a civil rights issue.
Jennifer Hollan…:In that it devalued and potentially allowed for the murders of some group of Americans. And also that it was akin to the Holocaust.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:This group of Americans was fetuses. She says the movement conceptualizes the fetus as detached from the woman, and argues for its human and civil rights.
Jennifer Hollan…:They put forward much more rights-based arguments, and arguments about genocide, alongside what they create pretty quickly, which is fetal imagery and, especially, the gory photos that become, really, the touchstone of this movement.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:But something else was happening too. Holland argues that to try to distance itself from a racist legacy, this mostly white movement uses anti-abortion as a kind of moral makeover.
Jennifer Hollan…:We have these white Conservative activists who say more Black children have died of abortion than died in slavery. And they’re making this argument and they believe it.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:This movement is buried under a higher calling of civil rights, but now the movement needs a party.
Jennifer Hollan…:And in 1976 is the first time that the Republican Party puts, at least, a tentative anti-abortion plank on their platform.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:At the time, the Republican Party wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice, but in the anti-abortion movement, Republicans see a loyal voting block. To gain power, The anti-abortion movement seeks out other religious people who share the same beliefs around abortion.
Jennifer Hollan…:And you have white Evangelicals really join up with white Catholics. And this would be incredibly powerful, that you have a growing number of anti-abortion voters.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:They have a party, they have voters, they have a message and, slowly, over the span of a few decades, they begin to elect people and start to make some progress. Medicaid stops paying for abortions, and states begin to pass laws that require things like seeing a counselor before getting an abortion. But it’s not enough.
Jennifer Hollan…:In the mid-to-late ’90s, the anti-abortion movement puts its foot down with the Republican Party in a really important way. ‘If you don’t commit to this and follow through in the ways you can, then we are not going to vote anymore.’
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Holland says the ultimatum worked and, by 2013, state legislators start to restrict abortion before 24 weeks, even though they know the laws will be considered unconstitutional and blocked by the courts.
Jennifer Hollan…:And yet you could see the enthusiasm and the hope that some of these could work themselves up. Of course, you need a court that was going to be receptive to that.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And the movement got both the right case, Dobbs v. Jackson out of Mississippi, that bans abortion at 15 weeks, and a president who secured a receptive Supreme Court, Donald Trump.
Jennifer Hollan…:He didn’t have a past in this movement, but what he did know is who his base was and what was expected of him.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Trump would go on to nominate three Supreme Court Justices. They all voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:So that’s the history on how we got here, but what’s next? How this will play out for tens of millions of Americans will depend on race, gender and status.
Khiara Bridges:We’re not preventing abortion. We are forcing birth.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:That’s professor Khiara Bridges. She’s a reproductive justice scholar at UC Berkeley and she’s going to talk to me about consequences.
Khiara Bridges:First, let me just talk a little bit about Alito’s method.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:You see, Bridges is also a constitutional law professor, so she can’t help going there. Justice Samuel Alito considers himself an originalist, she tells me.
Khiara Bridges:Originalism is trying to figure out what the framers meant way back when, when they drafted the Constitution.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Alito wrote the majority opinion that first got leaked to the press in May. The opinion remains largely the same, and Bridges says it’s influenced by originalist thinking. And of course, the framers weren’t thinking about women’s rights.
Khiara Bridges:There is a sense of these guys, Hamilton, Madison, Washington and Benjamin Franklin, they’re gods, they’re like demigods, so we have to give their will continued life.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:In Conservative circles, the Constitution is where our rights are derived from, and where state and federal power is defined. So if we stray too far from the literal words of the framers, the U.S. Republic can be put at risk, but for professor Bridges…
Khiara Bridges:It just seems like the perpetuation of exclusion of people like me.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:The opinion is 108 pages long. Bridges read it all, but what stood out most to her was an obscure footnote.
Khiara Bridges:Yes, I read the footnotes. Alito says, “Some such supporters have been motivated by a desire to suppress the size of the African American population. And it is beyond dispute that Roe has had that demographic effect. A highly disproportionate percentage of aborted fetuses are Black.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:This footnote brings to mind what professor Jennifer Holland was talking about earlier, the appropriation of civil rights language by the anti-abortion movement.
Khiara Bridges:When I read that, I said, ‘How dare you? How dare you embed this ridiculous argument that abortion is Black genocide into this opinion?’ Birth control, abortion access are tools of racial justice, right? Not racial genocide.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Bridges notes that this was also a talking point among some Black men, who considered themselves Black nationalists in the ’60s and ’70s, but Black feminists rejected that idea. Until recently, abortion was legal in all 50 states, sometimes up to 24 weeks. Although some states like Texas managed to pass and enforce a six-week-ban, getting an abortion will come down to whether you can afford to travel to have your abortion or not.
Khiara Bridges:People who are privileged will always be able to terminate a pregnancy. They were able to terminate a pregnancy before Roe v. Wade was decided, they’ll be able to terminate a pregnancy safely even after Roe falls. It’s unprivileged people who will be forced to carry pregnancies to term.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And she says this will have serious implications for Black women in the U.S., because Black women are more likely to die during pregnancy and while giving birth.
Khiara Bridges:Specifically, Black people with the capacity for pregnancy die at three to four times the rate of their white counterparts. I also want to mention that there’s nothing inevitable about that. Black people don’t have a gene that causes them to die when they become pregnant. This is a purely social problem.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:High rates of maternal mortality among Black women is well documented. And it’s a combination of things, from disinvestment in Black neighborhoods that lead to poor health outcomes, to a medical care system that ignores and devalues Black patients.
Khiara Bridges:So when you are forcing birth and you’re forcing Black people, particularly, to maintain pregnancies and to give birth, you are forcing them to engage in a task that they’re just simply less likely to survive than their white counterparts. And that’s cruel, right?
Anayansi Diaz-C…:Abortion rights advocates often make the point that criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop abortion. It just pushes people underground and into dangerous situations. But Bridges believes that that will change now that medication abortions are more the norm and are easier to access.
Khiara Bridges:So if you can just safely ingest a pill prior to 10 weeks gestation, I think that’s going to save a lot of people from the coat hangers in order to terminate a pregnancy.
Anayansi Diaz-C…:And this access to abortion pills that Bridges is talking about? It’s the next fight for the religious right.
Al Letson:They may have won a major court victory, but the anti-abortion movement is not resting. A religious anti-abortion doctor pushes a treatment to reverse the abortion bill.
Dr. George Delg…:That time, I think it really was a Holy Spirit movement.
Al Letson:Next, on Reveal.
Speaker 14:The people and institutions around us influence every aspect of life, in workplaces, at home with family, or even walking down the street, there are social forces that affect every part of ourselves. Join Brian Lowery for season two of, Know What You See, a podcast that uncovers these hidden social forces. A social psychologist and professor at Stanford University, Brian talks with a range of guests about the shifting world of work, who and what shapes these changes, and what they mean for you. Listen to Know What You See wherever you get your podcasts.
Gregory Warner:I’m Gregory Warner, host of the podcast Rough Translation. On our new season, we’re telling stories about the cultures of work-
Speaker 16:The nine-to-five, it’s a myth.
Gregory Warner:…And rest, around the world-
Speaker 17:I came into this totally prepared to defend my American productivity.
Gregory Warner:@Work, the new season of the NPR podcast Rough Translation.
Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. In the Idaho city of Meridian, two beige buildings face each other across a parking lot. One is a Planned Parenthood that, for now, offers abortions. The other is a Stanton Healthcare Clinic with a logo of a purple flower. It offers to reverse abortions. Brandi Swindell is the founder of Stanton Healthcare.
Brandi Swindell:What we’ve been doing the last 12 to 18 months is trialing our abortion pill reversal process, and making sure that it’s working and that we have our procedures in place.
Al Letson:Brandi’s an Evangelical Christian who’s been a part of the anti-abortion movement since her early 20s. She’s about to go all out promoting abortion pill reversal.
Brandi Swindell:We are launching a campaign, a very aggressive campaign nationwide, on abortion pill reversal because, as you well know, that’s the direction that it’s going. It’s less surgical and more at-home chemical abortions.
Al Letson:As of 2020, more people in the U.S. are having abortions with pills than through procedures in a clinic, and that has anti-abortion activists worried. They’re claiming that you can reverse an abortion after you’ve already taken a pill to end a pregnancy. Reporters Amy Littlefield and Sofia Resnick have been investigating how a religious anti-abortion movement is pushing this idea into the mainstream, even though major medical groups say it’s not scientifically proven or ethical. Amy picks up the story.
Amy Littlefield:It was back in 2006 that Brandi founded Stanton Healthcare. Brandi’s mission is to put Planned Parenthood out of business by copying its healthcare model with a twist. She doesn’t believe in hormonal birth control, so that’s not an option. And instead of offering abortions, she offers a treatment that Stanton advertises on a sandwich board outside the clinic in Meridian, “Change of heart? Abortion pill reversal. Walk in or call now.” We talked with someone who did have a change of heart, so we could understand what it’s like to go through this process. We’re calling her by her first name only, to protect her privacy.
Jennifer:I’m Jennifer and I live in Meridian, and I have seven kids.
Amy Littlefield:It’s a hot day. She’s got the A/C on.
Jennifer:I did have to go to my car so that I could have some peace and quiet, and not my kids coming.
Amy Littlefield:Jennifer attempted a medication abortion last July. She felt ambivalent, but did it anyway.
Jennifer:I’ve always kind of been a little bit like, “Ah, I don’t think people should get abortions,” but I do know people very close to me have had them. So I try not to be so judgy about it, but I just thought that this was the best thing.
Amy Littlefield:First, she took a pill called mifepristone at Planned Parenthood. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for a pregnancy to grow. After taking the pill, Jennifer went home. That night, she couldn’t sleep. She knew that within 48 hours she would need to take a second medication called misoprostol. That would cause her uterus to contract so she could complete the abortion. But Jennifer’s head was spinning with second thoughts.
Jennifer:If I didn’t take the other pills… They sent me home with another pack of pills. Would I keep the baby? Did I cause damage? Would it have defects and stuff like that? So when I started Googling that stuff, I found the reversal stuff.
Amy Littlefield:She finds the website for the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. It’s run by Heartbeat International. We’ll explain more about them later. At this point, it’s 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. There’s a chat box on the website. Jennifer sends a message.
Jennifer:They called me, and I declined the call and I asked them, “Can you text me? Because I’m laying in bed with my baby and my husband, and they’re sleeping.” Then we texted for like an hour.
Amy Littlefield:The hotline refers her to Stanton Healthcare and, soon, Jennifer has an appointment for the next morning.
Samantha Doty:I happened to be the one with the after-hours phone that night, and was able to schedule an appointment and just get her right in.
Amy Littlefield:Samantha Doty is Stanton’s director of clinical services and a physician assistant. She gives Jennifer a prescription for progesterone that she’s supposed to take every day until the end of her first trimester. The idea is that the progesterone will overpower the effects of that first abortion pill, the one that blocks progesterone, and help Jennifer keep the pregnancy. The progesterone makes Jennifer feel lethargic and gives her food a weird taste, so she winds up stopping it a couple weeks early. Seven months after taking the abortion pill, Jennifer gives birth.
Jennifer:I got to continue on with my pregnancy, and everything was normal and my baby’s healthy. He just turned four months old.
Amy Littlefield:Stanton considers Jennifer one of its success stories.
Samantha Doty:We acknowledge the data is limited so far, but this is also our personal experience at our clinic, that it’s been very successful.
Amy Littlefield:Stanton told us it’s seen five abortion pill reversal clients, including Jennifer, and four of them continued their pregnancies. But that record is misleading. As Stanton told us, two of those clients never took the progesterone treatment. Their abortions failed on their own. One took the full medication abortion regimen and the other only took the first pill, like Jennifer.
Amy Littlefield:It’s rare for the full regimen to fail, but when you just take one pill, the failure rate can be anywhere from 8% to 46%. So it’s hard to know whether Jennifer carried her pregnancy to term because she took progesterone or because she skipped the second medication. Groups like Stanton claim it’s because of the progesterone, and they hope this treatment will help them address the rise in medication abortions.
Dr. Christina C…:Good evening, everyone! I’ll let people get to their seats.
Amy Littlefield:In February, the American Association of Pro-Life OBGYNs held a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and Dr. Christina Cirucci was showing a group of doctors how to get abortion pills online.
Dr. Christina C…:Not because I’m encouraging you to do so, but I want to show you how easy it is and I encourage you to check this process.
Amy Littlefield:She compared it to online shopping.
Dr. Christina C…:Then I picked one of them and you put it in a shopping cart, like Amazon. I mean, this is now.
Amy Littlefield:But it’s not that simple because some states have passed laws that restrict medication abortion, including banning abortion outright. In Idaho, Brandi says Stanton will try to help track where pills come from, by asking its abortion pill reversal clients where they got them. Still, these laws can be hard to enforce, so groups, including these anti-abortion doctors, are trying to convince people to reverse their abortions instead. Dr. Christina Francis urged every clinician at this conference to offer abortion pill reversal, or APR, as she calls it.
Dr. Christina F…:We need more APR providers. Y’all, there is no reason why every prescriber in this room should not be an APR provider. I’m going to make that very hard push. I don’t know a reason why you would not be an APR provider.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Francis sits on the board of this anti-abortion medical group, and so does Dr. George Delgado, the lead researcher behind Abortion Pill Reversal. Journalist Sofia Resnick started investigating him years ago. We used to work together and we’ve reunited to work on this story.
Sofia Resnick:Hi, Amy. Yes, I have been looking into Dr. Delgado. He pioneered the whole abortion pill reversal movement. So you might think he’s an OBGYN or a biochemist, but he’s not. He’s a family doctor based in Southern California, trained in a Catholic approach to reproductive healthcare called natural procreative technology.
Amy Littlefield:Is that where you track your cycle instead of taking contraception or using condoms?
Sofia Resnick:Right. But he goes even further than that. Dr. Delgado says, even if you’re married, you should consult with God before you try to avoid getting pregnant, even using this natural method.
Amy Littlefield:So he’s really following the most Conservative teachings of the Catholic Church when it comes to his medical practice?
Sofia Resnick:Exactly.
Amy Littlefield:Okay. How did Dr. Delgado start trying to reverse abortions?
Sofia Resnick:It was back in 2009. This anti-abortion activist named Terri Palmquist, she called Dr. Delgado to tell him about a woman in Texas who had just taken the abortion pill and changed her mind. Dr. Delgado, at the time, was using progesterone to try to prevent miscarriages early in pregnancy, and he thought, “Hmm, maybe it could stop the abortion pill.” He tells this story on his show that’s put out by the Ruth Institute. It’s a religious group that’s anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. Their stated mission is to, “Defend the family.”
Dr. George Delg…:I said, “Well, Terri, I’ve never heard of anybody stopping a medical abortion, but let me think about this.” And at that time, I think it really was a Holy Spirit moment and I got the idea, “Well, maybe I could supplement progesterone, out-compete the mifepristone and save the baby.”
Sofia Resnick:Okay. So after that phone call, Dr. Delgado found a doctor in Texas willing to give this woman progesterone. According to him, her pregnancy survived. Then he started to promote this treatment. He published his largest research outcomes in 2018, and he launched the very same hotline that Jennifer contacted. You know, I tried to talk to Dr. Delgado, but he didn’t respond.
Amy Littlefield:The anti-abortion movement has really latched onto his research, saying he’s proven that this treatment works, but then you have expert groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who say it’s not real science. Here’s the organization’s lead for equity transformation, Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio.
Dr. Jennifer Vi…:Literally every single step that is required of a rigorous scientific study, that would then be peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, has been missed in this study.
Sofia Resnick:Dr. Delgado’s research had no standardized protocol and no information on any safety outcomes for the women who took this treatment. The only complications he did report on were birth defects and premature births, which weren’t any higher than average.
Amy Littlefield:So if this isn’t a scientific study, what is it?
Sofia Resnick:Well, it’s just a summary of outcomes reported by 325 providers from all around the world who gave varying amounts of progesterone to women after they had taken the first abortion pill. So, some women got progesterone injections, others took it orally or vaginally. And experts say that just reporting outcomes of a brand new treatment like this isn’t enough to prove that it works.
Amy Littlefield:But the research did get published in a journal called Issues in Law and Medicine. You looked into the journal. What’d you find?
Sofia Resnick:Well, I learned that it was co-founded in the ’80s by an anti-abortion legal group and the American Association of Pro-Life OBGYNs, and it’s peer-reviewed by longtime anti-abortion activists.
Amy Littlefield:So let’s go over the results of Dr. Delgado’s case series, because you and I have looked at them pretty closely. He tracked about 550 women.
Sofia Resnick:Right.
Amy Littlefield:About half of them went on to deliver babies.
Sofia Resnick:Right.
Amy Littlefield:But then groups that promote abortion pill reversal often cite a higher success rate from Delgado’s study, 68%.
Sofia Resnick:Yeah, but that 68% success rate is only for a subset of patients who took high-dose progesterone pills. But here’s the biggest flaw in this report, Amy. It doesn’t tell you what happened to the nearly 300 people for whom this treatment failed. Did any of them have serious complications? We don’t know, but you and I did talk to this other doctor who studied abortion pill reversal.
Amy Littlefield:Yeah. I’m going to take a minute and tell his story. Dr. Mitchell Creinin is an OBGYN at the University of California Davis. He’s an abortion provider who’s been researching the topic for 30 years, and he wanted to find out whether abortion pill reversal really works. He planned to enroll 40 people who had decided to have an abortion but were willing to wait, so they could be part of his study. They would take the first pill in a medication abortion, then be given either progesterone or a placebo. But he had to stop at 10, because once he started the study, three patients hemorrhaged. He agreed to talk with me about that.
Dr. Mitchell Cr…:It turns out, the first person got progesterone and the other two got placebo. Doesn’t matter, they all hemorrhaged. They all required transport by ambulance to an emergency room. These were not normal outcomes.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Creinin, how much bleeding are we talking about here? Because patients who have a medication abortion do have quite a bit of bleeding.
Dr. Mitchell Cr…:The bleeding that these participants in the study had was significantly more than that. I have never in my entire career had somebody say, “I’m sitting in the bathtub while blood is pouring out of me, waiting for the paramedics to get here.”
Amy Littlefield:And this was a patient who had taken the placebo but had waited several days after taking mifepristone without taking misoprostol?
Dr. Mitchell Cr…:Right, She was now out about four to five days.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Creinin called off the study.
Dr. Mitchell Cr…:So, all we could take from this was there’s a safety concern.
Amy Littlefield:In the end, Dr. Creinin’s study couldn’t prove whether abortion pill reversal works or not. A sample size of 10 just isn’t enough to say, but it does raise the question of whether it could be risky to interrupt a medication abortion and only take the first pill in the regimen. Particularly, if the patient is past about eight weeks, like those who took the placebo and then hemorrhaged. It’s unclear whether Dr. Delgado’s patients had similar complications because his report doesn’t say. In fact, he doesn’t report on any of the people for whom his treatment failed.
Amy Littlefield:The safety questions that Dr. Creinin’s study raised about abortion pill reversal haven’t stopped anti-abortion activists from pushing it. They’re continuing to collect data in real-time from people like Jennifer to try to show that this works. Samantha Doty from Stanton sent the data on Jennifer to that organization I mentioned before, Heartbeat International. It’s a $7-million-a-year Conservative Christian organization.
Amy Littlefield:Heartbeat has affiliates in 79 countries. It claims that since 2012, more than 3,000 women have reversed the abortion pill, but the group won’t tell us which countries or states those cases happened in. We asked Heartbeat for data on complications from abortion pill reversal. It wouldn’t tell us. Instead, the group sent us a photo of a toddler it claimed was saved by the process. Even if we could verify the numbers, they still represent a sliver of a percent of the roughly 900,000 abortions in the U.S. each year. But it’s still grabbing the attention of Conservative lawmakers.
Amy Littlefield:Since 2015, states have been passing laws that require clinics to tell patients who are taking abortion pills that the pill can be reversed if they change their mind. Kentucky, Louisiana and Nebraska are among eight states with active laws on the books. So is West Virginia, which just passed a law that takes it even further. It protects doctors from getting sued for prescribing any non-FDA-approved treatment to counteract the abortion pill, even if a patient dies. When we asked the FDA about West Virginia’s law, it said, “The FDA does not opine on state law.” North Dakota passed an abortion pill reversal law in 2019, but it was blocked by a judge. That was after the American Medical Association, the country’s leading organization for doctors, sued.
Jim Madera:I’m Jim Madera. I’m CEO of the American Medical Association.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Madera said North Dakota’s law threatened doctors’ freedom of speech by forcing them to provide false information about abortion pill reversal.
Jim Madera:It’s not medically supported, scientifically supported, and to imply that it is is a falsehood. This goes back to the snake oil treatments of the pandemic that were first introduced and really had to vigorously fight against that as well. So this is another form of snake oil.
Amy Littlefield:Abortion pill reversal laws were blocked in four other states where lawsuits are also pending. Utah is the only state that puts a disclaimer in the law that refers to Dr. Creinin’s study and the patients who hemorrhaged. And Arizona, the first state to pass an abortion pill reversal law, actually agreed to repeal the law because it couldn’t find any experts willing to defend it in court. Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, these laws won’t be as relevant where states ban abortion outright, but they’re spreading. This past legislative session, at least 10 states considered bills to promote abortion pill reversal.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Delgado, wouldn’t talk with us about abortion pill reversal, but I did talk with a leading supporter of his, Dr. Donna Harrison.
Donna Harrison:I am a board-certified OBGYN. I’m currently the CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Amy Littlefield:I asked her how abortion pill reversal fits into the movement’s strategy. Would you say that it’s the anti-abortion movement’s response to the spread of medication abortion?
Donna Harrison:No, I would say it’s the commonsense use of the principle of toxin and antidote, poison and antidote.
Amy Littlefield:Dr. Harrison has spent years promoting the idea that abortion complications are under-reported, so I asked her about the data on abortion pill reversal.
Donna Harrison:There are over 3,000 babies that exist now because they had the option of abortion pill reversal.
Amy Littlefield:I’m glad you mentioned that 3,000 number because I wanted to ask you, what is the breakdown of where those cases were, what states they were in? Were some of them international and outside the US? What’s the date on those 3,000 live births?
Donna Harrison:Amy, I don’t know because Heartbeat International runs the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, so we don’t keep those statistics.
Amy Littlefield:Is it something you feel comfortable participating in and encouraging if you don’t have the numbers?
Donna Harrison:Absolutely, because the principle is common sense.
Amy Littlefield:I wanted to get Dr. Harrison’s input on one last finding of ours, that nearly all of the states with abortion pill reversal laws aren’t tracking its use either. I’m asking your professional opinion, as a doctor, whether you think that there should be state regulation and oversight of this method of trying to reverse the abortion pill, which, as we’ve discussed, has limited evidence and data behind it.
Donna Harrison:I would disagree with you that there’s limited evidence and data. There’s 50 years of data of safety on progesterone. There’s evidence that we know exactly how mifeprex works. So there isn’t little data on it. There’s actually a lot of data on it and it’s very commonsense. And we don’t have the state telling people how to prescribe antibiotics.
Amy Littlefield:It’s true. There is a lot of data on using progesterone for things like treating women with a history of miscarriages and fertility issues, but not on reversing the abortion pill. And there is one state tracking this controversial treatment. Nebraska. Officials there told us it hasn’t been used in the state once, and that’s not so surprising. The window to use abortion pill reversal is very narrow. A patient would need to feel immediate regret and seek out the treatment quickly. Studies show emotions around abortion can be complicated. People often feel a mix of things, including sadness or regret, but at the same time, the vast majority also feel relief and like they made the right decision. There’s a whole movement challenging this idea that people who have abortions should feel regret or shame.
Renee Bracey Sh…:My name is Renee Bracey Sherman, and guess what? I had an abortion.
Amy Littlefield:Jennifer, the mother of seven who took the abortion pill reversal, wasn’t about to shout her abortion attempt from the rooftops.
Jennifer:I felt like there wasn’t anybody to talk to, even in family and stuff, because I was ashamed of what I was doing.
Amy Littlefield:When she found out she was pregnant, it felt to Jennifer like all roads led to shame.
Jennifer:I don’t know how many kids all of you have, but once you start having so many kids, people are no longer congratulatory. They’re more like, “When are you going to stop?” They’re shame in both sides of it, really. I felt shame like, “Oh, people are going to look at me like, ‘Seriously, a seventh baby?'” And then, also, the abortion felt shameful to me too.
Amy Littlefield:We told Jennifer about our findings on abortion pill reversal, but she still felt like the treatment is worth knowing about. Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio from the American College of OBGYN says she would agree if there was solid evidence behind it.
Dr. Jennifer Vi…:If there is a possibility to reverse medication abortion that is safe for people who want that, I want to find out what that is. I’m not opposed to that.
Amy Littlefield:But right now, she says patients like Jennifer are getting medical information grounded in religious ideology, not science.
Dr. Jennifer Vi…:And that intersection is incredibly dangerous.
Amy Littlefield:Back in Meridian, Idaho, Planned Parenthood still sits across from Stanton’s Clinic, but soon it will have to stop providing abortions because the state is about to ban the procedure entirely. But Stanton, it can keep offering abortion pill reversal with no one keeping track, except Heartbeat International.
Al Letson:That was reporter Amy Littlefield. She reported this story with Sophia Resnik and it was produced by Katharine Mieszkowski. Abortion pill reversal is making its way into the mainstream. It’s been fueled by a movement that’s mixed religion with science, but there’s another religious movement dating back to the ’60s that’s trying to increase women’s access to abortion.
Curtis Boyd:I was doing abortions six days a week, 10 hours a day.
Al Letson:That’s next on Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Missa Perron:Hi. This is Missa Perron, membership manager here at Reveal. Reveal is a nonprofit news organization. We depend on the support of our listeners donate today. Please head to Revealnews.org/donate. Thank you.
Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. We just heard about abortion pill reversal and the ways that anti-abortion religious groups are promoting it. Our last story today looks at a different kind of religious community, one that seeks to protect abortion access and has been doing so since before Roe v. Wade.
Al Letson:It starts 55 years ago, the last time abortion was largely illegal in the U.S. A group of 21 Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis in New York City had gotten together to strategize on something they were seeing in their congregations. People who were looking to get an abortion were coming to them for advice. They would later tell the New York Times in a front-page story that it was their pastoral responsibility and religious duty to help. They called themselves the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, and in spring of 1967, they launched a telephone hotline. Anyone calling could talk to a clergy member and get a referral to a network of trusted doctors who were willing to take the legal risks to perform abortions. Reverend Howard Moody was a co-founder of the group.
Reverand Howard…:Once you lent the respectability of the church and the synagogue to this issue, which, for many women, it was a moral issue. And consequently, to have the religious institutions with them affirming their decision was very important at that time.
Al Letson:The Clergy Consultation Service would expand beyond New York to 38 states. In Texas, they were referring patients to a young doctor named Curtis Boyd.
Curtis Boyd:I was doing abortions six days a week, 10 hours a day, and they wanted me to do more and it was incredible. I said, “God, I have to have time to eat and sleep, and I’d like to see my wife and children occasionally.”
Al Letson:Dr. Boyd was connected to the group through his faith, as a Unitarian Universalist. And he was performing abortions out of his clinic in Athens, about an hour southeast of Dallas.
Curtis Boyd:Athens is a small town where you could drive into the town with Volkswagen bus and the police were going to take note of it.
Al Letson:With a number of people coming in and out of the clinic, Dr. Boyd’s operation was drawing a lot of attention.
Curtis Boyd:They knew what I was doing. They never saw what I was doing. I never said what I was doing, but they knew.
Al Letson:If he got caught, he risked losing his medical license, losing his practice and even going to prison. So Dr. Boyd moved his office to a bigger city, Dallas. And when even that felt too dangerous, he moved out of state.
Curtis Boyd:I decided to go to Santa Fe. It was a liberal Mecca and I didn’t think they would take note of it much. And they didn’t.
Al Letson:But the people Dr. Boyd had left behind in Texas still needed abortions. It was a 10-hour drive between the two cities, so the Clergy Consultation Service came up with a plan B, put the patients on planes.
Curtis Boyd:Every day, they flew. A flight came out every day to Albuquerque, we picked them up in a van, 10, 15 people brought them to Santa Fe. It was every day. And at the end of the day, take them back. The next morning, you’ll pick up another group.
Al Letson:Dr. Boyd says these trips went on for years, until January 1973, when the Supreme Court decided on Roe v. Wade. Dr. Boyd was at his clinic when the news broke on the radio. Abortion was now a protected right.
Curtis Boyd:We hugged each other and started crying. It just tears of joy, and I thought, “Oh, it’s over. It’s over. At last, it’s over.”
Al Letson:After Roe, the Clergy Consultation Service closed down its hotline and shifted focus. Dr. Boyd would spend the next 50 years building up abortion services in the Southwest. He’s trained more than 100 doctors, not just on the mechanics of the procedure, but also his motivation behind it.
Curtis Boyd:See, that’s the issue I want these young doctors to know, that we were talking about women’s place in society. Abortion doesn’t define who a woman is. It’s an event in her life.
Al Letson:Even before the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe, Texas enacted a near total abortion ban in September 2021. And it created, once again, the demand for Dr. Boyd’s New Mexico clinic to receive patients from Dallas. Regular flights are being organized by the same community that first recruited Dr. Boyd more than half a century ago, the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. Our reporter Grace Oldham grew up in that church, and she went to see what those trips look like today.
Speaker 33:Please remain standing. As we say, the affirmation and doxology of our church, you can find-
Grace Oldham:My friends in school used to joke that I went to a hippie church.
Speaker 33:Love is the doctrine of our church.
Grace Oldham:In a typical sermon, you’re just as likely to hear a Sufi poem as you are excerpts from the Bible. It’s definitely known for being a progressive come-as-you-are type of community.
Speaker 33:Shall grow in harmony with the divine.
Grace Oldham:The church is a connected set of modern buildings in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Dallas. When my family attended services there on Sundays, we’d typically have to loop around the block just to find parking. But there were only a few cars in the parking lot When I went back to the church this spring. The sun hadn’t even come up yet. Hi.
Speaker 34:Are you traveling with us today?
Grace Oldham:No, I’m actually the radio reporter that’s going to come along for just this morning. That’s a church volunteer. She’s out front greeting the people who will be traveling this morning to New Mexico for an abortion. She moves on to the next car and starts directing people up the stairs toward the church.
Reverand Daniel…:Grace, how are you?
Grace Oldham:Good. It’s good to see you. Reverend Daniel Cantor is standing at the top of the stairs, greeting travelers as they arrive. He’s been the senior minister of the church since I was a kid. And these trips were his idea.
Reverand Daniel…:We’ve done five or six trips like this so far, I think. It took a while for us to get organized, but this is what we’re doing. Taking 20 patients, 20 travelers every two weeks.
Grace Oldham:It’s not the daily trips that the clergy we’re operating in the early ’70s, but patients are still arriving to a clinic owned by Dr. Boyd in New Mexico. A separate organization handles the trip logistics, like plane tickets and transportation to and from the airport. The group is called the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. And Brittany Defeo is their program manager.
Brittany Defeo:We are not Planned Parenthood. We are a religious organization that helps women and people get access to abortion care in New Mexico.
Grace Oldham:The travelers are sitting in chairs along the walls of a room that’s normally used as a classroom. In the center, there’s a table of snacks that are left mostly untouched. Brittany hands out boarding passes and two other documents. One with the rules for the trip, and the other is a legal waiver.
Speaker 38:Due to the environment in Texas, this is just a precaution to keep everyone safe. Please, no pictures or social media, especially of other patients or of our clinic.
Grace Oldham:You’re not going to hear from any of the patients. I was only able to observe this part of the trip on the condition that I not speak with any of them. On this morning in April, there’s nothing on the books in Texas law that says it’s illegal to help someone get an abortion in another state, but legal experts predict some states will try to pass laws that punish anyone who helps a person traveling to get an abortion.
Grace Oldham:No matter how the laws change, Reverend Kanter assures that travelers they’ll be supported by this church.
Reverand Daniel…:So you are in a church right now that for 50 years has been trying to make sure that you had this choice.
Grace Oldham:It’s actually more like 60 years. In 1963, the national arm of the Unitarian Universalist Church announced its support for a woman’s right to abortion. Ministers at this church even started driving people down to the Gulf of Mexico to get abortions on ships and international waters. The church also had a woman’s group studying abortion. They organized panels with doctors, activists and legal experts, including one of the lawyers who represented Jane Roe. Reverend Kanter shares some of this history with the mostly silent room. The travelers are quiet. They’ve all been here for about an hour and it’s still very early in the morning.
Reverand Daniel…:I want you to know that you’re in a safe place here, that I’m the senior pastor of this church and I believe strongly that you have the right to decide what happens to your body, when you are pregnant or not pregnant, with whom you want to be pregnant or with whom you don’t want to be pregnant.
Grace Oldham:Every trip, a different Dallas clergy member goes with the patients to Albuquerque and back. This week, it’s Reverend Ruth MacKenzie. She’s the last one to address the room.
Reverand Ruth M…:When I was a young woman, I was pregnant and I had an abortion, and it was a hard decision for me, but it was the right decision. I promised myself then that if I ever had the opportunity to help others, I would help because people helped me.
Grace Oldham:As she’s speaking, a charter bus pulls into the church parking lot. The group does a final ID check-
Speaker 38:ID. If you don’t have ID, your birth certificate or your student ID.
Grace Oldham:… And they head back outside.
Reverand Daniel…:All right, take care.
Speaker 39:You too.
Reverand Daniel…:All right. You guys, it’s like you’re getting on your football team bus there. Okay. Take care.
Reverand Daniel…:So just get the reality of this. They’re traveling 12 to 14 hours to take a pill, be monitored for 30 minutes, and get a prescription to come home and have a pill tomorrow. This kind of inconvenience because of the laws in Texas is absurd.
Grace Oldham:After the bus pulls out, I meet Reverend Kanter in his office. I ask him about the travelers he’s met on these trips.
Reverand Daniel…:We don’t know all their stories. Many of those travelers today are college students, who, if they get derailed by a pregnancy, their whole life is changed. Now, some people will say, “Oh, well, that’s just what they chose to do and that’s what they should carry through.” But it’s not true. Not everybody can can pivot like that.
Grace Oldham:For months, Reverend Kanter has been talking with other faith leaders to prepare for this moment. They’re planning to reboot a modern version of the Clergy Consultation Service to help people get to states where abortion is more accessible.
Reverand Daniel…:The loud voices yelling about how evil this is are just louder than ours, but we’re gaining strength and we’re organizing all over the country.
Grace Oldham:Reverend Kanter knows the religious arguments against abortion. He’s heard them from protestors in front of the church, and angry letters and emails. And he’s not upset by the differences in theological opinions.
Reverand Daniel…:It’s okay for them to have that, but for them to impress their ideological positions on everyone else is not what America is about. Religion has not done us any favors because it’s put a lot of shame on sexuality in general, which has come straight out of patriarchal control over women’s bodies.
Grace Oldham:In his practice of faith, reverend Kanter’s priority is to support the lives he can see in front of him, not the potential for life.
Reverand Daniel…:A lot of people of all faiths do not believe that abortion is an evil, do not feel that the people in that room this morning should feel any shame. And we’re expressing what we feel strongly about, which is that we love one another and that we try to help one another.
Al Letson:That story was from our investigative reporting fellow Grace Oldham. This latest fight over abortion is just beginning. Democrats are promising to pass federal laws that would protect abortion rights. Justice Clarence Thomas has his own ideas. In a separate concurring opinion, Thomas said in future cases the court should reconsider other rulings, like ones that protect access to contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
Al Letson:Our lead producer for this week’s show is Katharine Mieszkowski. She had lots of help from Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Jess Alvarenga and Richard Yeh. Cynthia Rodriguez and Jenny Casas edited the show. Thanks to Reveal’s Nina Martin and our former colleague Emily Harris. Emily, we miss you so much. Special thanks to the Physicians for Reproductive Health and Choice Project at Columbia University Center for Oral History for the archive audio of Reverend Howard Moody. Nikki Frick is our fact checker with help from Kim Freda. Victoria Baranetsky is our general counsel. Our production manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound designed by the dynamic duo, Jay Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs and Fernando “My Man Yo” Arruda.
Al Letson:Our post-production team this week also includes Kathryn Styer Martinez. Our digital producer is Sarah Mirk. Our CEO is Kaizar Campwala. Sumi Aggarwal is our editor-in-chief and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado-Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. And Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Inasmuch Foundation.
Al Letson:Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson. And remember, there is always more to the story.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Anayansi Diaz-Cortes

Anayansi Diaz-Cortes is a reporter and producer for Reveal. Her work has been featured everywhere from All Things Considered to  Radio Ambulante and  This American Life. She is a recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation award. She was the creator and lead producer for KCRW’s Sonic Trace, a storytelling project that was part of AIR’s Localore initiative. Previously, she produced for Radio Diaries and has done extensive reporting in both the U.S. and Mexico. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Amy Littlefield

Amy Littlefield (she/her) is a freelance investigative journalist who focuses on reproductive health care. She is the abortion access correspondent at The Nation magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Insider, The New Republic, and many more outlets. She worked as a news producer at the TV/radio program Democracy Now! and as an investigative reporter at Rewire News Group. She lives in Boston.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. She's also been a senior writer for Salon and Fast Company. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Slate and on NPR's "All Things Considered."

Her coverage has won national awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award two years in a row, an Online News Association Award, a Webby Award and a Society of Environmental Journalists Award. Mieszkowski has a bachelor's degree from Yale University. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Cynthia Rodriguez

Cynthia Rodriguez is a senior radio editor for Reveal. She is an award-winning journalist who came to Reveal from New York Public Radio, where she spent nearly two decades covering everything from the city’s dramatic rise in family homelessness to police’s fatal shootings of people with mental illness.

In 2019, Rodriguez was part of Caught, a podcast that documents how the problem of mass incarceration starts with the juvenile justice system. Caught received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for outstanding journalism in the public interest. Her other award-winning stories include investigations into the deaths of construction workers during New York City's building boom and the “three-quarter house” industry – a network of independent, privately run buildings that pack vulnerable people into unsanitary, overcrowded buildings in exchange for their welfare funds.

In 2013, Rodriguez was one of 13 journalists to be selected as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where her study project was on the intersection of poverty and mental health. She is based in New York City but is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and considers both places home.

Jenny Casas is a radio editor for Reveal. She was previously a narrative audio producer at The New York Times developing shows for the Opinion Department. She was in the inaugural cohort of AIR's Edit Mode: Story Editor Training. She has reported on the ways that cities systematically fail their people for WNYC, USA Today, City Bureau and St. Louis Public Radio. Casas is from California and is based in Chicago.

Jess Alvarenga (they/she) is a former associate producer for Reveal. They are an audio producer and documentary filmmaker from the American South. Meeting at the intersection of art and journalism, they use storytelling as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly those of the Central American diaspora. In 2017, Alvarenga was awarded an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston for their work on the city’s Central American population. They have a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.

Nikki Frick is the associate editor for research and copy for Reveal. She previously worked as a copy editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and held internships at The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and Washingtonpost.com. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was an American Copy Editors Society Aubespin scholar. Frick is based in Milwaukee.

Grace Oldham (she/her) was a 2021-22 Roy W. Howard Fellow for Reveal. She earned both her master’s and bachelor's degrees from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. During her time at ASU, she contributed to a documentary on youth suicide in Arizona, reported on local humanitarian aid efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border and worked on a team of reporters to produce an award-winning story on a botched sex-trafficking investigation by federal homeland security agents. She has also held multiple internships at The Arizona Republic, where she reported on state politics and higher education.

Amy Mostafa (she/they) is the production manager for Reveal. She is a UC Berkeley School of Journalism alum, where she focused on audio and data journalism as a Dean's Merit Fellow and an ISF Scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on NPR, KALW and KALX. Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She has most recently reported on housing and aging in the Bay Area. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Kathryn Styer Martínez

Kathryn Styer Martínez (she/ella) is a production assistant for Reveal. She studies audio and photojournalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She is also a Greater Good Science Center reporting fellow, focusing on Latino well-being.

Martínez was the 2020-21 Toni Randolph reporting fellow at Minnesota Public Radio, the 2019-20 New Economy Reporting Project fellow and the former director of KGPC-LP FM, Peralta Community Radio. Her work has appeared in El Tecolote, The Oaklandside, MPR News, National Public Radio, Outside Online, Talk Poverty, New Life Quarterly and Making Contact.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Raza studies and political science from San Francisco State University.

Kevin Sullivan is a former executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Al Letson is a playwright, performer, screenwriter, journalist, and the host of Reveal. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Letson national recognition and devoted fans.