It’s Time to Set Record Straight on Ectopic Pregnancies and Abortion

COMMENTARY Life

It’s Time to Set Record Straight on Ectopic Pregnancies and Abortion

Jul 29, 2022 6 min read

Commentary By

Emma Waters

Research Associate, Richard and Helen DeVos Center

Connor Buss

Summer 2022 Member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation

Treating an ectopic pregnancy is different from having an abortion. NoSystem images / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The abortion lobby wants women to think that abortion is the best—or even only—option when it comes to lifesaving maternal care.

Doctors are fully aware that an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion, and state law has similarly recognized it.

Rather than helping women and protecting the life of preborn babies, pro-abortion activists push fear and falsehoods.

The abortion lobby wants women to think that abortion is the best—or even only—option when it comes to lifesaving maternal care.

To achieve that, the pro-abortion left continues to spread harmful lies and misleading talking points in public hearings and press releases.

Under the guise of a fair and open debate, House Democrats held yet another hearing on abortion on July 19 before the Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee.

The purpose of the hearing was to consider the effects of pro-life laws on women’s health in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 overruling of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The left claims to care about women’s health, but the Democrat-controlled committee stacked the witnesses 5 to 1 in favor of abortion on demandDr. Christina Francis, CEO-elect of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, held her own as the sole pro-life representative.

Francis rebutted false claims that state pro-life laws are preventing doctors from treating ectopic pregnancies.  

Pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of a woman’s uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.

That tragic—but rare—event puts the mother’s life in grave danger. It occurs in 1% to 2% of pregnancies, but is responsible for 4% to 10% of maternal deaths. Untreated, it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, which ends the life of the baby and likely the mother as well.

Treating an ectopic pregnancy is different from having an abortion. Abortion is an intentional, unnatural procedure that kills the baby in the womb. An ectopic procedure, in contrast, attempts to save the life of both mother and unborn child. A number of  treatment options are available, but each seeks to separate the embryo from the fallopian tubes.  

Since abortion has been the cheap and easy option for so long, improvements in women’s health have not kept up with science. Medical technology is not able to reimplant the embryo in the uterus, saving the life of the baby. A miscarriage is tragically inevitable.

Unlike abortion, the goal in an ectopic pregnancy is to save the life of the baby. Bold, state-level protections for life will likely lead to innovations in ectopic care in the near future.  

Doctors successfully saved the life of a woman suffering from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy in 1883. Similar procedures have continued in the United States since, even with pre-Roe protections for life on the books.

Doctors are fully aware that an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion, and state law has similarly recognized it.  

Treating an ectopic pregnancy is just not the same thing as an abortion. Before Dobbs, medicals experts from Francis to the Mayo Clinic, and even pro-abortion activists such as Planned Parenthood, agreed on that point. After Francis’ testimony, however, Planned Parenthood changed its website’s definition of an ectopic pregnancy to muddle the truth.

That was a blatant attempt to hide the truth and lie to vulnerable women about lifesaving medical treatments. In states with pro-life laws, it unnecessarily places women in fear of seeking proper medical care for an ectopic pregnancy.

Countless articles have written about how fear of legal harm could cause doctors to delay lifesaving medical care.

“But in Republicans’ post-Roe world, health care providers aren’t sure when or even if they will able to treat ectopic patients without being sent to prison,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asserted without evidence. “Some have already been instructed to observe patients until they have unstable vital signs before acting—basically, to sit on their hands until women are at dire risk, before they can do what they know is medically necessary.”

Others repeat apocryphal stories of women in pro-life states being denied medical care for an ectopic pregnancy. This fearmongering has even come from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“If the MAGA Republicans get their way, pregnant women could lose their lives, because there will be no exception for the life of the mother if there’s a dangerous complication in the pregnancy,” Schumer claimed, also without evidence.

Such claims, from one of the highest-ranking Democrats, irresponsibly and needlessly puts women in harm’s way.  

Despite the abortion lobby’s rhetoric on ectopic pregnancies, no state calls ending such a pregnancy an abortion. NebraskaTexasOklahoma, and Missouri all have strong pro-life protections in place, and all allow doctors to treat ectopic pregnancies.  

Nebraska, for example, defines an abortion as the intent to terminate a preborn baby. It notes that to “remove an ectopic pregnancy” is legal and not considered abortion.  

Other states, like Missouri, do not mention treatments for ectopic pregnancies explicitly. Instead, state law permits what might lead to fetal death in “cases of medical emergency.”

Abortion activists argue that that relies too heavily on the subjective judgment of doctors. As a result, doctors might delay lifesaving care at the peril of the mother when assessing an ectopic pregnancy. That’s scaremongering. Still, states like Missouri could put this pro-abortion talking point to rest by protecting treatment of ectopic pregnancy explicitly in the law.  

Even in Texas, whose “heartbeat bill” was one of the first successful protections for life, the law clearly defines and separates an ectopic pregnancy from abortion. Nonetheless, Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas-based OB-GYN, claimed, “My colleagues are asking if they’re still allowed to treat an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. They’re worried they will have to delay lifesaving care.”

The procedure is permitted in a medical emergency, which Missouri state law defines as necessary to save the patient’s life or “for which a delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” 

The same activists who claim pro-life laws are “unclear” on what to do with an ectopic pregnancy are silent in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

Rather than helping women and protecting the life of preborn babies, pro-abortion activists push fear and falsehoods. Pro-life advocates need to push back with the truth about ectopic pregnancies.  

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal