In the wake of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) striking down Roe v. Wade in its recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, some have speculated that treatments for miscarriages and certain unviable pregnancies could be at risk.
At the center of this discussion is the most common form of pregnancy complication that requires the removal of a human embryo ... Ectopic pregnancy.
Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized ovum does not implant inside the uterus as designed. In most cases, ectopic pregnancies become implanted in the fallopian tube. These pregnancies can lead to the rupturing of the fallopian tube, which can be life-threatening, due to internal bleeding.
Alabama Senator Larry Stutts (R–Tuscumbia) was instrumental in passing Alabama’s abortion ban due to his ongoing practice as an OBGYN.
The striking down Roe eventually led to a 2019 Alabama law going into effect. The law bans all abortions except in cases of a serious health risk to the mother.
According to Stutts, bringing ectopic pregnancies into the abortion argument is an attempt to create confusion around the subject.
“The people that are trying to say that this is going to limit the treatment of ectopic pregnancies either haven’t read the bill, or they don’t understand anything about the management of ectopic pregnancies,” Stutts said. “They are straining at gnats because ectopic pregnancies make up such a small proportion of what we are talking about. We are talking about elective abortions, of which 60 million have been done since the legalization of abortion by Roe. v. Wade. The vast, vast majority of those are simply for the convenience of, ‘I don’t want to be pregnant.”
According to the National Library of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ectopic pregnancies range from 7.1 to 12.3 per 1,000.
“The law does not apply to ectopic pregnancies, so that’s really just a non-issue,” Stutts said. "Management of an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion, and it is not an issue with the law.”
Stutts says that the process of treating an ectopic pregnancy is not related to abortion, either morally or medically.
“The treatment can be medical, where you give a drug called methotrexate that destroys the trophoblastic cells in the implanted pregnancy in the tube. But, more commonly, it’s treated surgically where you either open the tube and remove the ectopic pregnancy, or you just remove the whole tube.”
Methotrexate is a drug most commonly used to treat arthritis. CNN and other media outlets have reported anecdotal stories of patients having difficulty accessing the drug due to some state’s abortion bans. However, no state has outlawed the drug as part of their abortion restrictions.
Pro-life supporters, including Stutts, intentionally draw a distinction between the elective nature of most abortions and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.
“I absolutely wish there was a way that you could salvage that pregnancy and re-implant it in the uterus, but that technology is just not there,” Stutts said. “If the tube ruptures, the mother often loses a lot of blood. It’s a legitimate emergency.
“There’s really no comparison. With one, you are interrupting a viable pregnancy, and in the other one, you have a totally non-viable pregnancy that, if it ruptures, the mother is likely to have significant blood loss or even bleed to death.”
Stutts claimed that abortions performed to save the mother's life often have solutions that do not involve abortion, albeit at a higher risk.
“There are high-risk pregnancies, for sure,” Stutts said. “In my career, I’ve taken care of three women who were pregnant with breast cancer, and they carried the pregnancy to term and then got their breast cancer treated. Now that’s obviously a high-risk situation, but there are treatments for cancer that you can do while someone is pregnant; you don’t have to abort the baby.
“…There is nowhere else in medicine where we say, ‘we’ve got two patients, and one of them is in a high-risk situation, so we’re going to kill one of the patients to improve the risk to the other.' The only way you can make that argument is if you don’t believe that the unborn baby is a human life.”
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