Ectopic pregnancies and ectopic pregnancy treatments are not abortions, and they have never been regarded this way by anyone in the medical profession or by pro-life advocates.
Ever since the Dobbs decision was issued earlier this year, many pro-abortion activists have been trying to scare people into thinking that abortion prohibitions will make it unlawful to treat an ectopic pregnancy, resulting in serious harm to the women who experience them. Nothing could be further from the truth. But many people can be deceived by this framing of the issue if they don’t fully understand what an ectopic pregnancy is, or even what the term “abortion” means in the context of anti-abortion laws.
Sadly, this misinformation may worry women unnecessarily if they experience an ectopic pregnancy.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Put simply an ectopic pregnancy is any pregnancy in which the fertilized egg, called an embryo, implants itself outside of a woman’s uterus.
Implantation in the uterus is the only way a pregnancy can remain viable. With an ectopic pregnancy, there is no way for a baby to reach viability (that is, the ability to live outside the woman’s body), let alone, reach full term. This is because the uterus is the only part of a woman’s body that has the ability to expand to hold the growing baby, as well as to provide the oxygen and nutrients needed for the baby to grow.
In most ectopic pregnancies, the embryo implants in the fallopian tube. This is the part of a woman’s reproductive system through which the egg moves from one of the ovaries, where the egg is produced, and the uterus, where a fertilized egg will implant itself. The fallopian tubes are very narrow, which means that, as the baby grows, at some point, it will expand beyond the size of the fallopian tube and possibly cause a rupture. An ectopic pregnancy, if unresolved, is life-threatening to the mother.
An Ectopic Pregnancy Can Be a Miscarriage, But Usually Requires Medical Intervention
When a pregnancy is not viable, often, a woman’s body will “sense” this fact. In many cases, this is because there is some problem with the pregnancy, such as a chromosomal defect, which prompts the body to spontaneously miscarry the pregnancy. In some cases of ectopic pregnancy, a woman will miscarry.
However, in the majority of ectopic pregnancies, women will experience other symptoms that indicate something is not right. These can include cramps, pelvic pain, bleeding from the vagina, lightheadedness, fainting, shoulder pain, or the urge to have a bowel movement. If these signs are present, a woman should go to the doctor immediately, even if she has not yet confirmed a pregnancy. If the fallopian tube ruptures, it will cause internal bleeding that could be life-threatening.
Women Have No Control Over an Ectopic Pregnancy
While women have no control over whether they have an ectopic pregnancy, there are some things that can increase the likelihood of having an ectopic pregnancy. These include:
- A previous ectopic pregnancy;
- Previous tubal surgery, including a tubal ligation;
- Cigarette smoking;
- Use of an IUD;
- Previous history of STIs;
- Undergoing fertility treatments, such as IVF.
Ectopic Pregnancies Cannot Be Prevented But They Can Be Treated
If a woman is experiencing symptoms as outlined above, the first task will be to confirm the pregnancy. If the patient tests positive, the second task will be an ultrasound to detect the location of the pregnancy. If the woman is diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, her doctor will treat the condition rather than hope for a spontaneous miscarriage.
One option is to address it through medication. Alternatively, ectopic pregnancies can be treated through laparoscopic or abdominal surgery. In a salpingostomy, the ectopic pregnancy is removed, and the fallopian tube is left intact to heal on its own. In a salpingectomy, both the pregnancy and the tube are removed. Both of these procedures can be done laparoscopically; however, if there is heavy bleeding, traditional surgical methods may have to be employed. Anytime a fallopian tube has ruptured, it will be removed, as it cannot be saved.
Abortions Are Not a Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancies
Note that the term “abortion” is not a term used when discussing treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. That is because an “abortion”, in medical terms, is the removal of an embryo and placenta from the uterus. Further, abortion refers to the destruction and removal of a healthy embryo for the purpose of terminating the natural and normal course of a viable pregnancy.
Even if one were to expand the definition of abortion so far as to include treatment for ectopic pregnancies, every abortion law of every state has exceptions to preserve the life and the health of the mother. Clearly, an ectopic pregnancy treatment would fall under this exception, so fear-mongering that attempts to conflate banned abortions with ectopic pregnancies is misleading, at best.
If you are pregnant or suspect you are pregnant, it is important to confirm your pregnancy with a lab test and to make sure you protect your health. At Open Arms Real Choices Clinic in Hayden, we offer many no-cost or low-cost health services, including lab-quality pregnancy testing and limited obstetric ultrasounds. With these tests, we can help you diagnose whether you have an ectopic pregnancy before you experience adverse symptoms. Take steps early to protect your health; contact Open Arms today.