The Supreme Court decision last June that overturned Roe v. Wade has initiated a noisy national conversation in which abortion advocates have asserted that elective abortion (or termination) is a treatment for ectopic pregnancies. It is not. And I should know, because several years ago I was treated for an ectopic pregnancy.
In 2011, my husband and I adopted a sibling group, ages twelve, eight, six, and four. I became a mom when these children moved in; not long after this, I found out I was expecting. I was overjoyed—and also taken aback. The year before, I had suffered an early miscarriage, which had been devastating.
My journey to motherhood through adoption began when I was a missionary in Romania. I will never forget reaching down to take care of a baby at a children’s hospital and a nurse saying, “Oh, that baby just died five minutes ago.” That experience, and the repeated trauma, pain, and suffering I witnessed during my three years as a missionary, inspired me to become an adoptive mom.
After returning home, I received a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and worked in the Los Angeles County foster care system, one of the largest in the nation. My dream was to help the children recover from the trauma they might have experienced, and adjust to the families they were matched with in healthy ways.
Because of my surprise pregnancy and previous miscarriage, I was monitored closely by my doctor. When it came time for the appointment when we could expect to hear the baby’s heartbeat, we did in fact hear it—but the doctor couldn’t find the baby anywhere. Right away, he suspected an ectopic pregnancy. But it was still early, and I wanted to wait to be sure. About a week later, though, I had heavy bleeding, and after two trips to the emergency room, and a lot of pain, I had emergency surgery in which the doctor removed my right fallopian tube.
Again, I was devastated at the loss of my baby. But I also knew there had been no possibility that he or she would have survived; and that there was a high possibility I would have suffered internal bleeding if my tube ruptured. My life had been at risk. The thought of my four children losing their mother again absolutely terrified me.
And that is why it is so important for our conversation about abortion to accurately reflect what happens with an ectopic pregnancy—that it is truly a life-or-death moment for a woman. And yet, I’ve seen several news stories that claim the Dobbs decision, and other state restrictions on abortion, will prevent treatment for ectopic pregnancies.
For example, in the New York Times I read that “. . . the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which deems abortion an “essential component” of health care, has warned that bans can impede treatment of ectopic pregnancy—even if a specific exclusion is included.”
And a National Public Radio report had this: “But following the June reversal of Roe by the Supreme Court, reproductive health experts say treatment may be dangerously delayed as some states move to limit abortion services …‘In Texas, we saw people not treating ectopic pregnancies until they ruptured,’ says Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Montclair, N.J, who is board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, which supports abortion rights.”
This misinformation is deadly; it is also easily refuted. Until this past August, Planned Parenthood, the largest single provider of reproductive health services and abortion in the U.S, had a helpful F.A.Q. on their website regarding ectopic pregnancies:
Treating an ectopic pregnancy isn’t the same thing as getting an abortion. Abortion is a medical procedure that when done safely, ends a pregnancy that’s in your uterus . . . The medical procedures for abortions are not the same as the medical procedures for an ectopic pregnancy.
This seems very clear to me. Maybe too clear, as Planned Parenthood removed the distinction from the F.A.Q. as abortion advocates, claiming women’s lives were in danger, sowed confusion and fear. (VeryWell Health, a website whose content, according to Wikipedia, “is created by 120 health experts and reviewed by board-certified physicians,” has a very useful write-up summarizing the facts titled Treating Ectopic Pregnancy Is Not the Same as Abortion Care.)
All of our choices have consequences—but sometimes the choice is simply not ours. Even though it was early in my pregnancies, I felt my losses deeply. I mourn my babies. A woman in a situation like mine should never be made to feel as if she had chosen abortion. I had no choice. My only option was medical treatment for a pregnancy in my fallopian tube—a life-threatening pregnancy that would never be viable.
My family has continued to grow. We now have ten children, including a son who I was later able to bring to term because of the excellent medical treatment I received after the ectopic pregnancy.
If you are truly pro-woman, please don’t use cases like mine to justify keeping abortion legal. Your argument has no basis in science; it is medically inaccurate; and, in causing women undue confusion and sometimes even deep shame, it can endanger lives.