Ohio Bill Could Kill Women With Ectopic Pregnancies

Ohio Bill Could Kill Women With Ectopic Pregnancies May 9, 2019


You have surely heard by now that Georgia passed an extremely strict “heartbeat bill,” set to go into effect on the first of January, that would treat women who get abortions like criminals. It’s been suggested that this bill will also put mothers who miscarry in danger of prosecution. I have things to say about the bill, but I want to get back  to them at a later time. First I need to address something that’s happening in my own state, Ohio.

I have learned that Ohio legislators are considering a bill that is in some ways even more draconian than the one passed in Georgia. This bill would ban all insurance coverage for anything that lawmakers consider a non-therapeutic abortion– and I use the phrase “anything that lawmakers consider a non-therapeutic abortion” deliberately, because the bill isn’t being written by doctors but legislators, and the legislators seem to have some fanciful ideas about what constitutes an abortion.

This bill is sponsored by republican John Becker, who no doubt thinks of himself as pro-life. It includes legislation on what to do with an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the womb. Ectopic pregnancies are always fatal to the embryo and, if not treated quickly, are fatal to the mother as well. She will eventually rupture and bleed out. Treatments for an ectopic pregnancy involve removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and leaving it intact, or removing the tube itself with the embryo still inside. Both result in the the death of the embryo, who is going to die no matter what, but removing the tube is 100% accepted by Catholic bioethics as necessary and not an abortion. That may not matter to non-Catholics in my audience, but I’m a Catholic who studied bioethics at Franciscan University at the graduate level, and we discussed ectopic pregnancies specifically in my classes, so it matters to me. Even by the strictest standards, treating an ectopic pregnancy is not abortion. It’s something else entirely. No one who is pro-life should hesitate to accept that treatment.

Becker doesn’t seem to realize this. He has a fanciful idea about a treatment that’s right out of science fiction: “Part of that treatment would be removing that embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus so that is defined as not an abortion under this bill.”

Actually, no, Mr. Becker, that would not be part of the treatment. And I know that it’s not part of the treatment, because it’s not physically possible to save an ectopic pregnancy by just scraping the baby off the lining of the fallopian tube and stuffing it  in the womb. Unborn babies are not cuttings from a hydrangea bush. They don’t take root when transplanted. I wish they did. For the sake of my dear friends who have suffered the loss of a baby and the trauma of an ectopic pregnancy, I wish with all my heart that you could save a tiny embryo by scooping her out of the tube and sticking her in the uterus where she belongs, but you can’t.

And saying that you can is a slap in the face to any woman who’s suffered such a horror.

My dear friends who have suffered ectopic pregnancies didn’t get abortions. They got treatment for their ectopic pregnancy, they lost their babies, they went home mourning and traumatized and also recovering from a dangerous medical emergency that could have killed them. I am relieved and grateful that they’re alive. I am terrified that this law would end up banning insurance coverage for their condition except in the case of a fictional “procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.” you can tell no doctor ever came within a mile of this legislation, not only because that procedure doesn’t exist, but because a “fertilized ovum” is an earlier stage of pregnancy; by the time you’re removing a fallopian tube to save a woman, it’s much further along. But that’s the exact wording of the bill as it stands today.

The bill also allows coverage to save the life of the mother:  “a procedure, in an emergency situation, that is medically necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.” In practice, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, this might mean that insurance would cover you if your fallopian tube had already ruptured and you managed to make it to the hospital in extreme pain and internal bleeding before you died. But if the ectopic pregnancy was diagnosed before then– apparently, Ohio legislators expect the doctor to scrape the baby out of the tube, killing him or her instantly, and then stuff the dead baby into the mother’s uterus. This would be as likely to result in a healthy baby as the doctor cutting the mother’s nose off and throwing that in the uterus too. This bill is not pro-life, it’s pro-sepsis.

It’s not even that; it’s gibberish.

It’s a man with no medical expertise crafting legislation for a body part that will never impact him personally because he doesn’t have one.

If this bill is somehow signed into law as it is, I believe women are going to die. They are not going to bravely sacrifice their lives to save their babies, which would be bad enough; they just might to bleed to death with a tiny dead baby rotting inside of them, because an ignorant male legislator wanted to look extra pro-life for his constituents and a doctor was afraid to act early.

He’s not being pro-life. He’s not even being rational. He’s attempting to legislate something about which he is completely ignorant.

And everyone, pro-life and pro-choice, should be outraged.

(image via Pixabay) 

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