The Supreme Court decision on abortion does not prohibit the treatment of ectopic pregnancies; the pro-choice claim is dangerous

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After the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a common rallying cry for pro-choice advocates has been the endangerment of women with ectopic pregnancies who would now be banned in some states banning or severely limiting abortion services.

Representatives Judy Chu, D-California, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and others insisted that women with such pregnancies are now unprotected. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., even used the question to justify stalking and harassing judges while eating in public: “Poor guy. He left before his blast because he decided half the country would have to risk death if they had an ectopic pregnancy. in the wrong state lines.” These views have been amplified by scholars like Harvard professor Laurence Tribe.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a rally in New York City on June 5, 2021.
(Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It’s a great talking point, but it happens to be both legally and medically wrong. Worse still, this common claim could put women at risk by suggesting that they could be legally at risk if they seek such treatment.


There are obviously good faith objections to the Dobbs rulings on the underlying constitutional interpretation. However, critics have created a parade of horrors that extend beyond that opinion, including arguments expressly rejected by the court. That includes President Biden, who repeatedly suggests contraceptives and travel for women could now be curtailed under the ruling.

The majority expressly and repeatedly rejected the application of this decision to these other rights. He pointed out that “intimate sexual relations, contraception and marriage” are not impacted by her dress because “abortion is fundamentally different”. The court and assenting Judge Brett Kavanaugh keep coming back to the point: “Nothing in this opinion should be taken to cast doubt on precedents that do not relate to abortion.” Only Judge Clarence Thomas suggested that these other cases should be considered, but even he pointed out that this opinion expressly denies this claim.

Justice Clarence Thomas joins his colleagues for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021.

Justice Clarence Thomas joins his colleagues for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021.
(Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)


However, the topic of ectopic pregnancy is not only wrong, it is dangerous. These pregnancies can be life-threatening and should be treated as soon as possible. These interventions are not abortions and even restrictive states expressly say so.

When a pregnancy implants in the fallopian tube, it is not a viable pregnancy, but it creates a life-threatening risk for the mother of tubal rupture and internal bleeding. Terminating such a pregnancy is not an abortion. Indeed, as noted in a recent column, the procedures are very different, including the fact that “mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly used to provide medical abortions, do not specifically treat pregnancy outside the womb.”

Choice advocates gather outside the Capitol on April 5, 2022 in Oklahoma City to protest several anti-abortion bills being considered by the GOP-led Legislature.

Choice advocates gather outside the Capitol on April 5, 2022 in Oklahoma City to protest several anti-abortion bills being considered by the GOP-led Legislature.
(AP Photo/Sean Murphy)

This is reflected in some of the more restrictive laws. Oklahoma law, for example, expressly states: “An act is not an abortion if the act is performed for the purpose of… terminating an ectopic pregnancy.” Texas, Louisiana and other states have the same express exemption. However, even if the law were silent on ectopic pregnancies, it is doubtful whether the courts would ignore medical and factual classifications to treat such emergency procedures as abortions or ignore that the mother’s life is in danger because of such pregnancies.

This makes this common topic of discussion not just misinformation, but the deadliest form of misinformation.

In the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino wrote that “banning abortion will hurt, invalidate and endanger many people…who are experiencing medical difficulties…A woman in Texas was told that she had to drive fifteen hours to New Mexico to have her ectopic pregnancy — which is nonviable, by definition, and always dangerous to the mother — removed.” This is based on a story from 2021, before the Dobbs decision, and an account of an abortion hotline from a doctor refusing to deal with an ectopic pregnancy. It is not explained how such a procedure, even when Roe v. Wade was still good law, could be denied under Texas law.


A woman reading such accounts or listening to Ocasio-Cortez could easily conclude that she could be charged with a crime or face other legal penalties if she sought treatment for an ectopic pregnancy in restrictive states. These politicians point out that time is running out and such a waste of time in an ectopic pregnancy could prove deadly. Yet their false claims could have precisely this effect.

This is precisely the type of disinformation that many of these same leaders have called for censorship. Indeed, this year, Ocasio-Cortez continued his call for corporate censorship on social media due to “misinformation through US-based companies like Facebook that have absolutely slowed down and frankly sabotaged” social media. efforts in areas like COVID treatment. Many have rallied to this anti-free speech cause. Indeed, recently another medical professor was suspended for simply calling for a discussion of concerns about the need for COVID vaccines for children.


I remain opposed to government and corporate censorship of misinformation, including false claims made by Ocasio-Cortez. Like many of the false claims surrounding the Dobbs decision, these issues can be resolved without restricting free speech.

However, President Biden and other Democrats have called for censorship because social media companies are “killing people” with misinformation. This is precisely what could happen if women believed the claims of politicians and experts about these ectopic pregnancies.


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About Chris Y. Camp

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