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Missouri causes confusion with ‘life-threatening’ abortion law that sparks fears of ban on ectopic pregnancy treatment

Former Missouri Senator says bill aims ‘to outlaw morning-after pill, which has been very important to rape victims’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 15 March 2022 16:44 GMT
Related video: Florida House passes restrictive abortion bill

A bill proposed in the Missouri statehouse has been criticised for possibly criminalising using drugs to treat ectopic pregnancies, which aren’t viable and could threaten a woman’s life.

Ectopic pregnancies take place when an egg is fertilized outside of the uterus, such as in the fallopian tube. In North America, 19.7 out of every 1,000 pregnancies are ectopic, according to a study by American Family Physician. It’s the top cause of maternal mortality in the initial trimester.

If the condition isn’t treated, it can lead to the rupture of internal tissue and significant bleeding.

The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Sterling Ransone, told Bloomberg News that the effects on families, both physical and mental, can be long-lasting.

“As an academy, we’re extremely concerned about any potential legislation that could cause an inability for our patients to receive life-saving treatment, it puts us in a very difficult position,” he said.

House bill 2810, introduced by Republican Brian Seitz, would criminalize the production, sale and transportation of medications inducing abortions and other instruments intended “to be used for the purpose of performing or inducing an abortion”.

The bill cites abortions used to end ectopic pregnancies as included in the restrictions.

The chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood in St Louis and southwest Missouri, Colleen McNicholas, told Bloomberg that, “this is what it looks like when uneducated politicians try and legislate our bodies”.

“Ectopic pregnancies, if not treated promptly, become life-threatening. Banning any provision of care related to ectopic pregnancies will put people’s lives at risk,” she added.

Mr Seitz told the outlet in an email that the bill had been misrepresented that he would update its wording.

“This bill does nothing to curtail that LEGAL activity, as it can present a clear and present danger to the mother,” he noted concerning ectopic pregnancy treatments.

The bill “is designed to curtail the illegal transportation, manufacture, sale, use, etc of otherwise legal drugs”, he added.

Former Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted: “Misrepresented? Your name is on it, you had it written. You’ve already passed [a] law that makes victims of rape and incest criminals if they terminate a pregnancy and you file a bill that clearly makes it a felony to save a woman’s life that has [an] ectopic pregnancy. Misrepresented my a**.”

“Remember the whole point of his bill is to outlaw the morning-after pill, which has been very important to rape victims,” she added.

In 2019, a lawmaker in Ohio proposed a bill that would ban health insurance providers from covering abortion care, with an exception that would allow for doctors to “reimplant” an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus, despite that this process isn’t considered viable by healthcare professionals. The lawmaker later admitted that he hadn’t researched whether reimplanting would work.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 108 “abortion restrictions” were “enacted in 2021”, which “far surpasses the previous post-Roe record of 89, set in 2011. A total of 1,338 abortion restrictions have been enacted since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973 – 44 per cent of these in the past decade alone”.

If Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court, which currently has a six to three conservative majority, Missouri is one of 25 states where abortions would automatically be banned under all or most circumstances, according to state policy analyst Elizabeth Nash at the institute. She told Bloomberg that 36 million women of reproductive age could be affected.

She added that the scope of the bills being proposed across the US is widening. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing a 15-week ban put in place in Mississippi in 2018.

“They are anticipating this overturning of abortion rights in the next few months,” she said. “What we’re seeing are legislators who are, in a matter of fact way, stripping us of these rights that we hold.”

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