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After this past summer's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade resulted in a lot of confusion as to what this meant for women in difficult circumstances, you may be looking for some clarity. Simply put, sometimes women must receive immediate emergency medical treatment for life-threatening conditions related to or aggravated by pregnancy.
If a woman finds herself in a situation where life-saving medical intervention is required to save her life, this emergency medical care will remain available and will not be denied, even post-Roe.
Following the Supreme Court's recent decision, the Secretary of Health and Human Services issued a letter to medical professionals explaining how medical providers should be compelled to use their expert judgment and provide appropriate medical care to save a woman's life whenever necessary. As such, healthcare workers and medical professionals can feel confident in their guidance to use any resources available to save a woman's life when she is facing life-threatening conditions where immediate intervention is required.
As a result of this guidance from Health and Human Services, the only way a woman would die or face life-threatening medical challenges due to lack of medical care is if she were unable to gain timely access to medical attention.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy is developing outside of the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. It is important to recognize that there are key differences between treatments for ectopic pregnancies and elective abortion.
First, the location of an ectopic pregnancy – outside of the uterus – means that these pregnancies are not viable. There is no current medical technology that enables the transfer of this pregnancy to the uterus, and virtually no way for the pregnancy to continue in a healthy development. Further progression of an ectopic pregnancy could cause harm or even fatal effects to the woman if left untreated.
In contrast, elective abortion is the termination of an otherwise viable pregnancy located within the uterus. Simply put, without an abortion procedure, the pregnancy would continue to progress in a healthy or expected manner. As such, the treatment and implication are markedly different.
In a post from UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Patricia Santiago Munoz, M.D., explains another key difference in treatment: "Ectopic pregnancy treatment is not the same as abortion… treatment cannot be generalized as 'abortion,' particularly because many women with ectopic pregnancies planned to conceive and wanted to carry their pregnancies to term."
No state law restricts access to ectopic pregnancy treatment, as there is virtually no debate amongst the medical community that emergency ectopic pregnancy care is vital to women's health. Medical intervention required to treat ectopic pregnancies is distinctly different – in practice and intention – from any form of elective abortion.
In a similar sense, care to treat a spontaneous miscarriage is markedly different from elective abortion as well. Again, while the intention behind an abortion is to end an otherwise viable pregnancy, treatment of a miscarriage involves an intervention to protect a woman's health after a spontaneous fetal death or demise of a pregnancy has already naturally occurred, often due to reasons entirely outside of any medical control.
The University of Missouri's School of Medicine clearly explains this difference: "Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy…in which the embryo or fetus is prematurely removed or caused to be expelled. Induced abortions are commonly voluntary (elective)…in contrast to spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, in which the embryo or fetus is involuntarily expelled because of accidental trauma or disease."
While some similarities in procedures used to treat miscarriage and elective abortion may exist – such as dilation & curettage, or D&C – due to their distinct difference in intent and timing of fetal demise, care following a miscarriage is not restricted by any restrictions on elective abortion.
There's a lot to consider when making a pregnancy decision. If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant and aren't sure where to turn next, you may find it comforting and reassuring to get your questions answered by a knowledgeable, professional, helpful source.
At Choices Options for Women, we're here to help. All of our services are free, and we'd be honored to walk alongside you as you learn about your options and discuss your unique needs. Schedule your free appointment to get peace of mind and compassionate help today.
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