H.R. 212: The Ectopic Pregnancy Death Sentence Act for Women

Posted on August 23, 2012

Desert Beacon Blog, August 23, 2012

There is nothing subtle about H.R. 212, the “Sanctity of Life Act,” sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) and co-sponsored by 64 other Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).   The CRS summaryof the bill is short and to the point:

“Sanctity of Human Life Act – Declares that: (1) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s paramount and most fundamental right; (2) each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and (3) Congress, each state, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have the authority to protect all human lives.”

Got that? Personhood begins with fertilization. Period.   Someone didn’t read the next chapter in the science book.

The Ectopic Pregnancy

Any family that’s endured the trauma of a detected ectopic pregnancy (or worse still an undetected instance) has a “dog in this fight.”  This is not an insignificant number. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports: “Ectopic pregnancy occurs at a rate of 19.7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in North America and is a leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester.”  (2000)  The National Institutes of Health report ectopic pregnancies in a range of 1 in every 40 to 100 pregnancies. [NIH]

And, there is something else the author and the co-sponsors of the bill should be aware of:

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus).  It is a life-threatening condition to the mother. The baby (fetus) cannot survive.”  [NCBI]

An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in the fallopian tube, hence the expression “tubal pregnancy,” and about 1% of fertilized eggs — or “persons” as the sponsors of H.R. 212 would have it — implant outside the uterine cavity and become extrauterine pregnancies which can occur anywhere along the reproductive tract.

It is a medical FACT that an ectopic pregnancy is perilous to the life of the mother. It is not inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or unsatisfying — it can be deadly. Death is most often caused by a rupture leading to internal bleeding and shock.  The treatment is also crystal clear: “Ectopic pregnancies is a life-threatening condition. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.”  [NCBI]

What’s confusing about “the developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life?”  The confusion is created when Congressional Republicans define a “fertilized egg” as a “person,” and thereby make it illegal for a physician to “remove the developing cells.”   Under H.R. 212 the “person” will continue to develop in the fallopian tube until there is a rupture, internal bleeding, shock, and death — of both the fetus and the mother.

Perhaps one of the 65 members of the House of Representatives who sponsored this legislation, now assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, would like to explain how it is “Pro-Life” to make the removal of the developing cells (which will never become a child) illegal thereby creating a situation in which the mother faces one of the leading causes of death in pregnant women during the first trimester?

Thankfully, about 68% to 77% of ectopic pregnancies resolve without medical intervention, however there are no clear indicators to define which women with small (less than 3.5 cm) ectopic pregnancies can safely survive the problem.  The APA estimates there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. annually, if the optimistic estimation that 77% of these will resolve naturally holds, then some  14,720 women will be in danger of dying from the lack of appropriate medical treatment.  Nevertheless, Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, is perfectly willing to allow this deadly game of Pregnancy Roulette to continue.

When speaking to the legislation on the incorrectly labelled  “partial birth abortion ban,”  Rep. Ryan said of exceptions to abortion bans based on the health needs of the mother:

“This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. And let me just say this — to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit — the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through it. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless. […] [H]undreds of OB/GYNs have told us that this is not medically necessary.”  [TP]  (emphasis in orginal)

Terminating an ectopic pregnancy, especially the 23% to 32% which do not resolve naturally, isn’t a political issue either.  It is a medical issue profoundly affecting the health of the mother and the viability of the family.

The failure to acknowledge the medical necessity of removing those “developing cells” isn’t a political issue either. It is a clear and uncomplicated statement of how little regard many current members of the Republican Party have for women.  All women of child bearing age.   Is it really “pro-life” to advocate for the possible death of a mother from internal bleeding and shock in order to save a fertilized egg which will never become a child?

I don’t understand this mentality, and I don’t want to.


Recommended Reading:  PubMed Health, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” NCBI, National Library of Medicine. AFFP, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” Feb. 2000.  WebMD, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  Mayo Clinic Online, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  The American Pregnancy Association estimates that there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. per year.  Centers for Disease Control, “Ectopic Pregnancy Surveillance.”   ACOBG, “Suspected Ectopic Pregnancy,” February 2006 (pdf).

Posted in: United States