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No, Treatment for an Ectopic Pregnancy Is Not an Abortion

Ectopic pregnancy is both a tragedy and an emergency, and laws in every state protect treatment for women who face it.
Denise Harle
Written by
A woman is seen getting an ultrasound

While Roe v. Wade was in effect from 1973 to 2022, more than 60 million innocent babies lost their lives to abortion. So when the U.S. Supreme Court finally reversed that disastrous and deadly decision in 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it should have been a time to celebrate millions of lives being saved.

Pro-life advocates across America did just that, praising God for the babies who will now get to live thanks to the Court’s decision. But radical pro-abortion activists, including abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, were furious.

Planned Parenthood and businesses like it rely on abortion for profit, and the Court’s decision in Dobbs threatened their model. As a result, they launched a full-on disinformation campaign to try to scare people into supporting abortion. One scenario that pro-abortion activists immediately started mischaracterizing for their own gain was ectopic pregnancies.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition in which an embryo has implanted outside of the uterus, meaning it will not survive. According to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), survival of the mother in these cases “requires that the embryo either spontaneously or artificially die, or be removed.”

About 2 percent of all pregnancies are ectopic, and slightly less than 3 percent of pregnancy-related deaths occur due to complications from ectopic pregnancies. An ultrasound can identify whether a woman’s pregnancy is ectopic.

Is treatment for an ectopic pregnancy an abortion?

Ectopic pregnancies are undeniably tragic. It is not medically possible for an ectopic embryo to survive pregnancy. But instead of grieving with mothers who experience this tragedy, abortion activists are attempting to use it to further their agenda.

Despite what these activists claim, treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. An abortion is the deliberate, unnatural ending of the life of an unborn child. It is completely different than a miscarriage, in which a mother loses her unborn child due to natural causes, and an ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo is physically unable to survive.

Dishonesty surrounding ectopic pregnancies

Medical experts have long agreed that treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages does not constitute an abortion. Prior to Dobbs, even Planned Parenthood’s website said, “Treating an ectopic pregnancy isn’t the same thing as getting an abortion.”

But after the Court overturned Roe, abortion activists and businesses panicked. Instead of admitting what many really wanted—the ability to kill unborn children for nearly any reason—many abortion advocates tried to bolster their position by claiming that pro-life policies could put mothers at risk.

Planned Parenthood changed its website to read, “The medical procedures for ending a pregnancy in the uterus (AKA abortion) are usually different from the medical procedures for terminating an ectopic pregnancy.” And radical abortion activists, including some at a congressional hearing in July 2022, falsely suggested women would soon be unable to receive life-saving care.

In reality, no state has any laws preventing medical professionals from treating ectopic pregnancies. Laws in every state help ensure that women facing medical emergencies have access to all the health care they need.

Abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood are not the only ones who are dishonestly attempting to equate treatment for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies with abortion. Some celebrities have also peddled this falsehood in the media.

In July 2022, pop singer Halsey claimed that abortion saved her life after she had three miscarriages. The fact that Halsey had to experience these tragedies is devastating, but the dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure she received after one of her miscarriages was not an abortion, and it is legal in all 50 states, just like treatment for ectopic pregnancies. (While D&C procedures are used in many abortions, they are also used following an incomplete miscarriage and to diagnose abnormal bleeding.)

Falsely equating miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies with abortion is dangerous and unconscionable. It confuses women about their treatment options in an emergency, and it stokes anger about a problem that does not exist. It is also disrespectful to women who tragically lost their unborn children through no choice of their own.

Ectopic pregnancies and abortion drugs

Abortion drugs carry many risks. Even for women with more routine pregnancies, these drugs can cause serious complications. But for women with ectopic pregnancies, abortion drugs present even more risks, especially given the push from abortion activists to distribute them through the mail and at retail pharmacies.

Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening to the mother, which is why they need to be treated in a timely manner. To identify these dangerous pregnancies, women need to have an ultrasound.

Traditionally, ultrasounds have been routine for nearly all pregnant women. Even women who wanted to take abortion drugs had to visit a doctor in person before the drugs would be prescribed, and that visit could include an ultrasound.

But in recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has eliminated the requirement for women to visit a prescriber in person before obtaining abortion drugs. This presents many dangers, including the possibility that an ectopic pregnancy could go undetected. (Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s removal of critical safeguards surrounding abortion drugs, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Learn more that lawsuit here.)

Since abortion drugs like mifepristone and misoprostol cannot treat ectopic pregnancies but can mask the symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, women with these pregnancies need to go to a medical professional. But if they order abortion drugs in the mail or at a pharmacy without knowing they have an ectopic pregnancy, they may not seek out a medical professional until after significant complications arise. This delay puts women in grave danger, and it could easily be avoided with a simple in-person doctor’s office visit.

Planned Parenthood says it cares about women with ectopic pregnancies, and it falsely claims that pro-life laws put women in danger. But Planned Parenthood’s own website advocates for policies that truly threaten women with ectopic pregnancies.

On its website, Planned Parenthood explains how women may “self-manage” their abortion by “finding and taking abortion pills to end a pregnancy without the help of a doctor or nurse.” It claims this method can be “safe and effective” as long as women are less than 10 weeks pregnant, have good information about how to take abortion drugs, and don’t have any known medical risks.

The website vaguely suggests that women who “think [they] have an ectopic pregnancy” should not take abortion drugs. But Planned Parenthood completely fails to recognize that this very advocacy of “self-managed abortions” discourages women from taking the necessary actions to determine whether they have an ectopic pregnancy. If women do not consult a doctor before taking abortion drugs, how can they confirm the location of their pregnancy?

This dangerous language demonstrates that Planned Parenthood’s real goal is not to help women, but rather to keep abortion prevalent so that it can continue to profit.

Continuing to protect life

Ectopic pregnancies are tragic and dangerous, and women who have to endure them deserve all the medical care and emotional support they need. By falsely equating ectopic pregnancies and abortion, activists are both endangering women and belittling their experiences.

Every state, including those with pro-life laws, ensures that women with ectopic pregnancies can access the necessary treatment. Together with our allies in the pro-life movement, ADF is committed to pursuing and defending policies that protect both unborn children and their mothers.

In the post-Roe world we live in today, abortion activists are more apt than ever to do whatever they can to discredit the work of the pro-life movement. Sadly, this even includes spreading lies about tragedies like ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. But ADF is committed to protecting life, and we will continue to do so even in the face of attacks from the opposition.