Planned Parenthood website removes distinction between ectopic pregnancy and abortion

Planned Parenthood changed the language on its national webpage last week explaining ectopic pregnancy and abortion, removing one sentence that distinguished treatment of the condition from an abortion. 

The changes come amid debate and confusion surrounding ectopic pregnancy as abortion bans are implemented in various states following the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, the 1973 landmark case establishing a constitutional right to abortion. 

Some supporters of abortion rights have claimed abortion bans could be interpreted to outlaw necessary medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, eight states have banned abortion and five have implemented bans that are currently blocked in court. Eight of the laws explicitly remove ectopic pregnancy from their definitions of abortion in their text, while the remaining five allow exceptions when a mother’s life is threatened. 

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, most often in a fallopian tube, according to Mayo Clinic. The embryo is unable to survive outside the uterus, and if not removed using surgery or medication it can rupture the tube, resulting in heavy bleeding and sometimes death. 

The Planned Parenthood page that was changed previously stated the following on abortion and ectopic pregnancy: “Abortion is a medical procedure that when done safely, ends a pregnancy that’s in your uterus.  

“Ectopic pregnancies are unsafely outside of your uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes), and are removed with a medicine called methotrexate or through a laparoscopic surgical procedure,” the website had stated. 

The new language eliminated the sentence about ending a pregnancy in a uterus, and begins by discussing the location of an embryo during an ectopic pregnancy.  

The webpage also altered a sentence that previously said: “The medical procedures for abortions are not the same as the medical procedures for an ectopic pregnancy.” 

It now reads: “The medical procedures for terminating a pregnancy in the uterus are usually different from the medical procedures for terminating an ectopic pregnancy.” 

Planned Parenthood told The Hill in a statement that the website’s language had been updated to prevent information from being “twisted” by anti-abortion voices. 

“Planned Parenthood believes that everyone should have access to medically accurate information to help them make informed decisions about their health care and their lives — without judgment,” said the written statement from Adrienne Verrilli, vice president of communications & culture at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  

“That is why we regularly update the health information on our website. Anti-abortion politicians, on the other hand, routinely misrepresent language around ectopic pregnancy to serve their own agenda. Our web page on ectopic pregnancy was updated to retain factual information about ectopic pregnancy, while also ensuring that the information could not be twisted or misrepresented by anti-abortion politicians. 

“An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus,” the statement from Verrill continued. “It is a dangerous type of pregnancy that is not viable, can never result in childbirth, and threatens the life of the pregnant person. It requires immediate medical or surgical intervention. 

“Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is different from the medical processes used for an abortion. A provider can treat an ectopic pregnancy using a medication called methotrexate or, more commonly, surgically through a procedure called laparoscopy. Although these treatments are different from abortion care, many patients and health care providers fear potential civil and criminal penalties around the treatment of pregnancy outcomes — including but not limited to ectopic pregnancy — because of the egregious overturning of Roe v. Wade. As a result, patients experiencing an ectopic pregnancy may have life-saving treatment delayed or denied due to providers’ fears of facing legal or criminal repercussions,” the statement said.  

Democratic officials have referenced ectopic pregnancy in their arguments against abortion bans. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in a July 8 tweet referring to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who voted in favor of overturning Roe, wrote, “he decided half the country should risk death if they have an ectopic pregnancy within the wrong state lines.” 

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