People With Dangerous Non-Viable Pregnancies Could Die Under Missouri's Latest Anti-Abortion Bill

In a decade of trying years for the reproductive rights movement, 2022 is proving to be uniquely challenging — with numerous restrictive state-level anti-abortion laws progressing across state legislatures in states that already have limited access to abortion care resources. One of the latest to hit the floor is a Missouri bill that seeks to restrict the kind of abortion care offered to pregnant people with non-viable pregnancies that could prove fatal without intervention.

According to the bill’s text, House Bill 2810 looks to count “the offense of trafficking abortion-inducing devices or drugs is a class A 11 felony if ….” including numerous conditions like a gestation of more than 10 weeks and if “the abortion was performed or induced or was attempted to be performed or induced on a woman who has an ectopic pregnancy.”

“This is what it looks like when uneducated politicians try and legislate our bodies,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement to Newsweek about the proposed language. “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.”

Republican state Representative Brian Seitz told Newsweek that the bill is meant to prevent drugs and devices that perform abortion in cases where people are being trafficked for sex, leading to his colleague Democratic State Representative Keri Ingle to point out that the language of the provision would criminalize ways to get individuals who need devices or drugs for treatment of ectopic pregnancies as well.

“Do you know that one of the one of the medications that you’re trying to outlaw is one of the main drugs given to an unruptured ectopic pregnancy?” Ingle asked Seitz at a Wednesday Missouri legislative panel discussing the bill, adding that even extreme anti-abortion activists might take issue and be “horribly offended” by the choice of language in this bill.

While the various bans that are being introduced on the state-level remain devastating on their own to people who can get pregnant, this particular line has drawn criticism in recent days for being especially cruel, pointless and counterintuitive to the goals of keeping people alive and providing healthcare.

Ectopic pregnancies, for the uninitiated, are by definition unviable. — as the embryo implants not in the uterus (the place where they can get nutrients and grow to term) but instead on another part of the person’s body (often the fallopian tube or even an ovary or part of the abdominals.) Complications from these kind of pregnancies can prove to be incredibly dangerous for the individual and require intervention to avoid harm to the person.

As SheKnows previously reported, “Most ectopic [pregnancies] can be treated medically with a medication called methotrexate if diagnosed early enough,” per Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, the lead OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “Laparoscopic removal of the pregnancy from the tube or removal of the affected tube if the diagnosis is not made soon enough. The most serious cases may involve an open procedure — abdominal incision. A ruptured ectopic is a surgical emergency.”

While ectopic pregnancies are rare — only occurring in around two percent of all pregnancies — people  who have experienced one ectopic pregnancy are 15 percent more likely to go through it again and those who have experienced two are 50 percent more likely, which leads to a group of people who could be made especially vulnerable if legislation like this is signed into action.

In addition to this line on ectopic pregnancies, the bill is also targeting abortion providers, looking to make those who assist with the abortion of an ectopic pregnancy (via legal, safe medication abortions) guilty of class A felonies (which carry a hefty 10-year minimum prison sentence).

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