On June 13, the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing titled, “The Impact of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs Decision on Abortion Rights and Access Across the United States.” Towards the end of this hearing, there was a rather infuriating exchange between US Congressperson from Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley, and Erin Morrow Hawley, Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom.
In the exchange, Hawley repeatedly tries to talk over Pressley, while playing word games about the definition of “abortion,” — she tries to argue that terminating an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. At one point, Pressley says to Hawley, “It seems there is a deficit in your understanding of reproductive health,” and cites ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), which states that the “treatment for ectopic pregnancy requires ending a non-viable pregnancy.” Hawley pipes up again, arguing, “That’s not an abortion because it does not have the intent to end the life of a child.”
So what’s an abortion? According to ACOG, “Abortion is a medical intervention provided to individuals who need to end the medical condition of pregnancy.” What Hawley is trying to do here is create a false narrative that serves the anti-choice crowd — she’s trying to argue that the treatment of ectopic pregnancies won’t be altered by the repeal of Roe v. Wade. In fact, though, this is exactly what’s been happening. Grace Alexander on Twitter explains,
Ms. Hawley is trying to say that hospitals are NOT delaying treatment of ectopic pregnancy because this treatment is “not abortion.” Odd, because hospitals certainly seem to think they are delaying care for ectopic pregnancies for exactly this reason.
And Alexander is correct. There have already been many cases where doctors “fearing legal blowback are denying life-saving abortions.”
Bloomberg Law states that:
Hospitals and doctors are struggling to toe the line between providing life-saving measures for women and wading into a legal gray area that’s emerged in the absence of abortion rights.
And the New York Times reports that “Some women and health care providers have concerns about how this rare but life-threatening pregnancy complication will be treated now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.” They further explain:
Thirteen states have trigger laws that ban abortion immediately and that took effect after the Supreme Court’s decision, or soon will. Those laws allow exemptions if an abortion is needed to prevent a pregnant woman from dying.
But women’s health care providers say the recent ruling has raised questions about their ability to treat ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening complication. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has warned that abortion bans — even those with an exception for ectopic pregnancies — can create confusion and impede a patient’s timely access to care.
“We’re already seeing on Twitter and elsewhere physicians being scared to treat ectopic pregnancies,” said Dr. Aileen Gariepy, director of complex family planning at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “As doctors, our job is to follow science and evidence-based medicine, it is keeping up-to-date and doing what’s right for the patient. It is not the nuances of how state legislatures wrote something.”
You can watch the entire July 13, 2022 hearing here; the exchange between Pressley and Hawley starts at 4:47:24.