Mainstream media claims that Ohio legislation would force doctors to “re-implant” ectopic pregnancies are false

Many of you probably saw the incendiary headlines claiming that a piece of Ohio legislation would force doctors to “re-implant” ectopic pregnancies making the rounds on social media. From Canda’s National Post to UK’s The Guardian, nearly every news outlet took their cues from left-wing American publications that were claiming this legislation would force medical professionals to perform a procedure that, at this point, is medically impossible and would be extraordinarily dangerous for women. The pro-life movement has never claimed that life-saving interventions are unethical when the person needing the treatment is a pregnant woman, and so this claim was met with confusion by many pro-life leaders. Live Action has now cleared up the confusion with a detailed explanation:

After Representative Candice Keller introduced HB 413, a bill that defines an “unborn child” as a person “from fertilization until live birth” and which would ban nearly all abortions in the state of Ohio, abortion activists and mainstream media immediately attacked the bill with unfair distortions of the law’s treatment of ectopic pregnancies. A piece recently published by Time is a prime example.

FALSE CLAIM: Under the bill, a doctor would be required to try to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus or face prison time.

The article alleges physicians would be required to treat an ectopic pregnancy by attempting to reimplant the preborn baby in the womb, thus causing potentially serious harm to the woman, since current medical treatment has not yet found a way to safely and reliably do this. In an ectopic pregnancy, the baby is implanted outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube but sometimes in the mother’s abdomen. The condition is always fatal for the preborn baby if implanted in the fallopian tube, and almost always fatal if in the abdomen. It is also one of the leading causes of death for women in the first trimester.

The author states: “Under the bill, physicians who perform abortions would face 15 years to life in prison — unless the mother’s life is in danger, or if the physician ‘takes all possible steps’ to save the fetus’ life. The bill claims that one example of a procedure to protect the fetus would be ‘attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.’” She paints a grim picture: “In essence, the bill seems to suggest that doctors could avoid jail time by performing a procedure that does not exist.”

THE FACTS: This section of the bill actually states that while requiring physicians to take “all possible steps to preserve the life of the unborn child, while preserving the life of the woman,” it clarifies that “[s]uch steps include, if applicable, attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus” (emphasis added).

The use of the phrase “if applicable” means that the law isn’t requiring physicians to conduct a procedure that is presently not possible; it simply leaves room for medical discretion if such a procedure ever becomes available and widespread in the future. The bill also does not assert that it is medically possible to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy.

Attacking a pro-life bill for something it does not require is misleading but unfortunately not surprising, given the pro-abortion media’s standard mode of operation. This kind of fallacious argument discredits abortion activists. Elsewhere in the article, the author even takes a jab at pro-life heartbeat laws with a false (and unsubstantiated) claim about preborn babies, namely that “scientists say that a fetus does not possess what most people would call a heart” early in development. On the contrary, the scientific consensus is clear that a preborn baby has a functioning heart by 22 days after conception, and possibly even sooner.

It should also be noted — since there always seems to be great confusion on this point — that treatment for ectopic pregnancy is not considered an abortion. The purpose of the treatment, as the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists has pointed out, is what makes all the difference: “[T]he intent for the pro-life physician is not to kill the unborn child, but to preserve the life of the mother in a situation where the life of the child cannot be saved by current medical technology.” If the physician could save the life of the baby, he would and should be obligated to do so — but at this time, that technology does not exist.

Reasonable people can argue about the wisdom of including this provision, but we should not mischaracterize what the law is actually saying. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Time, The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Guardian, Salon, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, and more news outlets are doing. Though HB 413 is controversial, it is deceptive to engage in a campaign of fear-mongering to assert that somehow the bill is endangering women with a non-existent requirement.

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