How treatment of ectopic pregnancy fits into post-Roe medical care

As laws restricting abortion snap into place across at least 18 states after the June 24 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, people have taken to social media to question whether this decision will limit access to the treatment for ectopic pregnancies.

A Facebook post claimed “the treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is abortion.”

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Similar posts have been shared widely across social media. Actress Halle Berry posted a similar graphic on Instagram.

Ectopic pregnancy happen when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus. This can cause life-threatening bleeding.

We found that while in some cases there is some overlap in the way ectopic pregnancies are treated and how pregnancies are electively terminated through abortion, that overlap appears to be small.

The larger issue is whether medical providers interpret restrictive abortion laws as limiting their ability to treat patients who present with ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening.

How providers respond could depend on how “abortion” is defined under state laws.

Ectopic or extrauterine pregnancies happen when the egg travels down the fallopian tube to meet the sperm but does not reach the uterus. In 90% of ectopic cases the fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tube. In other cases it can attach to the cervix or to the scar of a cesarean section. Out of every 1,000 pregnancies in the US around eight are ectopic.

“As the pregnancy grows, it can cause the tube to burst,” which can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

These pregnancies are not viable and they cannot be reimplanted in the uterus. As a result,

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