By Alex Seghers, Director of Education
There has been much debate on social media throughout America these past few weeks about post-Roe pro-life laws and how they effect medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage and interventions in life-threatening circumstances. In Louisiana, however, there is no reason to be fearful of the absence of care and treatment in each of these situations as the Louisiana 2022 Reaffirmation of Human Life Protection Act goes into effect.
It is key to note that medical definitions of abortion and legal definitions of abortion are different. The Louisiana 2022 Reaffirmation of Human Life Protection Act defines illegal abortion as the “performance of any act with the intent to terminate a clinically diagnosable pregnancy with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child.” (Act 545, Section 87.1) The Act goes on to describe the reasonable medical practices that legally can and should occur. Here are notes on ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, life-threatening circumstances, and emergency contraception:
Act 545 states the following: “Abortion shall not mean any one or more of the following acts, if performed by a physician: The removal of an ectopic pregnancy [and] The use of methotrexate to treat an ectopic pregnancy.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explain ectopic pregnancy as follows, “An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus. Almost all ectopic pregnancies—more than 90%—occur in a fallopian tube. As the [embryo] grows, it can cause the tube to burst (rupture). A rupture can cause major internal bleeding. This can be a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate surgery.” The Pro-Life movement recognizes that care for ectopic pregnancy is categorically different than elective abortion. Read the position taken by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which “does not consider treatment of ectopic pregnancy by standard surgical or medical procedures to be the moral equivalent of elective abortion, or to be the wrongful taking of human life.”
Act 545 states the following: “Abortion shall not mean any one or more of the following acts, if performed by a physician: The removal of a dead unborn child or the inducement or delivery of the uterine contents in case of a positive diagnosis, certified in writing in the woman’s medical record along with the results of an obstetric ultrasound test, that the pregnancy has ended or is in the unavoidable and untreatable process of ending due to spontaneous miscarriage, also known in medical terminology as spontaneous abortion, missed abortion, inevitable abortion, incomplete abortion, or septic abortion.”
When a woman’s body does not naturally pass a child’s remains, to preserve her health she may need the remains removed using medications or procedures that are identical to those used for illegal abortion. Act 545 does not make these medications or procedures illegal; rather, it is clear that illegal abortion is committed when there is a specific intent to cause the death of an unborn child.
Act 545 states the following: “Abortion shall not mean any one or more of the following acts, if performed by a physician: The performance of a medical procedure necessary in good faith medical judgment or reasonable medical judgment to prevent the death or substantial risk of death to the pregnant woman due to a physical condition, or to prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant woman. However, the physician shall make reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child in a manner consistent with reasonable medical practice.” And, it says the following about the termination of pregnancy to save an unborn child, “Abortion shall not mean any one or more of the following acts, if performed by a physician: A medical procedure performed with the intention to save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child.”
Louisiana doctors are free to perform necessary medical procedures to avoid and prevent the death or health-impairment of their patients. Furthermore, the defined illegal abortion in Act 545 should not be confused with the medical action of separating a mother from her unborn child when there is medical indication that this is necessary; these actions differ greatly, in both the goals, to save the life of one or the other, and often times the procedures, such as induction of labor or c-section. Read more here with the Charlotte Lozier Institute about some clarity of pro-life medical practice in life-threatening situations.
Act 545 specifically does not make contraception illegal. While there is necessary debate and pro-life concern about the potential abortifacient nature of Plan B and other methods, the legislation does not make these illegal. The Act states the following: “Abortion-inducing drug shall not mean a contraceptive, an emergency contraceptive, or the use of methotrexate to treat an ectopic pregnancy. “Contraceptive” means any device, measure, drug, chemical, or product, including single-ingredient levonorgestrel, that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the purpose of preventing pregnancy and is intended to be administered prior to the time when a clinically diagnosable pregnancy can be determined, provided that the contraceptive is sold, prescribed, or administered in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.”
Louisiana Right to Life takes a mission stance against abortifacients, but has no stance on contraception.
It is time for media and abortion-supporters to stop spreading the misinformation that necessary medical treatment would be at risk. This fear-mongering itself could be putting lives at risk as it propels doctors to be hesitant to make emergent medical decisions, pharmacists to be unwilling to prescribe pertinent medication, and patients nervous to give honest explanations of their condition. Let’s together ensure the public knows that women’s necessary healthcare is not at stake and take the opportunity to invest in the betterment of it!