After five decades, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that gave women the right to choose an abortion before fetal viability. The new ruling allows states to set their own abortion laws. Naturally, this ruling has amplified the discussion of abortion on social media. One popular pro-choice talking point is the termination of pregnancy for certain medical conditions that pose a risk to pregnant women. For example, a viral tweet that has been shared by thousands states the following claim, "The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, a septic uterus, or a miscarriage that your body won’t release is abortion. If you can’t get those abortions, you die."
We rate this claim to be true. Certain medical conditions may require the termination of a pregnancy to avoid fatal complications for the mother. Scientific studies in the past two years have noted that abortion bans will likely increase maternal mortality. A study published in Demography in 2021 found that a total ban on the procedure could increase pregnancy-related deaths up to 21% overall and up to 33% for Black women. A study published in 2020 (Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun; 17(11): 3773) shows that states that have now banned or restricted abortion also have some of the highest mortality rates around pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the highest child mortality rates.
“Yes, there are absolutely certain medical conditions that warrant us to very urgently encourage a woman to have an abortion,” said Stacey Beck, MD and Assistant Professor at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Physicians
“One of the most common reasons I help women to terminate their pregnancy is because their water is broke [early in pregnancy] and they have an infection,” Beck said.
If there’s a clear sign of infection, the condition can be life threatening, “because there is an extremely high risk that the infection inside of the uterus spreads very quickly into her bloodstream and she becomes septic. If she continues the pregnancy it comes at a very high risk of death.”
“Typically, if a woman breaks her water before 20 weeks into her pregnancy, it is usually strongly recommended by medical professionals that she considers an abortion,” Beck said.
A placental abruption, which is when the placenta starts to separate from the uterus, is another condition that could fatally impact a pregnant women’s life. It is “uncommon yet a serious condition,” the Cleveland Clinic states ( here ).
As reported by Lori Robertson at FactCheck.org back in 2012...
Chicago’s CBS 2 TV reported that ectopic pregnancies, where the fetus develops outside the uterus, affect 64,000 women a year, a figure that comes from the American Pregnancy Association. The National Institutes of Health says that ectopic pregnancies are “life-threatening” and that the pregnancy “cannot continue to birth.” The fetus also cannot survive.
The Guttmacher Institute, a reproduction research center, did not have statistics on abortions performed to save the life of the mother. A dated 1998 study — published by the International Family Planning Perspectives journal — reported that a 1987-1988 survey found that 2.8 percent of 1,773 women who had had an abortion that year said the reason for the abortion was risk to maternal health.
A Washington Post opinion piece written by practicing obstetrician-gynecologists backs this necessary procedure.
That’s why we provide the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, to our patients, which is consistent with the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the leading professional organization of U.S. OB/GYNs. That doesn’t make us biased; it makes us good doctors.