H.R. 212: The Ectopic Pregnancy Death Sentence Act for Women

There is nothing subtle about H.R. 212, the “Sanctity of Life Act,” sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) and co-sponsored by 64 other Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).   The CRS summary of the bill is short and to the point:

“Sanctity of Human Life Act – Declares that: (1) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s paramount and most fundamental right; (2) each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and (3) Congress, each state, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories have the authority to protect all human lives.”

Got that? Personhood begins with fertilization. Period.   Someone didn’t read the next chapter in the science book.

The Ectopic Pregnancy

Any family that’s endured the trauma of a detected ectopic pregnancy (or worse still an undetected instance) has a “dog in this fight.”  This is not an insignificant number. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports: “Ectopic pregnancy occurs at a rate of 19.7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in North America and is a leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester.”  (2000)  The National Institutes of Health report ectopic pregnancies in a range of 1 in every 40 to 100 pregnancies. [NIH]

And, there is something else the author and the co-sponsors of the bill should be aware of:

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus).  It is a life-threatening condition to the mother. The baby (fetus) cannot survive.”  [NCBI]

An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in the fallopian tube, hence the expression “tubal pregnancy,” and about 1% of fertilized eggs — or “persons” as the sponsors of H.R. 212 would have it — implant outside the uterine cavity and become extrauterine pregnancies which can occur anywhere along the reproductive tract.

It is a medical FACT that an ectopic pregnancy is perilous to the life of the mother. It is not inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or unsatisfying — it can be deadly. Death is most often caused by a rupture leading to internal bleeding and shock.  The treatment is also crystal clear: “Ectopic pregnancies is a life-threatening condition. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.”  [NCBI]

What’s confusing about “the developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life?”  The confusion is created when Congressional Republicans define a “fertilized egg” as a “person,” and thereby make it illegal for a physician to “remove the developing cells.”   Under H.R. 212 the “person” will continue to develop in the fallopian tube until there is a rupture, internal bleeding, shock, and death — of both the fetus and the mother.

Perhaps one of the 65 members of the House of Representatives who sponsored this legislation, now assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, would like to explain how it is “Pro-Life” to make the removal of the developing cells (which will never become a child) illegal thereby creating a situation in which the mother faces one of the leading causes of death in pregnant women during the first trimester?

Thankfully, about 68% to 77% of ectopic pregnancies resolve without medical intervention, however there are no clear indicators to define which women with small (less than 3.5 cm) ectopic pregnancies can safely survive the problem.  The APA estimates there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. annually, if the optimistic estimation that 77% of these will resolve naturally holds, then some  14,720 women will be in danger of dying from the lack of appropriate medical treatment.  Nevertheless, Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, is perfectly willing to allow this deadly game of Pregnancy Roulette to continue.

When speaking to the legislation on the incorrectly labelled  “partial birth abortion ban,”  Rep. Ryan said of exceptions to abortion bans based on the health needs of the mother:

“This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. And let me just say this — to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit — the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through it. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless. […] [H]undreds of OB/GYNs have told us that this is not medically necessary.”  [TP]  (emphasis in orginal)

Terminating an ectopic pregnancy, especially the 23% to 32% which do not resolve naturally, isn’t a political issue either.  It is a medical issue profoundly affecting the health of the mother and the viability of the family.

The failure to acknowledge the medical necessity of removing those “developing cells” isn’t a political issue either. It is a clear and uncomplicated statement of how little regard many current members of the Republican Party have for women.  All women of child bearing age.   Is it really “pro-life” to advocate for the possible death of a mother from internal bleeding and shock in order to save a fertilized egg which will never become a child?

I don’t understand this mentality, and I don’t want to.


Recommended ReadingPubMed Health, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” NCBI, National Library of Medicine. AFFP, “Ectopic Pregnancy,” Feb. 2000.  WebMD, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  Mayo Clinic Online, “Ectopic Pregnancy.”  The American Pregnancy Association estimates that there are approximately 64,000 ectopic pregnancies in the U.S. per year.  Centers for Disease Control, “Ectopic Pregnancy Surveillance.”   ACOBG, “Suspected Ectopic Pregnancy,” February 2006 (pdf).


Filed under abortion, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

16 responses to “H.R. 212: The Ectopic Pregnancy Death Sentence Act for Women

    “They” will probably pass it.
    But let’s hope not.

  2. If you are uncomfortable with Congress defiining life as beginning with fertilization, what definiton would you like to see?

    • I don’t want to see Congress define when life begins. They are not scientists, phsicians or even in the ballpark. They are politicians, and refuse to comprehend the facts. They have no right tell me or mine what to do when I or they are faced with a choice of this nature. The fact that they are unwilling to adress the above issue and allow no exceptions speaks volumes regarding how little they value women.

    • 65snake

      First, your comment does not address the topic.
      However, to answer your question….how about viability? It makes the most sense from a scientific standpoint. Religious views have no place in our laws, if we base it on religious views we are legislating everyone to follow one religion.
      On this particular topic, where we are talking about a grouping of cells that will never be an actual breathing person, can we agree that it should not be considered an actual person?

  3. How about life begins when breathing happens. US citizens must be born. Likewise so should world citizens.

  4. Has anyone thought of the implications this would have on our Constitution and Bill of Rights? The whole thing would have to be re-written. As of now, you must be born in the United States to be considered a natural born citizen… would this entail that a person has to prove that they have been fertilized in the US?

    Also, what does this mean for medical research and in vitro fertilization? Would a power outtage in an in-vitro clinic (assuming we still had them) causing all fertilized eggs to die be considered mass murder?

    What about women that fall down stairs or slip and accidentally miscarry, would that be considered manslaughter and accidental homicide?

    Is the spontaneous abortion of a fetus then considered suicide?

    How many doctors will lose their licenses and go to already over crowded prisons?

    Obviously, they need to think about this ridiculous notion that a fertilized egg is a human being with rights more precious than an already existing one. If they are really so “Pro-Life” then maybe they should start acting like it and consider the rammifications of what their actions would produce.

  5. Why is there no exception for a prescribed abortion? Why is it ok to divert attention away from other issues to protect “people” that you don’t care about once they are breathing?

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  7. How about arresting all of these men with pre-meditated murder when the women start dying because they are denied medical tgreatment for an ectopic pregnancy.

    VAE(@andiandi2011) according to God in the bible, a person does not exist until I (God) puts the 1st breath of life into it. so for those who claim the bible is 100% true, there is your answer.

  8. Why does govt. have “define” life at all. This country has got along pretty well for 236 years without some congressmen telling us what life is.

  9. perhaps the answer is somewhere in between. such as, the point where a developing fetus can reasonably be expected to survive with current medical tech outside a womb

  10. Unfortunately while I don’t agree with the act itself I think your argument here is in error.

    1. The right to life gaurenteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and is the person’s most paramount and fundamental right.

    This means that the mothers right to life is also paramount and as such is covered by the act. In a case such as that described above, if the government act in accordance with section 3. of H.R. 212 they will choose to terminate an ectopic pregnancy otherwise the outcome would be that they would be responsible for the loss of two lives that are guaranteed by the Constitution in section 1. of the act.

    Again I am not saying that I agree with the act (I am pro-choice) as it is obviously a hard handed attempt to take away the rights of women to make there own choices with regards to abortion. This removal of choice is fundamentally wrong and invariably would lead to children being raised in negative and dangerous environments where the child’s welfare is not a high consideration. If the government in America wants to legislate pro- life mentality in this way then they have to be willing to legislate governmental financial, physical and psychological support of the mother and child throughout the child raising period. As I understand it this does not happen in America.

  11. I agree with congress somewhat, however i feel that in extreme circumstances that our government will allow life saving acts. If an ectopic pregnancy uccurs then they wouldn’t just let the mother die. I mean seriously just try to be a little rational about it. Abortion is totally wrong and should be illegal unless it is life threatening! The End

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  13. Life begins when that child is living outside the womb, breathing on it’s own, eating, etc. Not in the womb. PERIOD!

  14. Will someone explain to me how cloning is pro-life? The nature of cloning violates every premise they have for the “Sanctity of Life” argument. Their whole argument is rooted in thoughtless arrogance.