Missouri’s ban on ectopic pregnancy abortions was illogical and oppressive

Annabella Opipari

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Photo by Sonia Meytin

In early March, the Missouri House of Representatives saw a bill that would ban ectopic pregnancies, which occur when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This bill was just one of many to be introduced introduced in states in an effort to severely restrict abortion.

In early March, Missouri House Representative Brian Seitz (R) introduced HB 2810 to the Missouri House of Representatives. The intention of the bill was to ban “the production, sale, and transport of abortion-inducing medication and other devices” that could be used to perform an abortion. The bill specifically mentioned that abortions performed to terminate an ectopic pregnancy would also be criminalized. In the bill’s first version, violating the restrictions could have been punishable with a prison sentence of 10 to 30 years or even a life sentence (!).

For reference, an ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants in some place other than the uterus—oftentimes, it implants in the Fallopian tube. On average, they make up 19.7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in North America and are the number one cause of “maternal mortality in the first trimester.” It’s impossible for ectopic pregnancies to be viable: non-uterine tissues can’t supply the fetus with the nutrients and blood supplies needed for the pregnancy to continue. If an ectopic pregnancy is allowed to continue, the Fallopian tube holding the fetus will eventually rupture (usually between 6 to 16 weeks), and the internal bleeding caused by this event can threaten the pregnant person’s life.

After widespread outcry, the provision regarding ectopic pregnancies was removed from the Missouri bill. But frankly, the fact that this provision was ever included in the first place demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of pregnant people’s reproductive rights and health.

Practically, banning abortion of ectopic pregnancies quite literally prioritizes a clump of cells over a living, breathing person’s well-being. There is absolutely no way this pregnancy will ever develop into a child, but the pregnant person is (obviously) someone who is already alive. Given the immense health risks that ectopic pregnancies pose, by banning these abortions, we’re risking an already-present life for a life that will simply never happen.

A common hypothetical scenario to highlight this situation is this: you’re in a fertility clinic, and a fire starts. Running through the halls, you come upon a five-year-old child on one side and a hundred fertilized eggs on the other. You can save only one; which one do you pick?

Logically, anyone will choose to save the young child over the fertilized eggs, because we understand that the living, breathing person should be prioritized over the cells. But banning ectopic pregnancies asks us to do the opposite: to consider the cells more important than the person who already exists.

— Annabella Opipari

Beyond this, banning any abortion violates pregnant people’s bodily autonomy. If someone can’t get an abortion, and they don’t want to be pregnant, their body is essentially being used by something else without their consent. If using someone else’s body and bodily resources without consent is generally seen as morally wrong, how is a fetus using bodily resources without consent any different? Pregnancy can also change the body in irreversible ways, and if someone doesn’t want to be pregnant, these modifications are being done without their consent as well. Why is the well-being of a clump of cells prioritized over the mental health—because having to cope with an unwanted pregnancy can take a serious toll on someone’s mental state—and physical health of someone who’s already here?

The ectopic pregnancies issue in Missouri may have been resolved for now, but the rest of the bill still stands, and the possibility of other states instituting similar bills remains a threat. Liberty and individual rights are cornerstones in the United States, so we need to follow through and protect some of our most foundational, basic liberties and rights: the freedom of choice and the right to bodily autonomy.