“I had treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, that is not an abortion. Abortion is not needed to treat what I had.”

Lucy McDonald had treament for an ectopic pregnancy: like other women who undergo this life-saving treatment, she and her doctors know that this wasn’t an abortion. Abortion is not healthcare. Real Healthcare saves lives.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs where the embryo implants anywhere outside the uterine cavity which is the normal place for a baby to develop. The vast majority of ectopic pregnancies arise when the baby implants in the fallopian tube.

Whilst there have been rare cases of non-tubal ectopic pregnancies surviving to viability and resulting in healthy babies being born, tubal pregnancies carry a high risk of rupture and haemorrhage which can be a serious surgical emergency for a woman. Nowadays, death from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy is rare as they are diagnosed early and women have access to immediate, life-saving treatment.

What causes it? Usually an ectopic pregnancy is caused by damage to the fallopian tubes. The embryo may have difficulty passing through a damaged tube causing it to implant and grow in the tube. Things that make a woman more likely to have fallopian tube damage and subsequent ectopic pregnancy include, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), endometriosis, previous pelvic surgery, induced abortion and smoking.

Is abortion needed to treat an ectopic pregnancy? No. Current treatments that are available for such pregnancies are not considered abortion as far as the medical community is concerned. There are a few things to consider in this regard:

  • Ectopic pregnancy carries serious risk for the mother and can be life-threatening. At this early stage, the baby cannot survive.
  • The treatment for this condition does not meet the definition of abortion which is the purposeful destruction of the unborn baby.
  • The intent of the doctor needs to be considered in every intervention; in the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy his or her intent is to treat an abnormal condition and avert serious risk to the mother. In an abortion the intent is to end the life of a living baby. Intent is something that carries serious weight, in medicine and in criminal law.
  • In Ireland, when abortion was banned, treatments for ectopic pregnancies were carried out without prosecution or judgement because these are not considered to be abortion.
  • Not a single woman has needed to travel to Britain from Ireland for an abortion to treat her ectopic pregnancy – proof that these interventions are not abortions and were carried out in Ireland under the 8th amendment – the constitutional provision protecting the right to life of both the mother and the baby.