State Rep. John Becker, Ohio House of Representatives
A bill that would prohibit most private insurance plans from covering abortions has a key exemption that protects the lives of pregnant women, Clermont County State Rep. John Becker has claimed — an allowance for a procedure that would remove an ectopic embryo and re-implant it inside a woman's uterus.
Just one problem, some doctors say: There is no such procedure.
Ectopic pregnancies take place when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than the usual location inside a woman's uterus — often in the fallopian tubes or other areas. That is dangerous because the embryo attaches itself to blood supply and grows, eventually causing hemorrhaging that can lead to death.
In response to questions about the bill, Becker has asserted that it allows for protections for women who find themselves in this situation.
"An example of self-defense, related to this bill, would be the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy," he said in written testimony last month. "This is also known as a tubal pregnancy. If not treated, the mother and her child will both die. This is an example of a life of the mother exception."
Becker argues that an ectopic pregnancy could be addressed by removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it into the womb.
The latest version of HB 182 includes language allowing coverage for "a procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.”
Becker himself admits the technology that would allow that procedure is "in its infancy."
But others, including some medical professionals, say even that is false.
Dr. Daniel Grossman is an OB-GYN and director of a pro-choice research group at the University of California San Francisco called Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. He fired off a series of tweets
about Becker's assertions last week.
"Unfortunately, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be 'reimplanted' into the uterus," Grossman, a vocal opponent of recent abortion restrictions, wrote. "We just don’t have the technology. So I would suggest removing this from your bill, since it’s pure science fiction."
"Your bill is dangerous on many levels, @BeckerGOP, since it creates even more obstacles for patients seeking safe abortion — especially for women of color and those with low incomes," he continued in another tweet.
Some local doctors have also chimed in on the conversation, as have representatives from the Kaiser Family Foundation and other health organizations.
"A pregnancy in the tube cannot be saved,” Dr. Stuart Jones of Ohio Health told WCMH TV Columbus
. "No technology exists at this time that allows us to do that.”
Becker says that the objections don't tell the whole story, however.
"HB 182 specifically allows for any procedure necessary to save the life of the mother," he said in a Facebook post. "This is the life of the mother exception and would include the vast majority of ectopic pregnancies. The woman and her doctor will make that decision."
Becker also posted a link to a 1990 letter to the editors of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology describing a 1980 transfer of an ectopic embryo to a woman's uterus that the letter's author says led to the eventual delivery of a normal infant in Vermont. That letter also cites an article from 1917 describing a similar transfer.
But other professional OB-GYN organizations say this generally isn't feasible.
"An ectopic pregnancy cannot move or be moved to the uterus," the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says in an informational page on its website.