New York Times 'Ectopic Pregnancies' Op-Ed Is Everything You Never Hoped For

Over the past two days, the New York Times published two opinion pieces on abortion. One was written by a high-risk obstetrician who chairs the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the other should never have been published at all.

In case you were blessedly off Twitter on July 4, the paper of record gave space to a Leah Libresco Sargeant, a fervently anti-choice religion writer, to weaponize her own ectopic pregnancy to muddy the waters of the fetid swamp we're swimming in after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

"Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, states face a new reality about where to draw the line in pregnancy for when abortion is permitted," she begins. "In these debates, ectopic pregnancy is a key issue."

Well, yes ... sort of. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than the uterine wall, most often to the fallopian tube, and starts burrowing into tissue where it doesn't belong. Ectopic pregnancy is not uncommon, occurring in roughly two percent of pregnancies, and it will never lead to the birth of a baby. Left untreated, however, it can cause serious damage, rupturing fallopian tubes leading to hemorrhage, sepsis, and death.

Among doctors, there is no issue at all. But among forced birth fetishists, ectopic pregnancy is a "key issue" because they doggedly refuse to concede that this "potential life" has zero potentiality, and thus the only "moral" course is to remove it immediately, either surgically or via methotraxate, a drug which attacks the egg cells before they can damage tissue and cause the woman to bleed to death.

Before Dobbs, we saw ignoramus lawmakers proposing to criminalize surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, having somehow convinced themselves that ectopic pregnancies could be re-implanted. (They cannot.) Now, with trigger laws kicking in to make abortion illegal, doctors are terrified of running afoul of these hastily worded statutes barring abortion except to save the life and/or health of the mother, and are reportedly waiting until patients with ectopic pregnancies show signs of distress before removing a non-viable egg, lest they fall foul of some crazed district attorney who learned all the biology he needed to in church.

In this charged environment, the Times has seen fit to give Libresco Sargeant a platform to demand that we all treat these non-viable eggs like children so that she can engage in an elaborate fantasy that she gave birth, instead of having the "abortion" which was absolutely necessary to save her life and allow her to go on to have other children.

"From a pro-life perspective, delivering a baby who is ectopic is closer to delivering a baby very prematurely because the mother has life-threatening eclampsia," she intones somberly. "A baby delivered at 22 weeks may or may not survive. A baby delivered in the first trimester because of an ectopic pregnancy definitely won’t survive. But in both cases, a pro-life doctor sees herself as delivering a child, who is as much a patient as the mother."

Okay, look ...

As someone who gave birth and suffered a miscarriage myself, I am entirely sympathetic to the loss of a wanted pregnancy. But I didn't tell myself a fairy tale that I'd "delivered" a "child" at five weeks, and I certainly didn't use my own loss to try to curtail other women's choices by demanding that doctors treat a fertilized egg that will never become a baby like a "patient." And I sure as hell wouldn't do that in the middle of a culture war in a deliberate attempt to distract from the reality that the "pro-life" position is to force a 10-year-old girl carry her rapist's baby to term.

Were I in Libresco Sargeant's shoes, the last goddamn thing on earth that I'd do is to make this argument when I knew that women with ectopic pregnancies were being denied the very care that I myself got, on my own terms, because doctors are terrified that there's a cop and a prosecutor waiting outside in the corridor to arrest them.

In a contortion worthy of Cirque du Soleil, the writer goes on to lament "a culture" in which "mother" and "baby" are "pitted against each other, which assumes a zero sum game." But the only one playing a "game" here is Libresco Sargeant, who pretends that a non-viable zygote is a "patient" for whom doctors can offer "care." It is fundamentally dishonest to complain that "No one asked about our plans for the baby. No one asked the baby’s name. No one, before or after the surgery, mentioned support groups for loss," without acknowledging that women who did not want to be pregnant have been forced to undergo invasive ultrasounds and listen to lies about the mental and emotional side effects of abortion simply to access the care they need. And now, thanks to Libresco Sargeant and her compatriots, they're not going to get even that.

In the end, the writer never got to use the "tiny coffin" provided free by the Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey because "Our surgeon had been right — our baby had died some time ago, and all he could find was the placenta." Which is as close as she comes to acknowledging that there was no "child" and she was the only "patient" in the operating room.

But 24 hours later, the Times gave the same platform to Dr. David Hackney — a maternal-fetal specialist in Ohio, where abortion just became illegal, including in cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies which mean the fetus will never survive. While Libresco Sargeant, who went on to have the family she wanted, is crying because no one asked her the name of a non-viable fetus, Dr. Hackney describes the reality for women in the world so-called "pro-lifers" have made.

Sometime soon, I am going to meet a patient who has no ability to leave the state, and I am going to have to tell her that her baby has a lethal condition, and she is going to have to carry a pregnancy to term against her will. It might be tomorrow. It might be weeks from now. But this is going to happen, and I cannot stop it.

This patient will go through her third trimester visibly pregnant. Strangers in the grocery store will congratulate her. She will have to explain her story over and over again to friends, neighbors and co-workers. She will be forced to experience labor and delivery, and then her child will die. The risks of term delivery are far greater than the risk of abortion, so she may also experience hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia, blood clots or other complications.

Ohio’s new law is unimaginably cruel.

If Libresco Sargeant has sympathy for this woman and the thousands like her, she fails to mention it. She's too busy fantasizing that "my surgeon was visibly more tender as he worked, knowing he could be the first person to see our child, a child who would not ever see us." Again, there was no child. There was a fertilized egg which had already died and been re-absorbed into her body. The egg was not a child and never would be one, and it was wildly irresponsible for the Times to allow Libresco Sargeant to do the editorial equivalent of standing outside Planned Parenthood with a fake picture of a first-trimester fetus with fingers and toes.

On the other hand, centering the experience of a white woman who was able to travel to get the care she needed from a provider who made her feel safe and respected when the policies she advocates will deprive so many Black and Brown women of the same needed care is as American as apple pie.

Girl, we see you trying to use your own loss to shift the dialogue. It's gross, and you should be ashamed.


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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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