Sen. Smith writes report spreading misinformation about abortion bans

Pro-abortion rhetoric has generated enough misinformation to leave health care professionals confused about the law, leading to unnecessary delays.

Sen. Tina Smith speaks at a 2018 rally in St. Paul against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

A recent report released by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono and Tina Smith is misrepresenting laws banning abortion and parroting the claim that pro-life laws are preventing women who are suffering from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy from accessing medical care.

Abortion bans do not prohibit medical treatment for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy. Instead, what has impacted access has been media coverage and statements from abortion allies that inaccurately portray these laws, misinform patients regarding what kind of care they can get access to, and lead doctors to deny or delay care based on misinformation they have received.

Chelsea Youman, an attorney and national legislative advisor to the Human Coalition, has clarified that there are no laws that would ban treatment for miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

In a miscarriage, a woman has already suffered the loss of her unborn child. Miscarriage management is not an abortion. In an ectopic pregnancy, when the fetus implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, the pregnancy cannot be carried to term and the possibility of rupture could be deadly. The procedure to end an ectopic pregnancy is not the same as an abortion, and until very recently, even Planned Parenthood publicly acknowledged this. As a former Planned Parenthood executive, Sen. Smith of all people should know the dangers of ectopic pregnancy and be aware of the distinction between an abortion and ending an ectopic pregnancy.

And yet, in a press release, Sen. Smith and her colleagues say, “State abortion bans have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications.” Sen. Smith herself stated, “This report confirms exactly what I feared: Republicans’ crusade against women’s reproductive freedoms has created national chaos that is a mortal threat to women’s health.”

The chaos that Smith describes has not been created by pro-life lawmakers, but by the deceptive rhetoric from the abortion industry and its allies falsely claiming that abortion bans prevent access to necessary medical care. When care has been denied or delayed, it has not been because of any law preventing treatments, but from confusion created by pro-abortion talking points.

The report itself does acknowledge that “ectopic pregnancy care should never be affected by an abortion ban,” this buried deep on page 11, and does not stress the fact that no bans prohibit treatment for ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. Meanwhile, the press release and the introductory section of the report tell people about how state bans have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

As the report notes, ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester. Deceptive rhetoric about abortion bans has potentially deadly consequences. These dangerous consequences have not stopped Smith and her colleagues from adding to the noise.

The report also claims that “the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe extend beyond reproductive health care and are already impacting patients with autoimmune diseases, patients living in chronic pain, and many others … .” It goes on to explain that methotrexate, a drug which can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, has become less accessible to patients because it is also used to treat ectopic pregnancy and can be used as an abortifacient.

However, as Donald Miller, PharmD, has pointed out, an oral dose of methotrexate cannot be used to induce an abortion because a patient can typically only tolerate 20-25 milligrams at a time when it is administered orally. Although some patients may receive methotrexate by injection for rheumatoid arthritis, Miller says, “that’s at most probably 25 milligrams once a week,” pointing out that, given the difference in dosage, it would be very easy for a pharmacist to recognize a suspicious prescription.

In other words, although pregnant women should not use methotrexate because it can harm the baby, it is not prescribed at a dose that could induce an abortion when it is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions. Once again, denial or delays in treatment are not because of pro-life laws themselves but because of misinformation surrounding those laws.

The real story, which Sen. Smith’s report does not acknowledge, is not that pro-life laws have prevented access to necessary health care. Rather, it is that pro-abortion rhetoric has generated enough misinformation to leave health care professionals confused about the law, leading to unnecessary delays. Women’s safety and access to quality health care is put in jeopardy when misinformation is spread. Unfortunately, Sen. Smith’s report does little to address the spread of misinformation and could instead fuel it.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not represent an official position of Alpha News. 


Patience Griswold

Patience Griswold is a Minnesota writer who focuses on life, religious freedom, education, and family policy.