MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the effect of pro-life laws on complicated pregnancies.
And parents, be aware that this story may not be appropriate for children. So now’s a good time to hit pause and come back later if you have young ones around.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Leah Savas is WORLD’s reporter on the life beat. She interviewed Dr. Ingrid Skop about what the laws actually allow in difficult pregnancies.
Dr. Skop is a practicing OBGYN in Texas, a state that has an abortion ban. She is also Senior Fellow and Director of Medical Affairs at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Here now is their conversation.
LEAH SAVAS, REPORTER: Dr. Skop, thanks for joining us today.
INGRID SKOP, GUEST: Thank you so much for this opportunity.
SAVAS: So there are any number of news articles circulating about women who have had severe pregnancy complications. And these articles point to pro life abortion bans as the reason why these women's conditions got so bad. So as a pro life Doctor, how do you evaluate and respond to stories like these?
SKOP: When I have seen these stories, it makes me very sad, because I think they are documenting substandard care, but they're also documenting just general ignorance of what the state laws say. Of course, I'm an obstetrician in Texas, where I've been practicing for 25 years. And the reality is that nothing has changed in my practice. With the Texas abortion restrictions, I have never performed elective abortions. But there have been times when I've needed to intervene in a pregnancy to save a woman's life. And I've always been able to do that. And I'm still able to do that. It's important to know I think that Catholic hospitals, Methodist hospitals, Baptist hospitals, very few of these hospitals will allow elective abortions, and yet they've always allowed care for miscarriages, care for ectopic pregnancies, and care for pregnancies that are posing a risk to a woman's life. So nothing has changed, except that the media has promoted a narrative which is false that says that doctors are not allowed to intervene. Most of the laws are written in such a way that they say the doctor may use his reasonable medical judgment to determine if a pregnancy separation needs to occur if a woman needs to be separated from her baby, because the pregnancy is posing a risk to her life. This can be done by abortion, but it can also many times be done by induction of labor. But the law allows either one of those things to happen if it needs to happen.
SAVAS: So a lot of pro life groups will argue that abortion is never medically necessary, and that you could, like you mentioned, induce labor early or perform a C-section when a woman is facing complications. But these stories talk about inducing labor early as if it's the same thing as an abortion. Can you explain what the legal and medical difference between inducing labor and an abortion are?
SKOP: Very good question. Legally, an abortion is an action that has the intent of ending the unborn human's life. So with that definition in mind, I think we can recognize that in the rare, heartbreaking situations where a woman's pregnancy poses such a risk to her life, that she needs to be separated from her baby, the action that needs to occur is the separation. So the intent is not to kill the unborn human life, but the intent is to intervene on behalf of the mother's life. Sometimes it is the case that we know, because it's exceptionally early gestational age or for some other reason, we know that the outcome of our intervention is going to be ending the fetal life. But it was not the intent. The intent was to protect the mother. And sadly, in that case, the baby could not survive.
If we induce she, has a baby to hold. Perhaps if the baby's alive for a few minutes after birth, she can be with the child, as the baby passes away. She can photograph, she can perhaps bury the child, but it's a much more compassionate way to allow her to mourn her child than to dismember the child, which of course will not allow any of that mourning process that I just described to occur.
SAVAS: Could you explain the legal and medical difference between an abortion and removing an ectopic pregnancy?
SKOP: Yes, an ectopic pregnancy is the unfortunate situation where the embryo or fetus has implanted in a location outside of the normal location in the uterus. Most frequently, this will be in the fallopian tube, although on occasions it can be in other locations. But the reality is, almost never can this baby survive to a point at which he can be born alive. Inevitably, as the continued growth of the pregnancy occurs, it causes catastrophic bleeding. This is a relatively common cause of maternal death. And so every obstetrician knows that when you've made the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, that you need to intervene and again, every prolife obstetrician, every Catholic obstetrician, every religious hospital allows this intervention, there has never been confusion about whether we treat an ectopic pregnancy. This can be done by surgery, or it can be done by an injection of methotrexate.
In general, physicians need guidance from their professional associations, to tell them to help them interpret the laws, and to tell them, It's okay to intervene. And we're not seeing that sort of guidance. Unfortunately, many of the medical organizations are pro choice in ideology. And so they have stood back and they have not given the doctors guidance. And so I think this, the media misinformation, and the failure of medical organizations trying to provide guidance for physicians, has led to physician inaction that is inappropriate. I think if the doctors know that they're not going to be punished, honestly, they're afraid of being charged with a felony. But if they knew that their hospital system has their back, that their medical organization has given them the guidance to practice as they always have practiced, then I think that this issue would go away.
SAVAS: Well, Dr. Skop, thank you so much for joining us today. And I really appreciate your insight on these really difficult cases.
SKOP: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to talk to you, Leah.
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