Ectopic pregnancy clarifications

I fully expected to receive some criticism for my post on Ectopic Pregnancy and the Sanctity of Life, and I felt the need to moderate with a heavier hand than usual since many of the negative comments I received on this post seemed to center around the same few misunderstandings.  Although I have no problem with publishing dissenting comments (and I did publish most of them on that post), I felt that it was not helpful to have many angry and upset women using the same straw man arguments against assertions that I never made.  In light of that, I’d like to clarify a couple of points.

Emergency medical care

Many women commented and/or emailed to tell me that my post and my conclusion were dangerous because they had a ruptured tube and nearly died, or would have died had they not sought immediate medical attention.

Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but I never suggested that a woman with an ectopic pregnancy should avoid medical care, and I certainly didn’t intend that a woman whose tube has ruptured should hesitate to get emergency care. Although tens of thousands of women in the US experience tubal rupture each year and only about 30 die, I never denied that such a situation requires immediate medical attention.

We would personally pursue any treatment for both the mother and the baby that would treat both as viable patients, even if it only gave the baby infinitesimally small odds of survival. We seek to preserve both lives no matter how feeble our efforts are instead of self-consciously ending one life.  At the present, this might mean no more than waiting for surgery until we had an indication that the child had died – a ruptured tube and/or internal bleeding would be a very good sign that it was time to proceed. In the near future, we might have more and better options.

The point was that those of us who call ourselves pro-life and and object to legalized abortion must re-evaluate the practice of automatically terminating an ectopic pregnancy in the hopes of preventing tubal rupture. The advice given to us by the medical community is not generally based upon a Christian view of the sanctity of life, nor is it necessarily borne out in statistics.


This brings me to a second misunderstanding that arose in several comments: the source of my statistics. I’m not sure why; I depended heavily upon:

  • the CDC
  • WHO (World Health Organization)
  • well established medical sites which provided references for their information
  • medical journals which provided information on individual cases and other statistics that were otherwise difficult to find
  • big-name online news sources that provided documentation of infant survival stories.
  • Wikipedia was also cited for its broader information, definitions, and multiple additional resources.

Interestingly, those who objected to my statistics either didn’t provide any conflicting information at all, or else they made broad statements without citing any source at all.

And while we’re on the topic of statistics, I think this puts things in perspective:

Many commentors who had experienced ectopic pregnancies were told by their doctors that they were lucky to be alive.

According to the CDC, from 1985-1995 an average of 83 people died in the US each year from lightning strike.  Also according to the CDC, from 1991-1999, an average of 26 people died each year from ectopic pregnancies, from among the 20-40,000 that ruptured each year.

A US resident has a 3 times greater chance of dying by lightning strike than by ectopic pregnancy.

I don’t believe in luck; I believe that God is sovereign over every sparrow that falls, every hair of our heads, and every pregnancy no matter how it begins or ends.  But if I did believe in luck, I would not feel lucky to be alive after an ectopic pregnancy; rather, I would believe that it takes a pretty strong dose of bad luck to be one of those unfortunates who died.

Terminology: Abortion

A third problem was that the use of the term abortion provoked a strong reaction from some readers. Let me remind you that I did not choose the term. That is how the procedure is described in the medical community. I didn’t do it for shock value, but for accuracy. If you find it shocking, maybe this is another reason to reconsider the standard preventative treatment.

The past

Lastly, if you have suffered an ectopic pregnancy in the past and dealt with it by terminating the pregnancy, please understand, I didn’t research and write my post to make you feel guilty about the past.  We have all made poor choices, often under poor advice with the best intentions. If a decision is made in ignorance on our part on the bad or immoral advice of a doctor then the doctor will stand before God for the advice he or she gave. This is why we are warned to “let not many of you become teachers for teachers have a stricter judgment.”

But we are still accountable for our decision, and because all of our decisions are inescapably moral – Christ said you are either with me or against me –there is no neutrality in life.  If any of us makes a decision that is sinful- and preemptively taking an innocent human life is a sin – we must repent.  After all, if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If you have read all of this and you still feel angry, attacked, or condemned by my words, please take a moment to read my Standard Disclaimer.

The Point

I didn’t aim to judge or condemn, but to share some information that I found highly encouraging: that contrary to popular practice and opinion, there is an alternative to automatically and immediately terminating the pregnancy.  Of course, there always was an alternative – but I found great encouragement in seeing the statistics show that once again, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.