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- Not to be confused with ectoplasm
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a zygote implants itself outside the uterine cavity, usually in the Fallopian tube. Because of its relatively common occurrence (compared to, say, pregnancy as a result of rape or incest), and because of the danger it poses to women regardless of whether they are trying to get pregnant or not, it is often cited as an argument in favor of legal abortions (at least under certain circumstances).
How it happens
Contrary to the beliefs of those who would promote personhood laws, typically of the anti-abortion ilk, a pregnancy does not begin until the zygote implants—fertilization is not sufficient as some zygotes never implant and are flushed from the woman's body, usually without the woman ever knowing. About 1% of pregnancies are ectopic, and 98% of ectopic zygotes implant in the Fallopian tube, which is not a viable living space for a fetus.
About half of ectopic pregnancies result in a natural miscarriage through a tubal abortion, which can result in further medical complications to the mother.
A dangerous condition
Ectopic pregnancies are not only not viable—meaning the fetus will never become a human baby, except in the rarest of cases—the most likely results of this condition untreated is either miscarriage or death for both the potential human and the mother (the Fallopian tube can rupture, causing internal bleeding). If the fetus is almost certain to die no matter what course of action is taken, it's hard to argue that Mom needs to die too. The only treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is abortion, either through pharmaceutical means (e.g., the administration of methotrexate) or surgical means (e.g., a surgical abortion). Nevertheless the absolute necessity for abortions in these scenarios hasn't stopped anti-abortion groups from still vying to support the fetus. An anti-abortion bill in Ohio that would limit insurance coverage for abortions included an exception for reimplanting ectopic pregnancies, a treatment that does not exist because it does not work.
- Epstein, K. (May 10, 2019). A sponsor of an Ohio abortion bill thinks you can reimplant ectopic pregnancies. You can’t. Washington Post. Retrieved August 17, 2019.