Unclear abortion laws in some states prompt ER doctors to call lawyers as pregnant people suffer

August 7, 2022

Kaiser Health News

A lot hinges on when a pregnancy-ending complication is deemed an emergency, a moment that is hard to define. Some Missouri women have come to the hospital emergency department with mild cramping and bleeding and were found to have an ectopic pregnancy that hadn’t ruptured yet, colleagues have told Dr. Alison Haddock, a Houston emergency physician who chairs the board of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The standard treatment is to provide the drug methotrexate, which can terminate a pregnancy.

“You’re stable until it ruptures, then it becomes unstable,” she said. “But how unstable do you need to be? The woman’s life is not clearly at risk yet. It's not clear if EMTALA applies. There will be a lot of gray areas that make it really tough for emergency physicians who want to do what’s right for patients without violating any laws.”

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