Liberty Counsel on ectopic pregnancy

When I make claims about the potential effects of Yes On 26, I don’t like to ask you to take my word for it. I always like to explain my thinking, and if possible, to back it up with pro-life sources.

We’ve had a commenter point us to this legal memo from the Liberty Counsel, which proposes to explain how Initiative 26 “will likely have little effect on medical professionals’ exposure to liability”. However, a careful reading of the document demonstrates that it in fact supports OUR position that 26 will have dramatic effects on the treatment of life-threatening pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancy.

To recap what we’ve already written, the possible treatments for ectopic pregnancy are medical treatment with a chemotherapy drug called methotrexate, surgery to remove the embryo from the fallopian tube, and surgery to remove the entire tube, or watchful waiting to see if a natural miscarriage occurs before treatment is required.

Our contention is that personhood would prohibit the first two alternatives, and leave doctors and patients with no other option than tubal removal surgery. This is supported by Personhood Colorado, which states that only tubal removal is acceptable under personhood because its intent is to remove the damaged tube, and the death of the embryo is an unfortunate and unintended side effect. This is known as the “double effect” principle.

It’s not hard to find pro-life sources which argue that methotrexate violates double effect. In fact, it’s fairly difficult to make the argument that MTX does NOT violate double effect, since it works by destroying the developing embryo’s placenta in order to cause the death of the embryo, so that it can be naturally miscarried. It is administered with the direct intent to kill the embryo, not to treat physical damage in a way that happens to cause it to die.

I know that a lot of people consider this to be so much angels-dancing-on-pins, but if you believe in double effect, the distinction is important. Which brings us to the question: what does Yes On 26 believe, and how do they think physicians would be able to treat ectopic pregnancies:

In addition, medical professionals are generally protected from liability for causing the death of an unborn person during attempts to save the life of the mother as a result of the “principle of double effect”, recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the Supreme Court of Kentucky. In “cases involving abortion, ‘indirect abortion[s]‘, defined as ‘any instance in which a treatment or operative procedure is performed for some other purpose but incidentally and secondarily does cause the expulsion of the fetus,’, are deemed morally licit.” Thus, applying the principle of double effect, courts will not likely find liability for the removal of ectopic pregnancies, or the provision of other life-saving procedures for the mother, that result in death of the unborn person.

This memo was produced by Liberty Counsel, a legal organization “dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family”. Their vice-president of legal affairs, Stephen Crampton, sits on the Yes On 26 Advisory Board. The memo was produced for the specific purpose of addressing medico-legal concerns about Initiative 26.

The quote above clearly states that double effect is the correct legal principle to be applied in the treatment of ectopic pregnancies under personhood. If that is the case, then the only logical conclusion is that ectopic treatments which violate double effect will not be permitted, and that physicians will be criminally liable for performing them. Since methotrexate and salpingostomy are generally thought to go against double effect, it is strongly implied that physicians will no longer be able to offer any treatment for ectopic pregnancy except for watchful waiting or tubal removal surgery.

Ectopic pregnancy affects 65,000 women a year in the US alone. It’s not rare — Mississippi women are diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy literally every day. Methotrexate is becoming the standard of medical care in eligible patients, because it is less invasive than surgery.

If double effect becomes the legal standard to which physicians must adhere, methotrexate will not be available to Mississippi women with life-threatening, non-viable pregnancies.

That’s the position of Yes On 26. It may be frightening, but it’s not a “scare tactic”.

About Atlee Breland

I'm a Mississippian, a Christian, a computer programmer, a wife, and -- thanks to infertility treatment -- a mother of three wonderful children.
This entry was posted in Legal Issues, Pregnancy Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Liberty Counsel on ectopic pregnancy

  1. DeeDee Baldwin says:

    Atlee, you rock for providing us all these information and source-packed articles to educate ourselves on the facts and pass them on to others.

  2. E B says:

    You do realize the child cannot survive an ectopic pregnancy regardless of the method used to save the mother’s life, right? Therefore, methotrexate will certainly be allowed. Stop misreading the information. Stop spreading lies and hyperbole.

    • You’re obviously not understanding what double effect means. It doesn’t matter that the condition is non-survivable. Terminal cancer isn’t survivable either, but you can’t administer euthanasia to a hospice patient. You’re allowed to treat pain, but you can’t give morphine with the direct intent of killing a patient.

      As the above pro-life sources demonstrate, there is ample reason to think that methotrexate violates double effect, despite the generally agreed non-survivability of the condition. That’s why those sources consider it a prohibited treatment for ectopic pregnancy, because it directly targets the embryo instead of treating the tubal damage.

      If you think MTX will be allowed under 26, either it must not violate double effect, or the Liberty Counsel is wrong and double effect must not be the correct legal principle to apply. So, which is it?

  3. E B says:

    You also said its “implied” in the opinion when you obviously meant “inferred” which, as we all know, is subject to the opinion of the reader. I honestly don’t know how you keep misreading so much information that is right there in front of you. Liberty counsel’s article obviously supports the aspect that physicians will be protected from treating mothers. Ectopic pregnancies are nonsurvivable for the unborn regardless of treatment option, and we are not Colorado. Our citizens are more informed, they know life begins at conception. It’s written on their hearts. The ONLY thing 26 will affect is abortion, giving human life the dignity it deserves. Why are you so adamant that we continue to allow 150 elective abortions in our state each month?

    • We may not be Colorado, but the wording of the amendment is exactly the same, and it’s being pushed by the same people (that is, Personhood USA). If Personhood USA believes one thing in Colorado, why should we assume they believe something completely different in Mississippi?

      And once again, I refer you to Keith Mason and Eric Webb of Yes On 26, who have made it quite clear that 26 WILL affect infertility treatment, and to the Yes On 26 website, which makes the claim that it will affect certain forms of birth control. That’s obviously affecting more than elective abortion.

  4. E B says:

    As Ronald Reagan said, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

  5. ForTheUnborn says:

    Hey Atlee, are you going to post an article regarding the Mississippians for Healthy Families (aka Planned Parenthood) bust today? i doubt it, but for those of you who care to hear the truth, there has been an undercover investigation that has prompted Planned Parenthood to come forward and to admit that they have been lying about the birth control pill and that the amendment will do NOTHING to the pill!!! i’m sure the IVF rumors will be dispelled soon as well…regards, just had to inform your readers!

    • Oh, absolutely, right along with Walter Hoye of Personhood USA telling NPR that birth control pills WOULD be banned.

      Hmmm… unnamed “local pharmacy” vs spokesperson for Personhood USA on live national media. I think I know which one I find more credible.

  6. ForTheUnborn says:

    mmmmkkkkaaaayyyy. literally, i do not keep up with this commentary because i decided weeks ago that this is not a truthful source of information (the quote from the 90′s gave that away), so you can respond back and i will not be posting again. you just reiterated that with this comment~of course you do not want to see the truth, of course. that is fine, yesterday’s announcement, more doctors stepping out in favor of personhood, the MS southern baptist convention, methodist churches, catholic churches, etc.. (and the list goes on) are all vocally supporting the initiative. given this information, you are losing ground because the scales are falling off of the eyes of those who were being decieved by the nations largest abortion chain~i would be ashamed to be linked to a group that has been outed for allowing abortions on minors, immigrants, victims of incest, one helps pimps make their prostitutes get abortions and this list goes on. satan is truly alive and well. say what you wish, i will not be back, just wanted to give your viewers a little bit of LEGIT information for once. see you at the polls (in full force) next week!

  7. ForTheUnborn says:

    and, for the record, if you would rely on local press conferences rather than google, you would know that it was also University Medical Center, the Mississippi Health Department, Planned Parenthood (WOW), and other NAMED organizations (i guess you honestly forgot to mention those), not just an ‘unnamed pharmacy’ as you stated. PLEASE give your readers the full story, not just pieces of it that make your arguement seem reasonable. you cannot deny the HONEST facts. as far as your quotes from personhood, i have said it before, twist, twist, twist away, mississippi is too smart to be decieved by planned parenthood and commentaries such as this one.

  8. Pingback: National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health stands with Mississippi for No on 26 « Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

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  10. Nicole Bradshaw says:

    EB – What we don’t know is precisely the problem Mississippi voters are having with this initiative. If it passes, we don’t know how it will be legislated. We don’t know how IVF may be subsequently regulated. We don’t know how the courts will decide how ectopic pregnancy may be dealt with under this mesaure. We don’t know what types of birth control may or may not be available. To me, it’s what remains painfully unclear about the impacts of initiative 26 that’ll cause voters to choose no.

    For the Unborn – You mention doctors and faith leaders stepping out in favor of Initiative 26, but I would argue that far more (of both) seem to be publicly arguing against it. I found this letter from a number of Mississippi’s faith leaders, published in the Clarion Ledger yesterday, to be particularly moving: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20111101/OPINION02/111010310/Faith-leaders-speak-26?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CHome%7Cs.