“From the Second You Feel Any Pain, You Have Thirty Minutes … Because You Are Hemorrhaging.” A Look at Ectopic Pregnancies
Sarah Isgur is a lawyer and a pro-life advocate in the US. She worked on Carly Fiorino’s campaign in 2016 and pushed the line that Planned Parenthood was selling chopped up baby parts.
Isgur also recently revealed on the podcast “Advisory Opinions” that she had had an ectopic pregnancy in 2021.
Before I go further, let me explain what an ectopic pregnancy is. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants in a fallopian tube instead of a uterus. The fallopian tube connects the ovary to the uterus. It is far too small to accommodate a fetus, so if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and doesn’t know about it until the fallopian tube ruptures after the embryo grows too big…. the woman will hemorrhage to death.
Isgur chose to reveal her experience with ectopic pregnancy publicly while discussing the new anti-abortion law being passed in Missouri.
“When it comes to ectopic pregnancies, they’re just tragic. … This isn’t like a cancer diagnosis where you’re choosing between the life of the mother and the life of the baby. Unfortunately there is no ‘life of the baby’ option. But the life of the mother is very much in danger,… It doesn’t take a very large set of cells to break the fallopian tube, at which point the woman will hemorrhage and — potentially but also kinda likely- die.”
I will add that it is interesting to see a devout pro-life advocate refer to an embryo as a “set of cells” when pro-choice advocates are slammed by pro-life advocates for using the exact same term for the exact same, well, set of cells. Suddenly the pro-life advocate is using less emotional (but more accurate) medical rhetoric to describe a “baby” (blastocyst, set of cells) when she is describing her own experience with terminating her pregnancy.
I will not slam Isgur too much here because now, in 2022, she is fighting the good fight. She is realizing that the “pro-life” movement has become corrupted and extreme. “Pro-life” advocates are pushing bills that will literally kill women. It is hard for an anti-abortion woman like Isgur to reveal her ectopic pregnancy story publicly (actually, that’s hard for any woman regardless of her views on abortion). It is also hard for Isgur to slam her pro-life colleagues like she did in the recent Advisory Opinions podcast “Baby Got Brief.”
So I will just make that quick observation. Moving on….
“If you go into your doctor, um, as I did at one point David (French).. and, um, you know, they say that you on the ultrasound that you have an ectopic pregnancy, they’re generally asking you to go into emergency surgery. Like (nervous laughter) you walk into your OB/GYN’s office for, like, a no-big-deal thing. You usually don’t even know you’re pregnant. Just like, ‘Something’s not quite right,’ And you’re being whisked off to emergency surgery at a nearby hospital.”
I’m putting in Isgur’s “ums,” and nervous laughter because it was clear at this point that Isgur was having some emotional reaction to telling this story. Which is understandable.
“It’s miserable. It’s heartbreaking. It’s scary, like all the feels. And at no point is there any hope- like you were willing to risk your own health, that you could have this baby. And that sucks. It just sucks David. …”
At this point Isgur’s voice audibly quavers and you hear her fight back her emotions. She pushes on.
“This happened a year ago last week actually,
“Um, so that’s what they told me. They’re like, ‘Please walk down the hallway to the surgery center.’ … I asked if they were 100% sure that it was ectopic. And they said, y’know, ‘We can never be 100% sure.’ And I said ‘If we waited 48 hours and we had then blood results to compare, another ultrasound to compare after 48 hours, what would we know then?’ … I was like ‘I want to wait the 48 hours, just in case.’”
I will break in here again and say that as a medical professional patients like Isgur drive me nuts. They have life-threatening conditions that need immediate intervention and they pretend they know more than the doctors (or the paramedics in my case.) Listening to Isgur recount how she argued with a doctor trying to save her life gave me hives. I got PTSD flashbacks to my EMS days. An average shift involved me arguing with an old man with clear subdermal hematoma symptoms who refused to go to the hospital. “Sir, you lost consciousness after smacking your head on the windshield in that wreck. You don’t want to just go home and go to sleep.” “Listen lady, no offense, but I know my own body better than you do!” Sigh.
Back to Sarah Isgur’s story.
“They were like, ‘Okay, let us walk you through this. How far away do you live from the hospital?’
“I was like, ‘I dunno, like fifteen minutes.’
“They were like, ‘Nope. How far away from the hospital to you live exactly?’
“And I was like, ‘I live eleven to seventeen minutes away from the hospital because there’s a contraflow bridge that sometimes you can’t take.’
“They’re like, ‘Okay. From the second you feel any pain, you have thirty minutes. Because you are hemorrhaging at that point. You have thirty minutes to get to the surgical center. If you want to wait forty-eight hours and you understand that, you can wait forty-eight hours.’
“So I did. I waited the forty-eight hours.” Jesus Christ. “The cells at that point weren’t growing anymore. I didn’t hemorrhage, and everything turned out fine.”
Isgur then turns her rage on the Missouri abortion law that outlaws abortion even in cases of ectopic pregnancy. “When I see something like this, it’s enraging. Because it is shown as a ‘pro-life bill.’ It’s not pro- anyone’s life. … Certainly not the life of the baby. And it’s certainly not ‘pro-life’ for the mother… I am sitting there being told that I have thirty minutes to get to a hospital…. Y’know. Give me a break…..
“I did not end up having surgery David. I was monitored every forty-eight hours with ultrasounds for six weeks because I didn’t want to remove a fallopian tube…. As with most things with medicine, you would like a doctor to deal with this. Not a (pro-life) lobbyist.
Isgur doesn’t reveal how she was able to resolve her ectopic pregnancy without surgery. She doesn’t owe us that information, of course, but I was curious. A quick google search showed me that an early ectopic pregnancy can be resolved through an injection of methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug that has also been shown to dissolve blastocyst cells that are stuck in a fallopian tube. I’m guessing that that was the course of action the doctor had prescribed for Isgur.
Isgur goes on about the Missouri abortion law.
“This whole thing is so frustrating when the pro-life community says that they are looking out for women, and writes a law like this. I can’t help but think that the (pro-life community’s) sloppiness reflects the lack of interest (they) have in the mother’s health.”
Isgur brushes against a theme that I have seen reoccur again and again in American politics: hatred of women. I talked about this when discussing “MAGA Hat Romance” and how the Trump administration was essentially a celebration of male anger towards women. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, the Squad, the Women’s March, Elizabeth Warren…. the targets of the far right during the past six years have been disproportionately women.
Now, there are bills targeting public school teachers (disproportionately women) and pregnant women in red states across the US.
The last six years have been American women growing more and more dispiritingly aware of how much men hate us. Marriages have dipped steeply since 2017. Women have lost faith in men ever having our best interests in mind. It’s a sickening feeling to know your gender is alone in the world.
What happens when conservative pro-life women like Sarah Isgur share extremely painful stories of miscarriage and having to terminate pregnancies? Well, in the case of Missouri, lawmakers finally altered the bill to allow women with life-threatening ectopic pregnancies to be treated. (Gee, thanks). There are still problems with the bill, of course. It severely limits not only a woman’s right to an abortion in the state of Missouri, but also makes it punishable under the law for the woman to go out-of-state to get an abortion. And anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, even the Uber driver who just drives the woman to the clinic, can get sued into poverty.
For now, at least, after considerable outcry, Missouri lawmakers have agreed that women shouldn’t be forced to hemorrhage to death internally.
And how sad it is that we had to fight so hard to get even that small grace.