Alabama’s Senate recently passed a bill
almost completely banning abortion,
the most extreme bill of its kind in the country.
It came on the tails of an only slightly-less restrictive bill
signed into law by the governor of Georgia.
These are just two of several state laws that undermine Roe v. Wade,
the 1973 Supreme Court decision that deemed “
unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion ” unconstitutional.
As politicians and higher courts debate the legality of such legislation,
much of the discourse around these bills—and,
in some cases, their actual wording—
reveal multiple misconceptionsabout, well, conception.
Abortion is a topic that triggers strong emotions on all sides,
but when it comes to anatomical facts,
there’s no room for disagreement.
Here’s what you need to know to understand the latest laws.
When we’re talking about the kinds of activities
that can lead to having a baby,
no method of contraception is 100 percent effective except for total abstinence.
The most effective methods, short of surgical sterilization,
are hormonal implants and intrauterine devices (or, “IUDs”).
But even these devices will fail in some circumstances.
Some anti-abortion groups argue that
IUDs sometimes work by terminating pregnancies;
they can, in rare cases,
keep a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
refers to fertilization as
“ the first step in a complex series of events that leads to pregnancy. ”
For context, only about half of all fertilized eggs
ever implant naturally in the uterus.
阿拉巴马州的法案规定 只要能够确认怀孕 就禁止堕胎
Alabama seeks to outlaw abortion as soon as a pregnancy can be confirmed.
But some of the recent abortion legislation limits the termination of pregnancy only after six weeks,
which means they’re not technicallycomplete bans.
The potential confusion here lies in the way these “ weeks ” are calculated.
Doctors track gestation starting on the first day
of their patient’s last normal menstrual period.
但是 在那个时候 怀孕实际上不可能存在
But conception isn’t actually possible atthat time.
Conception occurs only in the 12 to 24 hours after ovulation,
when the ovary releases an egg.
That’s usually about 14 days after the first day of the menstrual cycle.
a person is likely on their second week of “ pregnancy ”
at the moment they become pregnant.
This means most pregnant people would
have only four weeks after conception to realize they are pregnant,
decide to terminate the pregnancy,
and actually undergo a procedure.
Four weeks might still sound like a long time,
but the ability to know you are pregnant
doesn’t begin immediately at conception.
The most sensitive at-home pregnancy tests
are effective four or five days before your next period should start.
Menstrual cycles vary,
but that means many people will be,as far as a doctor is concerned,
about three weeks pregnant by the time a test can reveal their condition.
Tests are most reliable after your missed period would have started,
at which point you may be four weeks pregnant.
Before and around this point, false negatives are a possibility.
Many individuals who have no reason to suspect a pregnancy
won’t think to take a test on the first day of their missed period.
Menstrual cycles vary in many people for many reasons,
and some methods of birth control can make periods stop entirely.
If it’s not unusual for your cycle to vary in length
by a couple of days,
you may find yourself in your fifth week of pregnancy
before deeming it later than usual.
While some signs of pregnancy can appear during this time,
many of those early symptoms are
identical to those experienced right before a period.
Things like cramping and light bleeding
may actually delay your suspicions of pregnancy,
instead of prompting you to take a test.
Many of the six-week abortion bans
are referred to as “ heartbeat ” bills,
with the logic being that fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks.
But the rhythm a doctor can pick up on an ultrasound
at that time isn’t a heartbeat,
because the embryo has no heart.
The embryo is just 3 or 4 millimeters long with no developed organs.
Cells are just starting to group together
in ways that might eventually grow into hearts and brains.
Thanks to the modern-day sensitivity of ultrasound technology,
doctors can catch the electrical activity of these cells
as a rhythmic pulsing.
But there is no beating heart or even a guarantee that one will develop.
Miscarriages at this stage of pregnancy are incredibly common,
and can occur without peopleever realizing they were pregnant.
A bill introduced in Ohio got a lot of attention,
and not just because it sought to ban insurance coverage
for abortion, as well as some methods of birth control.
It also included a provision for the coverage of an impossible alternative.
State Representative John Becker included an allowance
for insurance companies to reimburse patients for
“ a procedure for an ectopic pregnancy that is intended
to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.”
An ectopic pregnancy is one where
the fertilized egg implants—and starts growing—
somewhere other than the uterus.
In 95 percent of cases,
the implantation occurs in the fallopian tube,
which will rupture within weeks without the intervention of an abortion,
and potentially kill the pregnant person.
In extremely rare instances the egg
can implant somewhere in the abdomen,
where there is more room to grow.
There have been a handful
of surviving babies and mothers under these circumstances,
but death for one or both parties is the farlikelier outcome:
the placenta, the organ that provides blood to the growing fetus,
can only provide sufficient nourishmentby attaching to other organs.
The uterus is designed to withstand this; other vital organs are not.
Contrary to the language of Becker’s bill,
there is no existing medical procedure that
moves a fertilized egg or a growing embryo
from one part of the body to another.
There’s no shame in not being an expert on how pregnancy works.
Even science hasn’t been very knowledgeable about it
until the last few years,
and there’s still a lot to learn.
But now you have the facts
you needed to understand the latest laws on abortion