Ectopic Pregnancy, Miscarriages, Medical & Surgical Abortions… What’s The Difference?

When Georgia House Bill 481 (also referred to as Georgia’s abortion law) went into effect on July 20, 2022, there was contradicting information circling the Internet concerning when an abortion could take place. The new bill prohibits a woman from getting an abortion if there is a detectable heartbeat from the fetus. But, can a woman receive an abortion if there is an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage? Allow us to provide clarity to the confusion.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

A healthy pregnancy involves an egg being fertilized in the fallopian tube, traveling to the uterus, and implanting itself into the lining of the uterus where it can continue to grow. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself within the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. This can be life-threatening to the woman, and the egg will not survive.

The woman will receive medication or surgery to extract the egg, depending on how far along the egg is in terms of gestation. Removal of an ectopic pregnancy is not considered an abortion. Therefore, if the fetus has grown past six weeks – the typical gestation age where a heartbeat is detectable – it can be removed via a medical procedure.

What is a miscarriage?

A miscarriage, also referred to as early pregnancy loss, occurs when the fetus exits the uterus before it is able to live independently from the mother. Early pregnancy loss occurs before the baby reaches 20 weeks of gestational age. The first signs of a miscarriage are often period-like bleeding and cramping as the uterus empties itself of the egg and tissue.

After a miscarriage occurs, it’s important to receive an ultrasound to see if there is any remaining tissue left in the uterus. If there is tissue, it must be removed to protect the mother’s health. Treatment options include medication or dilation and curettage (D&C, a suction-like treatment). Removal of tissue as the result of a miscarriage is not considered an abortion.

What is a medical abortion?

A medical abortion occurs when a woman takes two sets of pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – to end a pregnancy. These pills are also referred to as “abortion pills”. The medicine blocks the production of progesterone in a woman’s body then forces the uterus to expel the baby. This type of abortion is used in the early weeks of a pregnancy. To learn more about abortion pills, read one of our recent blogs – Abortion Pills: What You Need to Know about a DIY Abortion.

What is a surgical abortion?

Before Georgia House Bill 481 went into effect, Georgia women were allowed to get an abortion until the baby was 20 weeks of gestational age. If the baby was past the 10 weeks of gestational age mark, a surgical abortion was performed instead of a medical abortion. However, now that the Georgia House Bill 481 does not allow women to get an abortion once a heartbeat is detectable (normally around week 6 of gestational age), most abortion providers are requiring an ultrasound, which is a free service that Women’s Clinic of Atlanta provides.

Receive a free pregnancy test at your local Women’s Clinic of Atlanta office. We know you need answers quickly! Text “appointment” to 404-777-4771, and we will respond to you within 24 hours.

Learn more about the Georgia abortion law and other abortion information in our blog series:

  1. Do I need a pregnancy blood test before taking the abortion pill?
  2. Georgia Abortion Law FAQs
  3. Morning After Pill FAQs
  4. Abortion Pills: What You Need to Know about a DIY Abortion
  5. Ectopic Pregnancy, Miscarriages, Medical & Surgical Abortions… What’s The Difference?
  6. Life Act: What can I do if there’s a detectable heartbeat?

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