Newly revealed incident of woman who nearly died from ectopic pregnancy subsequent to an abortion in Limerick


A recent article in the Irish Medical Journal has disclosed a harrowing incident wherein a woman faced a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy subsequent to undergoing a medical abortion.

Released on 21 March 2024, the publication describes a Limerick woman who had undergone a medical abortion two weeks prior to her hospital admission due to an ectopic pregnancy. It emphasizes that this situation “could have been prevented with an ultrasound to ascertain the pregnancy’s location.”

Normally, an early-stage embryo implants itself in the uterus. However, an ectopic pregnancy arises when the embryo implants elsewhere, typically within the fallopian tubes.

The publication elaborates that the absence of routine ultrasound confirmation for intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) in patients seeking abortifacients may lead to obscuring symptoms and signs of ectopic pregnancy, potentially resulting in misdiagnosis and mortality due to symptom overlap between ectopic pregnancy and abortion.

Furthermore, it underscores the importance of confirming pregnancy location prior to a medical abortion as a means of “reducing morbidity and mortality.”

The Pro Life Campaign drew attention to the fact that in 2018, an amendment was proposed to the abortion legislation which would’ve required an ultrasound to be performed in advance of abortions. This would’ve allowed ectopic pregnancies to be detected and treated accordingly, thus preventing the endangerment of the woman’s life if an abortion was performed. But this amendment was dismissed out of hand by then-Minister for Health Simon Harris who described it as “subjecting” a woman to an ultrasound and going against his idea that “this is about choice”.

As Simon Harris is set to become Taoiseach, he should be reminded of the newly revealed consequences of his reckless decision. Furthermore, his decision in early 2020 to introduce telemedicine, which rolled back on an earlier promise that Ireland would not have telemedicine abortion, has also enabled this dangerous outcome. Telemedicine prevents a woman from being properly assessed by a doctor before an abortion, and therefore heightens the likelihood of ectopic pregnancies going undetected.

Read the paper published in the Irish Medical Journal here