Hannah Smothers

Please Don’t Try to Diagnose Strangers With Monkeypox, You Guys

Please Don’t Try to Diagnose Strangers With Monkeypox, You Guys

A recent New York Times report detailed an extremely messed up story of social media vigilantism: A 33-year-old woman with a health condition unrelated to monkeypox was filmed by strangers who assumed she was just out and about with the virus, based solely on the appearance of her skin. The video was posted to TikTok, where it went viral enough that it was sent back to the woman, Lilly Simon, who lives in Brooklyn.Simon explained in a follow-up TikTok of her own that she doesn’t have monkeypox but a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1, which causes tumors to grow along her nerve endings. “I’m not new to people being mean to the condition,” Simon told The New York Times. Given the current monkeypox outbreak, which was recently declared a public health emergency in the U.S., she assumed something like this would be “inevitable.”I can’t believe we have to say this, but please do not attempt to diagnose monkeypox in strangers. It’s both immoral and impossible to look at someone you don’t know and accurately claim, based on appearances alone, that they are infected with monkeypox. While it’s true that one common symptom of the virus is a painful rash that typically appears as pustules, or little bumps that look similar to pimples or blisters, other symptoms—and medical testing—will ultimately confirm a person’s diagnosis. Also, not all monkeypox lesions look the same; while some people have full-blown rashes, others have a single, pimple-like bump. Like with any other condition, it’s impossible to know what any given stranger’s current health status is.“In general, we shouldn’t be trying to diagnose people based on looking at them,” Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and a member of the SELF Medical Review Board, tells SELF. “We don’t go up to people and start diagnosing things on their skin with an untrained eye. And I think what has happened with monkeypox is that it’s become very stigmatizing.”Dr. Marchbein is right. Monkeypox is currently spreading predominantly, though not exclusively, via sexual contact between men who have sex with men, which has led some people to discount the seriousness of the virus. Even the name has negative connotations; in June, the World Health Organization announced it is “working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus” after scientists voiced concerns that the current name is discriminatory and stigmatizing. And while monkeypox is caught in the midst of a debate over whether or not it should be referred to as a sexually transmitted infection, Dr. Marchbein emphasizes that thinking of the disease that way is currently incorrect: The virus is widely spreading via close, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet determined whether it can be transmitted via bodily fluids, such as semen or vaginal fluid. The CDC also says that monkeypox is not transmissible via “casual conversations” or “walking by someone with monkeypox” in a public space like a grocery store or thrift shop.

Should You Really Be Worried About Getting Monkeypox From Thrifted Clothing?

Should You Really Be Worried About Getting Monkeypox From Thrifted Clothing?

Last week, the Biden Administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 8,900 monkeypox cases have been reported in the U.S. at the time of publication, and that number is rising by the day.Experts’ understanding of this monkeypox outbreak, including how the virus is widely spreading, is evolving, but if you’ve been on social media—particularly on TikTok—in recent weeks, you’ve likely heard a common plea: Be especially cautious in thrift stores. These concerns have likely risen because monkeypox can potentially spread via direct contact with objects that have been contaminated with the monkeypox virus, including fabrics, according to the CDC.But how valid are these warnings? From what experts know right now, monkeypox transmission via activities like shopping for clothes, whether the items are considered to be used or new, is “very, very unlikely,” Peter Chin-Hong, MD, a professor of medicine specializing in infectious disease at the University of California San Francisco, tells SELF. “It’s very difficult to get infected with monkeypox through clothing, except in a household-context situation with lots and lots of contact,” Dr. Chin-Hong says. (In this scenario, an uninfected person faces a higher risk if they’re living with or taking care of someone who has a confirmed case of monkeypox.)Outside of this specific household context, a person would need to have prolonged contact with a garment that’s, in turn, come into prolonged contact with monkeypox lesions or sores to face a high risk of infection from clothing—for example, if you rubbed your skin along the contaminated fabric until you experienced microscopic cuts through which the virus could enter your body, Dr. Chin-Hong explains.The idea of a “hierarchy of risk” is something many of us are now familiar with, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic (remember when we were all washing our groceries?). As Dr. Chin-Hong explains, shopping of any kind—including thrifting for clothes—is very low on the hierarchy of risk for monkeypox transmission as experts currently understand it. Instead, the riskiest activities that are driving the current outbreak are those that involve close, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active infection—like, say, kissing an infected person. While the CDC also says that “touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox” is a potential mode of transmission, Dr. Chin-Hong stresses that surface transmission, like touching a doorknob, is less likely to lead to infection.The CDC also notes that monkeypox appears to be susceptible to household cleaners, so the current recommendation, if you’re living with someone who has an active case, is to disinfect surfaces and keep clothing and linens separate until the person who is sick fully recovers and is no longer contagious.Of course, our understanding of viruses can change rapidly as an outbreak grows. The best way to protect yourself if you’re in a high-risk group is to get the monkeypox vaccine if you’re eligible. Otherwise, all the precautions you’ve taken throughout the last couple of years will go a long way in helping to reduce your risk of getting sick from, well, anything. Follow local guidelines based on monkeypox transmission rates in your area; if you develop any potentially concerning symptoms, including a skin rash or flu-like illness, the CDC says you should isolate yourself from other people and reach out to a health care provider if you can—just be sure to call before you show up in person, so the location can take appropriate precautions.In the meantime, you shouldn’t stress over shopping as you normally would—and that should include being diligent about washing or sanitizing your hands, keeping your hands away from your face, and throwing any clothing into the washing machine before wearing them out.Related:

We Finally Know More About How COVID Vaccines May Temporarily Change Your Period

We Finally Know More About How COVID Vaccines May Temporarily Change Your Period

As the COVID-19 vaccines first rolled out in the United States, an unanticipated, anecdotal side effect started to emerge: Many people speculated that the vaccine seemed to have an effect on their menstrual cycle.Studies that examined whether those anecdotes may be explained by science were sparse and small—not surprising, given the slow pace of research on menstruation within vaccine trials. Then, in July, the largest study of its kind published in the journal Science Advances added some support to the claims people were sharing online. Here’s what we know, so far, about how the COVID vaccines may affect a person’s period—and why more research is still needed.How the vaccine may affect those who menstruate regularlyTo start with a caveat: Even with the newest Science Advances study, Alyssa Dweck, MD, FACOG, an ob-gyn in New York, emphasizes that most of the evidence we have on the COVID vaccines’ potential effects on periods is still anecdotal. Meaning, if there is a clear cause-and-effect link between the vaccines and menstrual changes, it has not been scientifically established yet.However, the Science Advances study does suggest there could be a correlation between the vaccine regimen and temporary changes in a person’s menstrual cycle. For the study, researchers surveyed more than 35,000 people between the ages of 18 and 80. A majority of respondents received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna two-dose series, so these vaccines were the focus of the study’s analyses. Overall, respondents were also vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, and AstraZeneca vaccines.According to the study, 42% of people surveyed who regularly menstruate reported having heavier periods after receiving the COVID vaccine, while 44% reported experiencing no changes to their periods at all.“In my practice, I’ve definitely seen people have changes in their menstruation—whether it’s the onset, the duration, or the heaviness [of their period]—after the vaccines,” Dr. Dweck tells SELF. “But it seems to be transient. Or, in other words, it’s not every cycle after the fact, but really more like a one-and-done type of situation.”Recent studies support Dr. Dweck’s observations. A survey of nearly 4,000 people, published in The BMJ in January 2022, found that those who experienced longer or heavier periods returned to their typical flow within two menstrual cycles post-vaccination. And a 2022 study out of Norway, published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, similarly found that people’s periods generally returned to normal within two to three cycles. In response to these studies, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated its COVID-19 vaccine FAQ page to reflect that there may be a “small, temporary change” in a person’s menstrual period after vaccination.How the vaccine may affect those who don’t typically menstruateAccording to the Science Advances study, changes in periods were more widely reported in those who don’t have a typical period. Breakthrough bleeding (spotting that occurs when a period is not expected) after the COVID vaccine was reported by 71% of people on long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), 39% of people taking gender-affirming hormones, and 66% of postmenopausal people.

It’s Not Just You: Extreme Heat Is Making All of Us Really Cranky

It’s Not Just You: Extreme Heat Is Making All of Us Really Cranky

At this point, it may be easier to count how many regions across the United States are not experiencing major heat waves this summer. Austin, which is hot in any given year, has been breaking temperature records over and over again. The heat wave roiling through the Northeast is set to break record-high temps in Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. On July 6, The New York Times reported that somewhere around 70 million people in the U.S. were under heat advisories or warnings.So it’s safe to say: It’s extremely hot out there. And while we know the effects severe, prolonged heat can have on our physical states—excessive sweat, increased risk of dehydration, and heat exhaustion or heat stroke, among others—these sweltering temperatures can also have significant effects on our mental well-being, too. Namely, the heat can make many of us exceedingly cranky and, in some cases, downright angry.It may come as a comfort to know, however, that your desire to throw a little tantrum each day that pushes 100 degrees is totally valid, experts say.“As temperatures rise, we can become more emotional and angrier,” Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and creator of Mental Drive, tells SELF. “But only as we move from relative comfort to relative discomfort. As we become more physically uncomfortable, our ability to manage our emotions is diminished.”Dr. Klapow adds that your nervous system releases adrenaline and other “fight or flight” chemicals to try to manage a higher temperature, which your body understandably perceives as a threat. “So, the hotter our bodies get, we lose our ability to manage impulses associated with that discomfort,” he explains. “We become more impulsive emotionally because we are focused on regulating our bodies.”Some research backs this up. One 2021 meta-analysis and review of research, published in the journal Environment International, found a correlation between higher average temperatures and poor mental health outcomes, suggesting that there’s a slight (2.2%) increase in mental health-related mortality per every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature. The authors of the paper note studies have found that mental health–related hospital admissions and emergency department visits for mental health conditions like anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and others increased with high temperatures.As Dr. Klapow explains, your coping abilities—or lack thereof in certain scenarios—are mostly tied to just feeling not-so-great in your own body. So when it’s approaching 100 degrees in New York City for days on end, residents who are stuck waiting for a train on a painfully hot subway platform may find themselves in the mood to lash out as a result.“Our bodies work to adapt to the climate we’re in,” Dr. Klapow says. “As our physical environment changes—i.e., temps rise or fall—our body is working to adapt. That effort takes away from our ability to emotionally regulate. And as the environment we are in changes significantly, via heat waves or freezing temps, we are thrown into a state of having to adapt.”Given the reality of climate change, we know that hotter summers are here to stay—and will get even hotter. But the next time you find yourself picking a fight on yet another record-breakingly hot day, feel free to blame the heat. It’s just science.Related:

Experts Say Abortion Bans May Have Devastating Effects on Miscarriage Care

Experts Say Abortion Bans May Have Devastating Effects on Miscarriage Care

There are countless devastating effects that can and will result from the fall of Roe v. Wade, but one emergent and chilling consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision is how abortion bans may influence the crucial treatment of miscarriages.By definition, a miscarriage—known as a spontaneous abortion—is a nonviable pregnancy that occurs before the week 20 of gestation; after that, it’s considered a stillbirth. The treatment options are very similar to those of abortion—there is no way to stop or prevent a miscarriage that has already been diagnosed. That means providers in states with total or near-total bans, such as Texas, now face a legally murky landscape when it comes to care.As Luu Ireland, MD, an ob-gyn in Massachusetts and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells SELF, a miscarriage is a pregnancy that cannot be safely carried to term. “There is no chance of it going on to be a normal pregnancy,” Dr. Ireland says. While the research varies, it’s estimated that between 10 to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, per the Mayo Clinic, but experts believe that figure could be much higher.Sometimes a miscarriage could mean that the embryo is not having cardiac activity at the expected time, that the gestational sac (a fluid-filled structure that protects the embryo) is growing but the fetus isn’t, or that someone is actively bleeding in the process of passing a pregnancy. It’s difficult for a doctor to know what has caused a particular miscarriage, but as Planned Parenthood notes, it’s almost never something the pregnant person has done. And Dr. Ireland is clear: “What clinches a diagnosis is what the outcome would be, which is, this is not a viable pregnancy, and it will never be a normal pregnancy.”Meera Shah, MD, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, tells SELF that there are a couple of treatment options for a miscarriage: One involves administering the exact same two drugs that are used in a medication abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol), and another involves performing a dilation and curettage, or a D&C, which is a surgical procedure that is done to remove tissue from inside the uterus. “Regardless of the status of the pregnancy, whether it’s a viable pregnancy or a miscarriage, the treatment options are exactly the same,” Dr. Ireland says.How might abortion bans affect crucial miscarriage treatment?Similar to the way that abortion bans can potentially affect the lifesaving treatment needed for an ectopic pregnancy, treating a miscarriage may become unnecessarily complicated and could lead to dangerous delays in care in states where legal abortion is illegal or criminalized, according to Dr. Ireland.“Because it’s the same medication used in abortions, we are seeing a lot of pushback from pharmacists,” Dr. Ireland says. “Patients aren’t getting the medication they need because the pharmacist is worried about legal repercussions. Instead of providing appropriate medical care, pharmacists are having to think about what they need to do to keep themselves safe. As a result, they are denying care to patients undergoing the very difficult process of having a miscarriage.”

Here’s When All Adults Might Be Eligible for a Second COVID Booster

Here’s When All Adults Might Be Eligible for a Second COVID Booster

Amid the COVID-19 surge caused by the now-dominant, highly contagious BA.5 subvariant, you might be wondering whether it’s time to re-up your booster shot. Your current ability to do so depends largely on who you are: Right now, a second booster shot is only available in the U.S. to people 50 and older, as well as some people 12 and older who are immunocompromised. But the Biden administration is working on a plan to administer second booster doses to everyone, regardless of age, as case numbers soar, The New York Times reports.As William Shaffner, MD, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, tells SELF, the earliest timeline that vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna are projecting for a second booster is fall.“There isn’t any doubt that these downstream variants, BA.4 and BA.5, aren’t covered quite as well by the vaccines as was the original strain,” Dr. Shaffner says, adding that the current vaccines predate the surge in omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. “They’re good, but not perfect, and that’s the reason why both manufacturers are working on updating their vaccines, which they anticipate to have ready sometime this fall, and which will include something to protect against these variants. They talk about October, which usually means sometime in November.”As Anthony Fauci, MD, the country’s leading infectious disease expert and the chief medical adviser to the White House, recently told The New York Times, there’s not yet enough evidence to support that healthy people under 50 need a second booster. However, he added that since most people in that age group received their booster shot in late 2021, the effectiveness of that dose is likely waning and potentially offering less protection against BA.5. Studies indicate that the vaccines’ effectiveness wane over time, which leaves people particularly vulnerable amid this latest surge. A second booster would help remedy that. But we’re not quite there—yet. As has been the case with COVID-19 over the past two years, the situation is rapidly evolving. The New York Times reports the Biden administration could weaken its argument for second boosters by promoting them now, so officials may wait to make a strong case until the reformulated boosters are released this fall, given that they’re expected to be redesigned to better combat BA.4 and BA.5.For now, the best protection against BA.5 remains the existing vaccines and boosters that are recommended for you—they still offer good protection against severe illness, even from BA.5, Dr. Shaffner says. To further reduce your risk of infection, you should follow the precautions we now know so well—wear a face mask, wash your hands well, test often, avoid overly crowded spaces if you are able to, and be ready to line up for your second booster once the time comes.Related:

Here’s What You Should Know About BA.5 Symptoms and Severity as Cases Surge

Here’s What You Should Know About BA.5 Symptoms and Severity as Cases Surge

If you’re reaching for your mask again (or you never stopped wearing it in the first place), we don’t blame you. A new omicron subvariant—called BA.5—is now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain in the United States, and early reports suggest it is spreading quickly and widely. Hotspots have emerged in the Northeast and Midwest, according to a New York Times analysis, but COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide.A lot of questions are swirling about BA.5, but how worried should you be? Here, SELF breaks down the most important questions so you can stay safe.Is BA.5 the most contagious subvariant yet?In short: yes. “BA.5 gets an A-plus for contagiousness,” William Shaffner, MD, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, tells SELF. “It’s more transmissible than its parent, omicron, which makes it about as transmissible as our most contagious viruses. There have been some of my colleagues who compared it to measles, to which we give the gold medal.”Given that BA.5 is also now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain in the U.S., there are rising case counts in many parts of the country. Some areas, like New York City, have upgraded their transmission levels to “high.” Local health officials have asked residents to take precautions, like wearing a mask in public and testing before and after travel.But case numbers are on the rise nationally. This time last year, there were about 29,000 new cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) per day; currently, the average number of new cases per day is around 132,000. This number is likely much lower than the actual number of cases, experts speculate, potentially due to the use of at-home rapid tests.BA.5 also appears to reinfect people who have previously had a COVID-19 infection. “That allows it to really move widely through the community,” Dr. Shaffner says. He likens COVID-19 reinfection to a “relatively minor illness, like a bad cold” for the average, healthy person—but the symptoms can greatly vary from person to person, and even reinfection can potentially cause severe illness. It’s not yet clear whether health issues compound with each COVID infection a person has, but a preliminary study suggests that people who’ve been infected more than twice are at increased risk of severe illness or death. And every COVID infection carries the risk of developing long COVID, per the CDC.Dr. Shaffner says it’s not yet clear how quickly you can be reinfected with BA.5, but he puts it in the range of weeks, rather than months.What are the main symptoms of BA.5 so far?Dr. Shaffner emphasizes that any data on specific BA.5 symptoms is anecdotal so far, as there haven’t been any large-scale studies on the symptoms of this subvariant yet.“We’re hearing a lot about back and neck aches and pains,” Dr. Shaffner says. (Online, some people have shared that recent symptoms mimic those of meningitis, such as stiff neck and a severe headache.) “It’s all anecdotal, but as people have looked at previous variants, the distinctions between the variants have not been very large.”

Should We All Be Stockpiling Plan B Right Now?

Should We All Be Stockpiling Plan B Right Now?

In early May, when Politico published the leaked draft of the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, searches for the emergency contraceptive Plan B spiked, according to Google Trends data. And when the decision became official in late June, they spiked again, and much higher. On social media, a familiar cry echoed: Stock up on Plan B while you still can.Amid a stripping away of reproductive rights, the urge to keep whatever resources are available on hand is understandable. And Plan B is a really good resource. When used correctly, Plan B is up to 89% effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy. But as quickly as there were cries to stock up on the emergency contraceptive, there were plenty of people saying the opposite: Avoid the urge to panic buy and don’t stockpile Plan B. So, if you want to make sure you have access should you ever need it, what’s the right move?Should I stockpile Plan B?“There’s nothing wrong with having one, two, or even three doses for personal use,” Steph Black, an abortion activist and writer in Washington, D.C., tells SELF. But, as Black adds, buying 10-plus doses from your local Walgreens, with plans to distribute them around your community, is likely less useful than you want it to be.In fact, Black says that planning to stock up on Plan B and act as “some sort of Plan B fairy” is potentially doing more harm than good. There are already community organizers with systems in place to distribute emergency contraception quickly and efficiently, and they likely know more about how to allocate resources than someone who panic-bought a bunch of pills. Rather than hoarding in the hopes of handing Plan B out to those in need, you’re better off supporting existing infrastructure, Black says. That could look like donating the money you would have spent to an abortion fund, or to a clinic that distributes free emergency contraceptives in your area.How can I ethically stock up on Plan B for myself?If you want a personal stash—a good idea, given that Plan B is most effective within 72 hours, and is even more effective if taken within 24 hours—Black recommends buying your pills online.There are several reasons for this: One is that, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, some pharmacies, including Rite Aid, began limiting the number of Plan B pills one customer could buy at a time. Another is that buying the pills online ensures that doses remain on local store shelves for those who live nearby, and who can’t wait on shipping. The third is that buying a store’s entire Plan B supply creates what Black calls a “contraception desert.”“Reproductive healthcare is community care, and when you clear the shelves of Plan B, you’re taking resources from an already marginalized group,” Black says. “Not everybody has the resources to get things shipped, or to wait to get things delivered. It’s a very time-sensitive medication, so if you’re buying it to have it on hand, and you can wait an extra week until it comes, that’s what you should be doing.”Anything else I should know about taking Plan B?Beyond taking emergency contraception as soon as possible—hence the utility of having a pill on hand—Plan B does have a few additional rules you should know about.

BA.5 Means Now Is Not the Time to Relax About COVID

BA.5 Means Now Is Not the Time to Relax About COVID

Proof of a negative COVID-19 test is no longer required to enter the U.S. or most countries, every state has dropped its mask mandate, and 66% of Americans recently said they feel as though their lives are at least somewhat the same as they were pre-pandemic. Yet cases and hospitalizations are rising—again. The pandemic is far from over, and is even picking up new steam as a new subvariant—Omicron BA.5, which appears to spread faster than any previously known variant—becomes dominant in the U.S.. If you’ve gotten a little lax about pandemic precautions (like getting boosted, always masking in public, using rapid tests before indoor hangouts, staying home when you have symptoms, and getting regular PCR tests) in the past few months, know that now, more than ever, people should be utilizing these mitigation measures to keep themselves and their communities safe.Of the variants the CDC is tracking, BA.5 now makes up more than 50% of all new cases. To put that into the perspective of actual sick people: the tracking data shows that at this time last year—which, to be fair, was when a lot of people were freshly vaccinated and the Delta variant wasn’t yet widespread—the average daily number of new cases was just over 9,000. As of July 5, 2022—the most recent data available—that number is a striking 169,000 cases per day (a number that’s likely much, much higher, due to the now-widespread use of at-home rapid tests). And at the end of June 2021, there were about 579 new COVID-associated hospital admissions per week, per the CDC; that same figure for June 2022 is a staggering 1,263.One reason case numbers might be so high is that BA.5 doesn’t seem to be curbed by prior infection. Researchers in Australia—where BA.5 is also reigning—have seen that the variant is capable of re-infecting those who have recovered from COVID as soon as four weeks later. That’s true even for folks who’ve recently been infected with an Omicron subvariant. It’s never been quite clear how quickly one can be re-infected with COVID, but four weeks is a drastic decline from the previous estimates of anywhere between three and 61 months of infection immunity.BA.5 is also more infectious than previous subvariants, according to early research on cases in South Africa. A pre-print publication from South Africa shows that BA.5 could be as infectious as measles—which, until now, is the most infectious virus we knew of.Another factor in the high case numbers across the U.S. is that BA.5 appears to yield less to vaccinations than previous variants. Those who are vaccinated and boosted—meaning three total vaccines for people aged five to 50, and four total vaccines for those 50 and older—remain the best protected against COVID, including the BA.5 subvariant. But “best protection” doesn’t equal “impenetrable immunity,” so even those who are fully vaxxed still need to take precautions. (The FDA is also looking into whether BA.5 should be included in future booster doses, which could roll out later this year.)

The Future of Life-Saving Ectopic Pregnancy Treatments Is Unclear

The Future of Life-Saving Ectopic Pregnancy Treatments Is Unclear

As Dr. Aguilar explains, if an ectopic pregnancy is further along and requires surgical treatment, the procedure involves abdominal laparoscopic surgery—a small incision is made in the abdomen and then a small camera is inserted to assist surgery—and, in some cases, removal of the affected fallopian tube. An in-clinic abortion procedure is not technically a surgery; no incision is made. The only similarity between ectopic pregnancy surgery and in-clinic abortion procedures is that both terminate a pregnancy.But that’s not a nuance typically reflected in these laws. This is why the common anti-abortion talking point—that life-saving care for high-risk pregnancies will remain available—is harmful and incorrect. Anti-abortion legislation is effective because it’s written to be confusing, Wynn says. “At this point, we truly don’t fully know how this will play out. This is why they’re doing it—the laws cause confusion on how to manage pregnancy outcomes, it makes it hard to know what’s OK or not, and that can lead to criminalization,” she explains. “Any law that makes a clinician try to question the legality of their care while, or before, providing that emergency, life-saving care is completely unacceptable.”Even in the before times, when Roe was still in effect, there was a precedent for pregnancy loss being criminalized in certain states. For example, in South Carolina, the state Supreme Court upheld a murder conviction for 22-year-old Regina Knight, simply for experiencing a stillbirth. Experts say as we muddle through a post-Roe world, these laws will likely be used to further criminalize those who experience pregnancy loss in its many forms, including through abortion. The reality is that this could scare people away from seeking medical care when they need it most.What will this look like in practice?As Dr. Aguilar says, abortion bans delay life-saving treatment by causing health care providers to pause during a critical moment. In Louisiana, which has a trigger law currently suspended, a sweeping abortion bill under consideration changes the legal definition of a “person” from a fertilized egg in the womb to simply a fertilized egg. Remember: A fertilized egg that is outside of the uterus is not a viable pregnancy, experts say. In reality, the bill could potentially make it illegal for doctors to terminate and treat an ectopic pregnancy (not to mention things like embryos used for in vitro fertilization and emergency contraception).In other states, bans already in effect don’t fully explore the critical differences between treating ectopic pregnancy and an abortion procedure. At the time of publication, while the bans currently enacted across the country allow some exceptions for medical emergencies (not all have exceptions for sexual assault, incest, or fetal anomaly), the language doesn’t always clarify at what point a pregnancy is deemed an emergency. By design, this lack of nuance may cause providers to hesitate: Is an ectopic pregnancy a medical emergency the moment it’s discovered, or only once it ruptures and begins to cause life-threatening bleeding? “A delay in care can kill a pregnant person,” Wynn says. “There’s no nice way to say it.”Both Wynn and Dr. Aguilar agree that, in addition to the legislation being vague and confusing, it’s almost exclusively written without consult from medical providers. The Ohio lawmaker who, in 2019, introduced the bill regarding “reimplanting” ectopic pregnancies later acknowledged that he never consulted a medical expert about whether such a procedure was possible (again, it isn’t). And even when laws make exceptions for life-threatening pregnancies, providers still worry that terminating an ectopic pregnancy too soon—even though these are never viable pregnancies—could be considered criminal in the post-Roe United States.Of course, as Wynn says, the risk of death from leaving an ectopic pregnancy untreated is only one of many deadly consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade. “There shouldn’t have to be a reason for a person to be able to seek out care for a pregnancy outcome,” she says. “The focus should be on the health and wellness of the person’s life, whether it’s an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, or an abortion.”Related:

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