Abortion bans complicate pregnant patients' cancer treatments

As abortion bans are enacted across the U.S., physicians are struggling to determine how legislation will affect what cancer treatments can be offered to pregnant patients, Kaiser Health Network reported Sept. 16.

Cancer coincides with roughly 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, according to KHN. Edjah Nduom, MD, a brain cancer surgeon at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, told KHN the medical emergency exception in Georgia's new law is unclear.

"Is that a medical emergency that necessitates the abortion? I don't know," Dr. Nduom asked. "Then you end up in a situation where you have an overzealous prosecutor who is saying, 'Hey, this patient had a medical abortion; why did you need to do that?'"

Charles Brown, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician in Austin, Texas, who retired this year, told KHN the "scenarios and related unanswered questions are almost too numerous to count." 

"What if she says, 'Well, I don't want to delay my treatment — give me the medicine anyway.'  And we know that medicine can harm the fetus. Am I now liable for harm to the fetus because it's a person?" Dr. Brown asked, referring to some state laws that incorporate "fetal personhood."

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