The Truth about an NBC News’ Pregnancy Center Hit Piece
The Truth about an NBC News' Pregnancy Center Hit Piece
Join me for an analysis of a recent NBC News (https://www.nbcnews.com/now/video/crisis-pregnancy-center-accused-of-misdiagnosing-woman-s-ectopic-pregnancy-185651781983) story. This fits into a wider narrative, and it’s a harbinger for pregnancy centers nationwide. It’s noteworthy that Massachusetts is home to a U.S. Senator who has called for pregnancy centers to be shut down across the state and the country.
The story features a lawsuit against a Massachusetts pregnancy center, Clearway Clinic, for an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, as well as the accusation that the patient was told the pregnancy was healthy.
We’re told that a month after the ultrasound, the patient was rushed to the ER with severe abdominal pain. The pregnancy was discovered to be ectopic, which means the fertilized egg (if you don’t take God as His Word, that’s a euphemism for baby) was growing outside of the uterus. While highly relevant to the story, we’re not told how far along the patient was when Clearway saw her. Most ectopics become symptomatic and are diagnosed between 6 and 8 weeks after the last menstrual period. Given the timeline we are presented with, the patient may have been as far along as 9 weeks when she was rushed to the hospital. That means, when Clearway saw her “a month earlier,” she would have been only 5 weeks. This is speculation on our part because none of those highly relevant details were shared in the story.
The story reports that ectopics are “serious, even deadly if left untreated.” This certainly is true, and we’ll come back to it.
Identifying an Ectopic Pregnancy
The medical contributor interviewed, Dr. Natalie Azar, said the ectopic pregnancy “should have been spotted earlier.” The truth is, at 5 weeks gestation, no medical center or obstetrician can confirm an Intrauterine Pregnancy (IUP) or diagnose an ectopic with ultrasound. Dr. Azar may not know this, since her expertise is in arthritis and autoimmunity.
The truth is, at 5 weeks gestation, no medical center or obstetrician can confirm an Intrauterine Pregnancy (IUP) or diagnose an ectopic with ultrasound.
Obviously, we don’t know what the patient was told at Clearway, but given how early she probably was and how unlikely it is to see a baby in the uterus before 5 weeks, 5 days, it’s possible that she was told she had a Pregnancy of Unknown Location and to return in 1 week for a rescan. She may have even been told that everything looked as they would expect it to look for her gestation. All of that is crucial to understand what happened.
As the rheumatologist interviewed said, “With appropriate training and ultrasound that is performed correctly, there shouldn’t be any mistaking a viable intrauterine pregnancy from an ectopic pregnancy.”
The implication is that the person who did the scan was not appropriately trained or did not perform the scan correctly. We have no knowledge on this, of course, but here’s what we know. Ectopic pregnancies are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Dr. Azar must not know that, according to the NIH National Library of Medicine, an estimated 40% of ectopic pregnancies go undiagnosed on initial presentation. If a patient had an ectopic pregnancy, an empty uterus (or uterus with pseudo sac) would be seen on ultrasound. Laboratory data of serial qhCGs and diagnostic imaging are essential components of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy. Sometimes ectopics can only be confirmed with laparoscopic surgery.
Let’s look at some of the accusations from the patient’s attorney:
- Clearway’s “central focus wasn’t on the woman’s health but on ensuring that she kept her pregnancy.”
The word choices are interesting. At no point in the story does the attorney or the news source refer to the “pregnancy” as a baby.
We don’t know what the approach is anywhere else, but the modus operandi of most pregnancy centers is that we provide the information and medical services a woman needs to make a fully informed choice. We educate her on all of her options. Naturally, as a Christian, Bible-believing ministry, our heart’s desire is that she would choose life for her baby, but we would never jeopardize her health or well-being. The health of each patient is paramount.
- Pregnancy centers have been a “long term and widespread barrier for women seeking information and medical care.”
The truth, for anyone willing to look, is just the opposite. Pregnancy centers offer factual information and medical best practices so that each patient can make an informed decision. Patients who’ve had previous abortions, upon receiving information on the different abortion procedures, have told us, “I didn’t know all of that. Had I known, I wouldn’t have had my abortion. The abortion clinic never told me.”
Women who never had a chance to come to First Care Women’s Health have also told us, “If I had known a place like this existed, I never would have chosen abortion.”
The truth is, the forces of abortion must suppress the truth about what pregnancy centers do. The abortion industry is the one withholding information from the patient and posing a barrier to informed consent. But that’s what the other side does: they accuse the good guys of the things they are doing.
The abortion industry is the one withholding information from the patient and posing a barrier to informed consent.
- If no legal action is taken, there will be “nothing to keep these clinics from a pattern of deception and misinformation.”
Since pregnancy centers began in the 1960s, (Life First opened its doors in 1990) we’ve been under the microscope for any wrongdoing because our enemy is the accuser first identified in the garden. It’s sad to say, but we must see each patient as if she were going to take us to court. That doesn’t mean we do anything differently from what we are doing now. We treat everyone with love and compassion and offer the services they need. Our documentation must be flawless. The medical team must chart in great detail on each patient. We work in a God-given ministry. But as our nurse manager, Linda, who helped me fact check this, reminds us, we serve the Lord, but “stupid for Jesus is still stupid.”
Facts are Stubborn Things
If you’ve made it this far, well done! As we said, it’s estimated that 40% of ectopic pregnancies go undiagnosed on initial presentation, what about the ones that are diagnosed? We don’t have statistics, but some portion of those are diagnosed through ultrasound when the baby is older than 5 weeks, 5 days from last menstrual period. And here’s where the plot thickens, if we, collectively, really care about women’s health. In Massachusetts, as in Virginia, there is no requirement for a woman to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion. The abortion pill will not abort an ectopic pregnancy. That means if she has an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy and she takes the abortion pill, she still has an ectopic pregnancy. And, as our rheumatologist friend tell us, this can be “serious, even deadly if left untreated.” This is one of the many reasons why pregnancy medical services like those we provide are so important for women in crisis.
The story tells us there are 4,000 pregnancy centers in the US. That would be nice. That’s overblown by about 25%, if anyone is counting.
Finally, it’s an interesting part of the story to at least mention that Clearway was vandalized in the wake of the Dobbs decision last year. I guess if you’re going to spotlight what may just be an attack on a pregnancy center, you omit any mention of completely unjustifiable attacks. If you’ve never read a terribly biased and patronizing story about pregnancy centers and would like to try it out, you can find more from the “journalists” at Masslive here: (https://www.masslive.com/worcester/2022/07/janes-revenge-worcester-crisis-pregnancy-centers-problem-pregnancy-and-clearway-clinic-vandalized-with-spray-paint-windows-smashed.html)
What’s it Mean?
Getting past the noise, the signal in this story is: why is this airing on NBC News? Out of the millions of things happening in the world, why did this story get three entire coveted minutes before continuing into a pivot to the campaign trail with Nikki Haley and how voters respond to “reproductive rights?”
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Last year the attacks were vandalism, cyber attacks and orchestrated online viciousness. Next, I think we’ll see a shift to more frequent aggressive coordinated lawsuits. Ectopics are one of the places they plan to attack, but they are giving us tells of what their other lines of attack will be. Lawsuits are nothing new to pro-life work.
We never operate out of a spirit of fear, but we discern our times. Sometimes we’re pressured by well-intentioned allies to play it safe so we don’t draw enemy fire, even if it costs preborn lives and the furthering of the Gospel. We always operate out of the highest levels of integrity and excellence because our standard is God’s. And He has called us to this community to rescue those being led away to death, those staggering towards slaughter (Proverbs 24:11). I don’t know what the legal jurisdiction is of this case, but a rudimentary political understanding tells me that Massachusetts is welcome territory to harm those seeking to uphold life. And that sounds like precedent.