O'Reilly falsely claimed that a pregnant woman's life could "never" be "in danger" from pregnancy complication

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On his radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that it "is never the case" that a "mother's life is in danger" during pregnancy because "you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things." In fact, several potential pregnancy complications, such as an ectopic pregnancy, which is "the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester" or preeclampsia, which "affect[s] up to one in seven pregnant women" can threaten the life of a pregnant woman.

On the October 11 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that it "is never the case" that a "mother's life is in danger" during the course of a pregnancy. In fact, there are several potential pregnancy complications that can threaten the life of a pregnant woman. For instance, an ectopic pregnancy, which the Mayo Clinic estimates occurs in "[a]bout one in every 40 to 100 pregnancies," is a condition in which the zygote, a fertilized egg, attaches itself outside of the uterus and "may destroy important maternal structures" with the potential to cause "life-threatening blood loss." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ectopic pregnancies "are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester." Additionally, other potential pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, which can cause HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, can also threaten the life of a pregnant woman.

O'Reilly was speculating that "legal abortions" "may not be the law of the land, unfettered, much longer" because the courts are considering several cases challenging the constitutionality of laws restricting abortion rights. O'Reilly mentioned that "South Dakota, as you know, has voted to outlaw abortions unless the mother's life is in danger, which is never the case, because you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things." Later, O'Reilly claimed that "a new CNN poll" found that "45 percent" of respondents "say all abortions should be outlawed unless the mother's going to die -- or catastrophic health consequences, which, again, is never the case -- never."

But, as the CDC noted, "Ectopic pregnancy, also known as a tubal pregnancy, is a potentially life-threatening form of pregnancy in which implantation of the fertilized egg occurs outside the uterus." The Mayo Clinic further noted that, despite O'Reilly's claim that "you can always have a C-section" if a complication occurs:

An ectopic pregnancy can't proceed normally. The developing embryo can't survive, and the growing placental tissue may destroy important maternal structures. Without treatment, life-threatening blood loss is possible.

Ectopic pregnancies are extremely risky and, according to the Mayo Clinic, even treatment can "lead to loss of reproductive organs or infertility." "Without treatment," the Mayo Clinic warns, "the stakes are even higher. A ruptured fallopian tube may lead to life-threatening bleeding." According to the CDC, "Ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester and account for 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths in this country."

Treatment for ectopic pregnancies mandates a termination of the pregnancy, most often by a form of therapeutic abortion. Therapeutic abortions are performed when a woman's life is directly threatened by the pregnancy and saving the fetus is not an option. According to the Mayo Clinic:

If the ectopic pregnancy is detected early -- when the zygote is small and hasn't caused bleeding or rupture -- an injection of methotrexate may be used to stop cell growth and dissolve existing cells. If the pregnancy continues after treatment with methotrexate, more medication or surgery may be needed.

Methotrexate was previously commonly used for most non-surgical abortions before the legalization of Mifeprex, also known as RU-486. According to a research study conducted by Dr. Josie L. Tenore and published in the February 15, 2000, American Family Physician medical journal, "single-dose regimens" of methotrexate "have had a success rate of 71 percent" in treating ectopic pregnancies, and "[t]he success rate increases to 84 to 94 percent with the addition of a second single dose."

Also, other pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, can be life-threatening to the pregnant woman. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Preeclampsia is a common problem during pregnancy, affecting up to one in seven pregnant women around the world," and "is defined by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy." The Mayo Clinic adds that although conditions of preeclampsia in the United States are "usually mild," if "left untreated, it can lead to serious, even deadly complications for you and your unborn baby." The clinic also reports that preeclampsia "and other high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death" in the world. Severe preeclampsia occurring early in the pregnancy is especially risky for a pregnant woman and her fetus.

Preeclampsia can cause HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, both of which are potentially life-threatening to a pregnant woman. According to the Mayo Clinic, HELLP syndrome -- which involves "the destruction of red blood cells," "elevated liver enzymes," and "low platelet count" -- "occurs in up to 12 percent of women with preeclampsia, and it can rapidly become life-threatening":

It can cause liver failure and problems with blood clotting (coagulation), which may pose a high risk of death to you or your baby. This syndrome is particularly dangerous because it can occur before you exhibit signs or symptoms of preeclampsia.

Eclampsia, as defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "is the occurrence of seizures in a pregnant woman. The seizures are unrelated to brain conditions and usually happen after the 20th week of pregnancy." According to the Mayo Clinic:

"This life-threatening condition can develop when signs and symptoms of preeclampsia aren't controlled. Eclampsia can permanently damage your vital organs, including your brain, liver and kidneys. If left untreated, the condition can cause coma, brain damage and death to you or your baby."

According to the Mayo Clinic, "many cases of preeclampsia can be treated by inducing labor right away." While in most instances doctors attempt to control the pregnant woman's preeclampsia until she is 36 weeks into her pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic, "In more severe cases, it may not be possible to wait." Though rare, therapeutic abortion has been used to treat preeclampsia conditions.

Also, on the October 11 edition of the Radio Factor, O'Reilly hosted anti-abortion rights activist Mark Crutcher, president and founder of Life Dynamics, who likened pro-choice activists like Feminist Majority Foundation president and Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal and the Supreme Court justices who decided the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade to "Adolf Hitler." O'Reilly asked Crutcher: "Do you ever put yourself in the position of Ms. Smeal and the judges who voted for Roe v. Wade?" Because, O'Reilly added, "they don't see themselves as murderers." Crutcher responded: "Well, I'm sure Adolf Hitler didn't see himself as a murderer, either. What they see themselves as is irrelevant to the argument. It's what they are, not what they see themselves as that's important." O'Reilly responded: "Now, if somebody doesn't have your belief system, how will you ever convince them -- how will you ever convince them when you're outright accusing the Supreme Court justices of being murderers? How will you ever convince them?"

From the October 11 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: All right, "Culture War" segment. Here we go. Ms. Magazine is running "We had abortions" articles, and they're asking for American women to identify themselves and discuss their abortions that they had. All right, now, you can decide whether that's poor taste, whether that's bad -- to me, it's a very, very personal issue. I don't think I'd want the world to know what I'm doing or on any kind of surgical procedure, but I understand there are people who feel pro-choice is under siege, and they have to step up or whatever. So, I'm kind of on the sidelines on that.

Now, they're asking celebrities. So far, four celebrities have come up and done it -- Amy Brenneman, plays Judging Amy; Kathy Najimy, she was in -- what was that? -- Sister Act movie and Veronica's Closet on TV; Gloria Steinem, of course, the founder of Ms. Magazine; and Carol Leifer's a comedian, Jerry Seinfeld's ex-girlfriend. Anyway, they all said they had abortions, and I guess they're proud; or I don't know what they are.

Anyway, it makes me a little queasy. Since 1973, there have been 40 million legal abortions in the U.S.A., and it's the law of the land, and it may not be the law of the land, unfettered, much longer because the Supreme Court's hearing a whole bunch of stuff. South Dakota, as you know, has voted to outlaw abortions unless the mother's life is in danger, which is never the case, because you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things. And partial-birth abortion, obviously, is the big, big issue for what the United States Constitution says because you have to protect life, and after 26 weeks, there's life, whether you cede it or not, it's true -- scientifically speaking, of course.

[...]

O'REILLY: Forty-five percent of Americans, according to a new CNN poll -- 45 percent say all abortions should be outlawed unless the mother's going to die -- or catastrophic health consequences, which again, is never the case -- never. Fifty-one percent say, "No, abortion should stay the way it is. Roe v. Wade should stand." There's a plus or minus of 4.5 percent in the poll, so that's about even, all right. So, that's a lot of folks that say no to abortion in the U.S.A. -- a lot. You very rarely hear their point of view on -- in the media because the media's almost 100 percent pro-choice.

[...]

O'REILLY: OK, so the Supreme Court rules in favor of Roe v. Wade, and you're saying that the judges who voted for Roe v. Wade are killers, and they're killing on purpose?

CRUTCHER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: OK.

CRUTCHER: For one thing, if you read the decision itself, you will see in there that they sidestep that issue. They clearly stated you do not have to deal with the issue of when life begins in order to justify abortion. That is absolutely obscene.

O'REILLY: OK, now listen -- but that's your opinion. But what I'm trying to get at is: Do you ever think about the opposition? Do you ever put yourself in the position of Ms. Smeal and the judges who voted for Roe v. Wade? Do you ever go -- 'cause they don't see themselves as murderers.

CRUTCHER: Well, I'm sure Adolf Hitler didn't see himself as a murderer, either. What they see themselves as is irrelevant to the argument. It's what they are, not what they see themselves as that's important.

O'REILLY: OK. Now, if somebody doesn't have your belief system, how will you ever convince them -- how will you ever convince them, when you're outright accusing the Supreme Court justices of being murderers? How will you ever convince them?

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
Westwood One
Person
Bill O'Reilly
Show/Publication
The Radio Factor
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