Confusion over Tennessee abortion law sows fear among Chattanooga doctors

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Dr. Rink Murray of Tennessee Reproductive Medicine points to areas of the female reproductive system where pregnancies sometimes implant outside of the uterus, a potentially deadly condition called ectopic pregnancy, on September 9, 2022. Murray is among many Chattanooga doctors who say a new state law has created fear and confusion over treatment for ectopic pregnancy and other pregnancy complications.

Dr. Rink Murray was a young doctor still in training when his wife called to share the news: After years of fertility treatment and failed attempts, she was pregnant, and her doctor said the baby looked normal.

Then the nurse tapped the doctor's shoulder. He scanned closer and took another look. Even though there was a heartbeat, the fertilized egg had implanted outside of her uterus, a condition called an ectopic pregnancy.

There is currently no scientific or medical way to save an ectopic pregnancy. It can be life-threatening if not treated, and major internal bleeding occurs. The safest, standard medical care is to promptly terminate the pregnancy using medication or surgery. So, his wife got a shot of methotrexate -- a chemotherapy drug that's frequently used to induce abortion for early ectopic pregnancies -- and went home.