Ayanna Pressley publicly schools Josh Hawley's wife on abortion: "A deficit in your understanding"

"I'm now going to turn over to the real experts"

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer
Published July 14, 2022 11:42AM (EDT)
Updated December 5, 2022 8:41AM (EST)
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., on Wednesday tore into anti-abortion activist Erin Hawley, the wife of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for tiptoeing around the exact meaning of "abortion," telling her that there was "a deficit in [her] understanding" of reproductive care. 

The fiery exchange came during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing this week, during which Erin Morrow Hawley, Senior Counsel at the right-wing Alliance for Defending Freedom, was questioned about the dangers of ectopic pregnancies. (Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, putting the carrier in life-threatening danger.)

"When an ectopic pregnancy ruptures, what are the chances it can be carried safely to term?" Pressley asked Hawley. 

Hawley acknowledged that an ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, but added, "That's why the treatment for ectopic pregnancies is not an abortion."

"Again, can you just answer the question," Pressley shot back. "When an ectopic pregnancy ruptures what are the chances it can be carried safely to term? And you know what, just to make this clearer, I'm looking for a number between 0 and 100."

RELATED: Ohio "abortion murder" bill orders doctors to "reimplant ectopic pregnancy," which is impossible

"I believe zero ectopic pregnancies – even those that do not rupture – have a chance of successfully being carried to term," Hawley replied. "That's why the treatment for them is not an abortion."

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Pressley then told Hawley that she had a "deficit in her understanding," citing official guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that treatment for an ectopic pregnancies requires ending that pregnancy.

"That's not an abortion because it does not have the intent to end the life of the child," Hawley snapped backed. 

"Reclaiming my time," Pressley responded. "I'm now going to turn over to the real experts."

RELATED: Emergency contraception marks a new battle line in Texas

The exchange comes as the GOP mounts both a sweeping state-level attack on abortion access throughout the country. Last month, the Supreme Court formally overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established America's constitutional right to abortion. After the decision, at least thirteen states with "trigger laws" already on their books significantly curtailed abortion access. 

Several states now have anti-abortion laws that make no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and some limit "maternal health" exceptions to life endangerment. The New York Times maintains an ongoing map and the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on sexual and reproductive rights, publishes a detailed grid of state policies and exceptions.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article conflated abortion laws in several states, resulting in a summary of policies and exceptions that was confusing and could be misleading to readers. The story has been corrected with links to direct readers to updated and clear information on these complex laws.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Ayanna Pressley Clip Ectopic Pregnancies Erin Hawley Reproductive Rights