An oft refrain of the forced pregnancy crowd is that they didn’t seek to attack the pregnant woman but to help her. Reality has exposed that lie.
On August 22, a woman in Louisiana traveled out of state to get an abortion while having to find someone else to care for her child because her wanted fetus had no skull and if carried to term would die in minutes. But Louisiana law does not list acrania as a medical exception. This is the kind of cruelty the court and legislature has imposed.
On August 17, a 17-year-old and her mother faced felony charges in Nebraska for a self-managed abortion. On August 15, a Florida appellate court upheld the trial judge’s refusal to give a 16-year-old a parental bypass. She said she was not ready to have a baby since she is getting her GED and the father cannot help. But the court decided she was too immature to make the decision not to have a baby, but she was mature enough to raise a baby. This is the kind of logic the court and legislature follow.
In July, a 10-year-old in Ohio was raped and had to travel to another state to get an abortion. She and her supporters were called liars until the rapist was arrested. Now the doctor is being attacked. Women with arthritis have been denied necessary drugs because those same drugs could terminate a pregnancy. Women who had natural miscarriages (25% of all pregnancies) have been forced to go without care or pain medication while bleeding out in the hospital ER because the doctors fear criminal charges. This is how the forced pregnancy crowd care about women.
Even before the Dobbs decision, women were arrested for giving birth, having a miscarriage, and having an abortion. Since 1973, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) https://www.nationaladvocatesforpregnantwomen.orghas documented more than 1,700 instances across the country in which women have been arrested, prosecuted, convicted, detained, or forced to undergo medical interventions because of their pregnancy status or outcomes including forced cesareans and unwanted sterilization. These attacks on women have increased roughly three times from 1973-2005 to 2006-2020. Women have been criminally charged for using lawful and medically prescribed drugs, for using illegal drugs, and for acting in other ways that allegedly put the fetus at harm – such as not wearing a seat belt – even when they have perfectly healthy babies. Most of them were women of color and poor. In Mississippi, a Black woman is over 100 times more likely to die from maternity than from abortion
In 2000, Regina McKnight, a Black homeless woman who struggled with drug addiction in South Carolina was convicted of homicide and sentenced to 12 years in prison for having a stillbirth. Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman, was convicted of feticide and child neglect when she had an abortion in 2015. Latice Fisher, a Black mother of three, delivered a stillborn baby in 2017 in Mississippi. Her husband called 911 and she was charged with second-degree murder.
Brittney Poolaw suffered a miscarriage at 15-17 weeks and was sentenced to four years in prison for manslaughter because she said she had used methamphetamine even though a medical expert said the cause of death was unknown and could have been a problem of genetic anomaly or placenta abruption. This was all when Roe was in place. Criminalization of drug users – or women – has never been effective or just.
Laws that were passed to protect women are being twisted to attack them for allegedly harming the fetus, even when the law specifically says it may not be used against the woman. In spite of an Arkansas law that pregnant women cannot be prosecuted for introducing controlled substances into some else’s body, they charged her anyhow. Though courts have ruled for decades in California that they cannot charge women in relation to pregnancy outcomes, they did.
In addition to criminal charges, women are targeted by child welfare personnel and healthcare professionals. The Arizona Court of Appeals on March 31, 2022 reversed a lower court decision (Ridgell v. ADES) in which the state agency had put a former state child safety worker on a child abuse list because she used medically prescribed marijuana to deal with gravida para, a common pregnancy condition, even though the child was born perfectly healthy. Though Black and white woman use drugs at the same rate, it is Black women who are tested in the pregnancy ward.
A Wisconsin law allows women to be involuntarily committed based only on a suspicion that a pregnant woman has or may in the future consume alcohol or drugs. In five years, approximately 460 women were jailed, forced into medical treatment, or put on house arrest due to a suspicion that they were pregnant and had consumed or may consume drugs or alcohol. Imagine the control this gives an abusive spouse.
If that had been the law when I and my siblings were born in Wisconsin, my mother, every one of her friends, and most of the women in the town would have been in jail. They all smoked and drank during their entire pregnancies. Criminalizing women makes medical care less accessible due to fear and is ineffective as a deterrent but is harmful to both the woman and fetus.
Facebook is one of those corporations collaborating with law enforcement against women. The 17-year-old in Nebraska was arrested after Facebook turned over private messages. Facebook also sends information seekers to anti-abortion organizations and fake pregnancy clinics. Yet, they have been removing posts promoting abortion care and information including Planned Parenthood posts in Michigan where abortion is legal.
The internet is no longer a safe place to get information. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) https://www.eff.orghas some helpful digital security and privacy tips for abortion care. If you have questions about self-managed abortion, go to Repro Legal Helpline. https://www.reprolegalhelpline.org Use an end-to-end encrypted messaging app like Signal https://www.signal.org and for email use DuckDuckGo https://duckduckgo.com or Protonmail https://proton.me
The zeitgeist in Arizona is the same. In Nelson v. Pima County, the attorney general is trying to lift the 50-year-injunction on A.R.S. §13-3603 that mandates a 2- to 5-year prison term. The oral argument in Pima County Court on August 19 had Planned Parenthood urging that the laws must be harmonized, and all the regulatory laws put into effect since 1973 cannot just be thrown out the window. The Pima County Attorney pointed out that it would be impossible for law enforcement and prosecutors to follow the conflicting laws.
The most astounding thing the opponents (Attorney General and Alliance Defending Freedom) said was that the legislature weighed the values between the mother and the fetus and decided for the fetus. I wondered if he understood what he had just said – that the life and health of a living woman is worth less than that of two cells that crashed together at the moment of conception. The only value for women is as vessels for childbearing.
Rarely does one hear the truth spoken so clearly in public on tape. To him, it was all right to say out loud publicly that the only value women have is for childbearing. So if she was Marie Curie who discovered radiation or Katherine Johnson who put Neil Armstrong on the moon or Vera Rubin who discovered dark matter or Rosalind Franklin who discovered DNA (those two boys who won the Nobel did not) or Cecelia Payne who discovered what the universe is made of, they are all less valuable than a zygote that has a 75% chance of developing into a human and an astronomically tiny chance of developing into someone who would achieve what these women did. But, to the men, that tiny possibility is more valuable than the woman herself. This is the patriarchal ocean we swim in.
I wasn’t shocked to hear the sentiment. I have known that is how men saw women since I was a teenager. Then I was told that I shouldn’t bother going to college because I was only going to have children anyhow. I was in charge of protecting my own virginity by using a little pill – aspirin. I was told to put one on my knee and hold it in place with my other knee. Men were never responsible for their behavior. But it was my duty to have babies after properly married.
At 22, I tried to get a tubal ligation in Los Angeles because I knew I didn’t want children. No one would give it to me. I was a young, educated, white woman and those women were to have babies. At the very same time, doctors were sterilizing Black and Brown women without their consent in the Los Angeles County hospital. In the 1970s, the federally funded Indian Health Service performed involuntary sterilization on over 3,000 American Indian women, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/543.html Up to half of Native American women were sterilized. Unlike me, those women were not to have babies.
Handmaids Tale is not fiction. Everything Atwood wrote about has happened. https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/tv/3134834/the-handmaids-tale-based-true-story/ Look at religious and political history, stories from the Bible, the Salem witch trials, and for a modern example, the Chamberlain-Kahn Act in 1918 to detain and examine women for SDTs. https://www.history.com/news/chamberlain-kahn-act-std-venereal-disease-imprisonment-women In the Chamberlain-Kahn Act, the “American Plan,” was to eradicate sexually transmitted diseases by locking up women. Women could be arrested for eating alone in a restaurant, for changing jobs, or for just going to the market. They were detained, internally examined, and checked for SDTs. If none were found, they were released or kept overnight for good measure. Mayor LaGuardia of New York supported the law. Earl Warren of California who ascended to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and gave us many “liberal” opinions we cherish today also supported it. The ACLU not only didn’t fight for women, their president Roger Baldwin, supported it. I’m sure Crystal Eastman, the co-founder of the ACLU and a feminist, socialist, attorney, did not agree. The law was in place 50 years – not ending until the 1970s – when I was in my 20s, prime age to be arrested. Its remnants remain today in health codes in most states.
Other examples include the 1885 legislation that was used to arrest Alan Turing, the father of computer science and a wartime codebreaker https://medium.com/history-uncut/crime-punishment-alan-turing-88dba20ded1d, the Magdalene asylums for unwed pregnant women in Ireland where until 1996 women could be incarcerated for life for becoming pregnant https://www.history.com/news/magdalene-laundry-ireland-asylum-abuse, the People of Hope Catholic cult that started in 1975 in New Jersey https://www.peopleofhope.net, forced radioactive clean up after Chernobyl (I worked with the son of one of the forced cleaners in Belarus who predictably died of cancer.) https://www.voanews.com/a/chernobyls-cleanup-crew-pay-a-steep-price-25-years-on-120442639/138391.html. Puritanical dress codes still exist today not only in schools. https://www.daily-player.com/tennis/french-open-officials-announce-puritanical-dress-code-policy-changes. Passage of the Crown Act https://www.thecrownact.com to overcome hair discrimination has become mandatory. These are for just a few examples that can be seen everywhere when one looks.
In Athens in 415, women had no legal existence and were locked in backrooms and kept only for breeding. The women kept for men’s fun were in brothels. The same is true in Afghanistan today. Women in both Algeria and Egypt told me their daughters have less freedom than they did. One of my contract attorneys in Algeria moved to Canada to get her daughters out of that atmosphere. If we in Arizona don’t act in November, the past will be our future.