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 Aug. 22, a woman in Louisiana must travel out of state to get an abortion and find someone else to care for her child because her wanted baby has 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. 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 because the doctors fear criminal charges. This is how much they 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”) has 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 Cesarean sections and unwanted sterilization. These attacks on women have increased roughly three times from 2006-2020 compared to 1973-2005. 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 seatbelt – 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.
Laws that were passed to protect women are being twisted to attack her 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 do it anyhow.
In addition to criminal charges, women are targeted by child welfare personnel and healthcare professionals. The Arizona Court of Appeals on March 31 of this year reversed a lower court case (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 the 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 are 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 and every one of her friends 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.
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. At the oral argument on August 19, those defending the statute said that the legislature had weighed the values between a woman and a fetus from time of conception and decided for the fetus.
Rarely does one hear the truth spoken so clearly in public on tape. The life and health of a living, breathing woman has less value than two cells crashed together. Women are nothing but vessels for childbearing.
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. The Handmaid’s Tale was never fiction; it is history. If women in Arizona don’t act in November, the past will be our future.
Dianne Post is an attorney and she is with Central Phoenix Inez Casiano NOW.