Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin report on the frightening implications of fetal personhood.
Each year, six million women in the United States become pregnant. Approximately four million women go to term, one million have abortions, and nearly one million experience pregnancy losses, including thousands of stillbirths that occur after 28 weeks of pregnancy. All of these women are at risk when legislators attempt to establish a point in pregnancy when women may be deprived of their civil and human rights.
A stark but accurate way of putting it. If the pregnancy has civil and human rights then the woman who is pregnant loses them.
NAPW has fielded calls for help from women in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas who, late in their pregnancies, were threatened with court orders or other state action if they did not give up their rights to medical decision-making, bodily integrity, and health and submit to unnecessary cesarean surgery.
These are not idle threats. In fact, some women who have refused cesarean surgery or rejected advice to be hospitalized late in pregnancy have been taken prisoner and forced to submit to highly invasive medical and surgical procedures. The justifications for such actions have everything to do with the principles that would be established by laws banning abortions after 20 weeks. One Florida federal district court has already (wrongly) ruled that if states may outlaw abortion at some point during pregnancy and force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, then surely the state can also force a woman to undergo major medical procedures to deliver the child she “affirmatively desires to have.”
Sure. Women get pregnant, therefore women should not have full human rights. It totally makes sense.
In an article published earlier this year in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, we document more than 400 cases involving the arrests and detentions of—and forced medical interventions on—pregnant women taking place between 1973 and 2005. Since 2005, we have documented more than 300 additional cases.
Our research finds little direct legal authority for these actions. Rather, prosecutors, hospital lawyers, and arresting officers rely on laws like the one being voted on next week in Albuquerque and those already passed in 13 states. They claim that if the state may protect the unborn by depriving pregnant women of their rights in the abortion context, consistency requires that pregnant women be deprived of their rights in all contexts, including birth and pregnancy loss.
These cases press home the need for abortion opponents and supporters alike to oppose these bans and secure society’s commitment to the fundamental principle: that a woman is a person with civil and human rights throughout her pregnancy. Before and after 20 weeks. Always.
Yes let’s agree on that.