The right’s war on pregnant women

From Salon:

It’s not just about abortion — the right is locking up women when it deems them a threat to their fetuses

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

It is no secret that this has been a banner year for laws attempting to recriminalize abortion. During the first six months of 2013, states adopted 43 provisions to ban abortion, impose medically unnecessary restrictions on providers or otherwise regulate the procedure into nonexistence.

But framing the current assault on reproductive rights exclusively in terms of abortion rights erases another, equally dangerous reality faced by women who intend to carry their pregnancies to term: laws that establish personhood for fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses aren’t just a threat to women’s access to abortion — they are also being used to criminalize and incarcerate pregnant women.

From the forced detention of pregnant women suspected of substance dependence to the use of “fetal homicide” laws against women who experience miscarriages and stillbirths, anti-choice lawmakers and groups like National Right to Life — so long the self-declared “champions” of motherhood — are waging a war on women hoping to become mothers.

“The arguments being used to support the recriminalization of abortion not only have implications for the reproductive rights of women who want to continue their pregnancy to term,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told Salon. “The impact will be — the impact has already been — to deny pregnant women their very personhood. What’s at stake is not just reproductive rights, but virtually every right we associate with constitutional personhood.”

The available data on punitive state actions against pregnant women more than bears this out.

According to research compiled by NAPW, between 1973 and 2005, there have been 413 documented cases in which a woman’s pregnancy was a necessary factor in criminal charges brought against her by the state. In these cases and the 200 others that have been documented since 2005, women have been deprived of due process, the right to legal counsel, freedom of movement and other basic constitutional protections simply because they were pregnant.

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