A Womb with a View?

i_192A Womb with a View?

In Kansas, legislation is under consideration that will require doctors to report all miscarriages to the state health department.

One would think a womb would be more private.

This information could be used as an investigative tool for prosecution of the mother for harming or killing the fetus as in the Mississippi case of Rennie Gibbs. This could mark a new approach to diminishing women’s reproductive rights. Medical problems like miscarriage can be converted from personal medical problems to law enforcement issues. And, of course, once an investigator begins looking at a possible prosecution all the other medical records have to be examined as well.

The marginalization of women has been principally embodied in culture and custom. But now through the magic of legislation, it’s one woman at a time, one reproductive system at a time. In 2013, the idea of invasive ultrasounds ran its course but like all its ilk is only awaiting the right moment to return.

In the past, a woman’s reproductive system was considered a matter of some privacy. Now, it is an arena for manipulating, prosecuting and even mythologizing women. Manipulating by putting women in fear of their conduct during pregnancy, prosecuting by actively seeking charges against women for reproductive “felonies” and mythologizing by making women sacred hosts, carriers of genetic treasure; who must be treated with the utmost respect – and regulated.

It’s second class citizenship writ large. Right now, it’s a slow laborious chipping away at the base of women’s equality. The intent is clear – control. Once patriarchy is the rule, women and their issues will no longer be problems. Equal pay, child care, family leave, voting, reproductive rights, all will disappear into those subjects not covered by the media, not discussed in the restaurants and private clubs of the beltway, and not manipulated for political contributions in the halls of power.

Women’s rights are a continuing struggle. Women will not gain equality in our lifetimes and just holding on to the rights possessed now will be difficult. The current tool to put women in their “place” is fetal personhood. What the next one will be is germinating in the minds of those to whom women’s natural functions are paramount over their status as human beings.

James Pilant

From around the web.

Walsh, S. (2014, March 26). If stillbirth is murder, does miscarriage make pregnant women into criminals?. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/26/stillbirth-murder-miscarriage-pregnant-women-criminals
Seven and a half years ago, a Mississippi teenager named Rennie Gibbs went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby girl named Samiya. Initially, experts attributed the baby’s death to the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But when traces of a cocaine byproduct showed up on the autopsy report, a medical examiner declared the stillbirth a homicide and cited cocaine toxicity as the cause. Shortly afterward, the 16-year-old Gibbs was charged with murder, specifically “depraved heart murder”, a charge that can carry a sentence of up to 20 years to life in prison.

Since her grand-jury indictment in 2007, Gibbs’s team of attorneys has been fighting for the charges to be dropped on both technical and legal grounds. The defense argues that there’s no scientific proof that cocaine use can cause a stillbirth – and that the “depraved heart murder” statute did not apply to unborn children at the time of Samiya’s death. A decision is expected any day now as to whether the Gibbs case will finally proceed to trial or get dismissed. If it does go to trial, and Gibbs is convicted of murder for being 16 and pregnant, then a dangerous precedent may be established that should make anyone with a uterus feel very afraid.


From around the web.

Marcotte, A. (2014, March 26). Kansas moves to defund planned parenthood and force doctors to report every miscarriage. Slate, Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/03/26/kansas_moves_to_defund_planned_parenthood_and_force_doctors_to_report_every.html

It’s not just women who are trying to avoid pregnancy who are under attack in Kansas. A bill winding its way through the state’s legislature would require doctors to report all miscarriages to the state health department, no matter how early they occur in a pregnancy. The requirement was tacked on to a bill that was supposed to be about reporting stillbirths, and it is so extreme that even some anti-choice Republicans have balked. It’s clear that this amendment is about conflating early pregnancy loss with post-20 week fetal demise and stillbirth. “The whole point is to further the idea of the fetus as a person. It’s a way of establishing the groundwork for making abortion harder to get, and eventually illegal,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute told ThinkProgress. Currently, no state requires doctors to report miscarriages early in pregnancy, because they are a common and usually minor medical issue.

What’s troubling about the bill is that it’s a needless invasion of a woman’s privacy, and it would reinforce the dangerous idea that the mere act of failing to complete a pregnancy is so serious that it requires state intervention. We’ve already seen states making moves to criminalize women for stillbirths, even when the evidence suggests that the woman’s behavior had no impact on the pregnancy’s outcome. We also know that if a woman terminates a pregnancy by taking misoprostol she bought on the Internet, that doesn’t actually look any different from a regular early term miscarriage. Cataloguing every woman who has an early term miscarriage opens the door to investigating women who officials suspect might have deliberately caused those miscarriages. There’s already been one woman prosecuted for inducing an early term miscarriage in just this way, so it’s certainly possible that such a law could result in women having to endure criminal investigations if they dare show up at a hospital miscarrying at eight weeks. Just from your life experience, you know that’s a lot of women.


From around the web.

Marcotte, A. (2014, February 24). Virginia lawmaker calls pregnant women “hosts”. Slate, Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/02/24/steve_martin_of_virginia_on_abortion_state_senator_calls_pregnant_women.html
In text citation: (Marcotte, 2014)