a bird and a bottle


Anti-Woman Legislation Out of Virginia
February 7, 2007, 9:14 pm
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, law, news, politics, reproductive justice

In what the Washington Post calls a “flurry of votes,” the Virginia House is considering half a dozen bills that would restrict abortion rights or punish pregnant women. The good news is that a bipartisan effort defeated one bill that would ban most abortions in Virginia in the event that Roe v. Wade were overturned, and that would give fetuses full constitutional rights from the moment of fertilization (i.e. before medicine even recognizes a pregnancy).

But other equally odious bills are still out there, awaiting a vote. One such bill would make it a felony for a woman to induce her own miscarriage at any point during pregnancy. From the Washington Post:

Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is aimed at protecting fetuses that are harmed during the late stages of pregnancy. He cited a Suffolk case in which a woman caused a miscarriage the day before she was scheduled to give birth. “If she would have taken it and abandoned it and it would have died, she would have been charged,” Jones said.

The Post points out that the bill excepts Emergency Contraception. But even that is a fallacy — EC has not been proven to cause the “miscarriage” of an implanted embryo; all it does is prevent implantation, and thus prevent pregnancy. But in the Virginia House’s twisted version of science, even this would be a miscarriage.

And as far as I can tell, Jones’s proposed law applies to any act a woman takes that ends her pregnancy, not just an act undertaken specifically for that purpose (not that that would be any better). Hypothetically, this could leave women who exercise too much, do not eat the suggested foods, or do not secure (often expensive and hard-to-find) prenatal care at risk of being charged with a felony if they miscarry. Laws like this one label women as murderers but do not have the audacity to come out and say what they mean. I think that if we really held people like Del. Jones’s feet to the political fire, they wouldn’t call women who miscarry murderers, because they know that they would be calling many millions of American women (between those who have had abortions and those who have miscarried) murderers too. And that’s neither politically expedient nor factually true.

TikvahGirl “> had a similar reaction. She writes:

Most distressing to me is that this proposed law sets up an expectation that a woman who causes her own miscarriage is guilty of essentially murder. If we are going to criminally penalize women who cause a miscarriage – ending the life of the fetus growing inside her, we must use the legal term, “murder”, to describe the result of the woman’s actions. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has been the most vocal and active advocates for pregnant women in the United States working “ to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable – low income women, women of color, and drug-using women” and I’m sure they will have a lot to say about this bill.

Tikvah Girl, whose whole post on this is really right on, also points out that the language of the law itself is flawed:

Del. Jones’ premise for this draconian legislation is so flawed; it’s amazing its being taken seriously. First of all, a miscarriage is defined as “the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.” So, unless this woman was scheduled to give birth when she was 20 weeks pregnant, he is not talking of a woman who “caused a miscarriage” but rather, induced an abortion.

So this law is just a backhanded attempt to criminalize some abortions by calling them by another name. Sneaky.

In the end, I have to think that legislation like this will backfire. Much like opposition to birth control or the HPV vaccine, this bill and others like it will expose that legislators are not nearly as worried about fetal, maternal, or family health as they claim. Instead, they’re out for themselves, their politics, and their continued social dominance.

All I can say to them is this: we are on to you.

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1 Comment so far
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Worst of all, the proposed law might also apply to spontaneous miscarriages with no allowances made for those that are naturally occurring. Another consequence: The only way to avoid any/all risk of prosecution is to avoid pregnancy altogether, or move out of state, or maybe even out of country. There’s something rotten in the State of Virginia. Unbelievable!!

Comment by Swampcracker




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