USA – “In the USA: reproductive-rights advocates focused on abortion but not pregnancy; that was a mistake”

“Fetal personhood, prosecuting women… attorney Lynn Paltrow, founder and head of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (now called Pregnancy Justice) in the USA from 2001 until 2023, says she has seen this coming for decades. It’s hard to fathom what might happen if the abortion pill, which now accounts for 63 percent of abortions in the US, becomes largely unavailable. But then again, for a very long time, it was hard for the vast majority of Americans to believe that Roe v. Wade might be overturned. Or for all but the most apocalyptic-minded to imagine that ultra-right justices in Alabama, inspired by Christian Nationalism, might someday declare frozen embryos created in a fertility clinic to be children, literal persons, under the law….”

“Paltrow began working on abortion cases as an intern with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project in the early 1980s; later she helped found what is now the Center for Reproductive Rights. But even as she was filing lawsuits and amicus briefs to defend Roe, she came to believe that a single-minded focus on abortion was myopic and, she feared, potentially disastrous. In 2001, she founded National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), taking up issues that mainstream pro-choice groups were mostly ignoring — the policing of pregnancy, for instance, and the emerging threat posed by claims of fetal personhood. Paltrow stepped down from Pregnancy Justice, in 2023, but she’s paying as close attention as ever to the many ongoing efforts to “deny women, and anyone with the capacity to be pregnant, of their personhood. Whether the issue is mifepristone or fetal rights, the ultimate goal, she warns, is far more ambitious than banning abortion. It’s to “ensure male supremacy and a society in which men have certain roles and women have others”.…

In a report published last autumn, Pregnancy Justice found nearly 1,400 cases of pregnancy-related criminalization across the US in the previous 16 years, including in New York and in California, where there were at least four cases in which individual prosecutors brought charges to try to make a name for themselves. As recently as 2019, a woman was charged with murder after having a stillbirth that prosecutors claimed [falsely] was caused by methamphetamine use. It wasn’t until 2022 that the California legislature finally passed a law prohibiting the use of this false clamin….

Paltrow says: “The personhood movement claim they aim to “protect unborn life from its earliest stages of development.” But she says: “What I’m seeing—and this is the only thing that I think allows one to make sense out of all of the laws and policies that purport to regulate abortion and birth control and IVF– is that they are all mechanisms for ensuring a subordinate status for women and anybody who can become pregnant.”

“I hear people say all the time that the personhood movement wants to give the fetus more rights than the mother. No, it’s more rights than any living person. No living person has the right to require anybody else to undergo any health intervention on their behalf. No living person has a right to require another living person to give them blood or an organ. Even if it’s their twin sister, their mother, their father. But according to the personhood people, fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses have more rights than any living person because their existence could require women to literally die for them. Fetuses have rights even when they’re completely non-viable….”

At the end of the article she is asked this question:

“If you could single out one effort the repro-justice movement could make to protect the personhood of women, what would it be?”

This was her reply: “We have to have a 50-year plan that includes the development of arguments about women’s rights to conscience that articulates the moral injury they suffer when they are denied the right to abortion, and when they face penalties for any outcome of their pregnancies. It cannot just be the defense of a procedure. We will never ensure a national system of health care that includes all the health care that women need if we don’t make this a fight about the status of women as free and equal citizens.”

[Editor’s note: Do read the whole article! What is included above is only the first part and the last question Lynn was asked and her answer. There is much, much more!!

SOURCE: Mother Jones, by Nina Martin, 26 March 2024 [PS.Ignore the typo in the weblink!]