USA – Using anti-choice law to criminalize pregnancy is nothing new

“Six US states have laws on the books making it a crime to self-induce an abortion or obtain one without the involvement of a medical professional.

“For many years, National Advocates for Pregnant Women has warned that anti-abortion measures and related fetal “personhood” laws would be used to criminalize pregnant women – and, indeed, they already are.

“Those who had abortions have been targeted for criminal investigations, interrogations, arrests, convictions, and incarceration both before and after the US Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade. Nevertheless, for many people, the new abortion law passed in Georgia, which may open the door to arresting women, came as a surprise.

“…Six states still have on their books pre-Roelaws making it a crime to self-induce an abortion or obtain one without the involvement of a medical professional. A 7th state, Utah, amended its criminal homicide law in 2010 to make it possible to prosecute and convict a woman for ending her own pregnancy.This law was passedfollowing the state’s realization that no existing Utah law provided a basis for holding a desperate teenager criminally liable for hiring someone to beat her in a manner intended to cause a pregnancy loss. Other states have laws that explicitly or implicitly authorize the arrest of those seeking or obtaining abortions.

“In addition, 38 states have feticide laws that equate pregnancy termination with murder. These laws, most of which formally exclude pregnant people from criminal penalties, nevertheless set an unofficial precedent for viewing all pregnancy terminations – including consensual, voluntary ones by abortion –as crimes, and thepeople who have them as getting away with murder.

“While most anti-abortion laws specify that the people criminalized are doctors and not patients, members of the public are well aware who is seeking out and consenting to abortions. As a result, whether or not state law authorizes the arrest of individuals for having abortions or for causing the death of “unborn children” under feticide or homicide laws, the message is clear: Someone who voluntarily has an abortion is engaging in something characterized as criminal.

“Georgia claims itsnew abortion lawis necessary to protect “the unborn” from being deprived of fundamental constitutional rights, including life and liberty. According to this evocative legislative framing, the people who have abortions are no different from murderers, kidnappers, and hostage-takers…. This is relentless, state-sponsored propaganda against both abortion care and against the kind of human beings who obtain it. Treating people who seek and have abortions as criminals is an easy next step.

“We must not allow this to happen. We must not delude ourselves that we live in a just society that won’t let this happen. We must not trust that our systems, especially our criminal law system, will somehow ensure justice for those who are arrested. NAPW’s studydocumenting the arrests of pregnant women – which have been overwhelmingly carried out against low-income women and women of color – as well as the work of such groups as theInnocence Project,Black Lives Matter, theSay Her Name Project, andthe Drug Policy Alliance, make this clear….

“We must demand universal health care for all, including people with the capacity for pregnancy –whether they need care for continuing the pregnancy to term, are experiencing a pregnancy loss, or are having an abortion. We must make sure people know that regardless of the onslaught of dramatic legislation, abortion remains legal in every US state and territory. And finally, as we fight against criminalization of people who have abortions, we must take hope in and courage from the fact that no prohibition law has ever, or will ever, succeed in stopping pregnant people from exercising their human rights.”
SOURCE: Rewire, by Lynn Paltrow, 14 May 2019 ; PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK