On Tuesday, January 15th, the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law will publish our study, “Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health.” This study makes clear that post-Roe anti-choice and “pro-life” measures are being used to do more than limit access to abortion; they are providing the basis for arresting women, locking them up, and forcing them to submit to medical interventions, including surgery. The cases documented in our study through 2005, as well as more recent cases, make clear that 40 years after Roe v. Wade was decided, far more is at stake than abortion or women’s reproductive rights. Pregnant women face attacks on virtually every right associated with constitutional personhood, including the very basic right to physical liberty.
Our study identified 413 criminal and civil cases involving the arrests, detentions, and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s physical liberty that occurred between 1973 (when Roe v. Wade was decided) and 2005. Because many cases are not reported publicly, we know that this is a substantial under count. Furthermore, new data collection indicates that at least 250 such interventions have taken place since 2005.I am for the recognition of the personhood of pregnant women. I am in favor of their access to the health care that helps them negotiate their existence, first and foremost, on their own terms. I do not find it acceptable that other people interpose their own morality, whether based on religion or other social concern, on those women and their bodies. The cornerstone of the Roe vs Wade decision was privacy--the idea that abortion was a medical procedure and should be left between the patient and her health care provider, without the interference of the state--and for what it's worth, I think that idea could be more strongly defended against a lot of the bullshit women face in trying to obtain an abortion today.
When I consider the hour's worth of sorting through pictures of anti-abortion fetus snuff porn I came across while researching Roe, I'm pretty sure that "life" is hardly what anti-choicers have in mind. Rather, the "concern" I've seen regarding the act of abortion is about shaming pregnant women, transfiguring them from "sluts" to "baby-killers" based on their sexualty and rejection of their fertility, and all-around getting off on finding reasons to mind some other person's business. Why else the concentration on how the person was impregnated ("legitimate rape" or fornication)? Why else the transvaginal ultrasound mandates? Why else the protesters getting in women's faces, without any concern of why they are seeking care at the clinic of their convenience?
It isn't concern for those women, I think one can be sure. It isn't respect for their privacy, or right to their own bodies. Which is why, despite all these attacks on Roe, I believe it should stand. And I will never quite grasp how anyone might think this decision is anything but the choice of the pregnant person, herself; I will never understand how anyone wants to make this decision without trying to stand in her shoes, grasp her obligations, debts, fears, unless, unless, oh, unless--
They don't get that this pregnant person is not just pregnant--but a person. The Roe decision acknowledged the standing of the pregnant woman in her own affairs. I hope society catches up with this radical idea that pregnant women are people first. And I have great hope.