This Is What Happens When Republicans Control Women’s Reproductive Decisions

With the Republicans in charge of the legislatures of 30 states after the November 4th election, we can be sure to see more attacks on women’s choice. Personhood laws are certain to be introduced in several of those states, granting more rights to zygotes, embryos and fetuses than to the women who carry them. Not only will this affect women who need an abortion, these backwards laws can affect any pregnant woman.

Lynn M. Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin write in the New York Times about many cases which have set ugly precedents.

“Such laws are increasingly being used as the basis for arresting women who have no intention of ending a pregnancy and for preventing women from making their own decisions about how they will give birth.”

They relate some truly horrendous stories that should give any woman pause. In one of the most appalling cases, a Washington, D.C. judge ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman to have a caesarean section at 26 weeks into her pregnancy. Even though he understood that it might kill her. It did. And the baby died, as well.

One implication of these personhood laws is that women who miscarry can be charged with murder. Yes, really. A Utah woman who gave birth to twins — one of which was stillborn — was charged with murder because health care providers believed that she had delayed her caesarean for too long, resulting in the second child’s death in utero.

A Louisiana woman went to the hospital for vaginal bleeding and ended up being thrown in jail for over a year. Charged with second-degree murder because she suffered a miscarriage.

Hospitals are allowed to hold women prisoner under these personhood laws. A Florida woman went to the hospital fearing that she was suffering a miscarriage. She was. So the hospital held her prisoner and forced her to undergo a caesarean. It did not prevent her from losing the baby but it did keep her from caring for the two children she already had.

Also in Florida, a woman in labor was strapped down onto a gurney, taken via ambulance to the hospital and forced to undergo a caesarean against her will. When she protested, a Florida court decided that her rights did not outweigh the “interests of the state” in preserving the life of her unborn baby.

Paltrow and Flavin have found nearly 800 cases like this since Roe v. Wade was upheld by the Supreme Court, 380 of which have occurred since 2005. They point out that their research coincides with that of the Guttmacher Institute, which describes a “seismic shift” in the number of states with laws that are “hostile” to abortion rights.

The irony of these cases is that many of the women involved are anti-abortion. Some profoundly so. Their cases underline the danger of the state being put in control of the “rights” of fertilized eggs. They use this as justification for taking away the rights of the women who carry them. Paltrow and Flavin point to the inherent flaw in these personhood laws; the theft of women’s civil and human rights.

It is important to note that these laws are made, mostly, by men. The idea of men controlling women body, mind and soul goes back to ancient times. Patriarchal societies and religions forced this paradigm which has spread to nearly every culture on the planet.

Some sociologists believe that this is because of men’s jealousy at the fact that women are the ones who bring forth life, who nurture it in their bodies and bring it into the world. Men could not perform this miracle so they, instead, decided to control the women who could. You’d think that this ridiculously archaic way of thinking would have gone the way of the dodo by now. But it is amazing how modern — mostly conservative — men still hew to antiquated ideas about women. Maybe they will join the rest of us in the 21st century someday. Until then we must be vigilant in the protection of all women and their right to autonomy over their own bodies.

h/t Leslie Salzillo at Daily Kos