Experts say drug use is rarely the cause of miscarriage or still birth, but prosecution of women who test positive for drugs still happens — and could get more common in the wake of the Dobbs decision
By Cary Aspinwall, Brianna Bailey and Amy Yurkanin, Washington Post September 1, 2022
Some were already mothers, excited about having another baby. Others were upset or frightened to find themselves pregnant. All tested positive for drugs. And when these women lost their pregnancies, each ended up in jail.
More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth, according to an investigation by the Marshall Project, the Frontier and AL.com that was co-edited and published in partnership with The Washington Post.
As a family medicine doctor with a focus on reproductive health, including abortion care, I have been fighting against this outcome for years, and I’ve already seen a steadily increasing stream of patients who have needed to fly for compassionate abortion care. I’m lucky to live and work in New York, where Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed several laws further codifying and protecting abortion access. Connecticut was the first to pass similar protections, and states like California and Massachusetts are working on legislation. But this is a stark contrast to what Americans in other parts of the country are facing, even though access to high-quality, evidence-based health care should not be based on where you live.
So let’s explore what’s coming next, thanks to the fall of Roe: worsening health care disparities, higher maternal mortality rates, criminalization of pregnant people and their doctors, lack of medical care for people experiencing pregnancy complications, attacks on routine medical care for people who can become pregnant, and broad assaults on human rights currently in place for marginalized groups.
Fetal personhood, which confers legal rights from conception, is an effort to push beyond abortion bans and classify the procedure as murder. In Georgia, it also means a $3,000 tax credit.
By Kate Zernike Aug. 21, 2022
Even as roughly half the states have moved to enact near-total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, anti-abortion activists are pushing for a long-held and more absolute goal: laws that grant fetuses the same legal rights and protections as any person.
So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it. So long as Roe established a constitutional right to abortion, such laws remained symbolic in the few states that managed to pass them. Now they are starting to have practical effect. Already in Georgia, a fetus now qualifies for tax credits and child support, and is to be included in population counts and redistricting.
About 10 years ago, a longtime state medical examiner in Texas and Mississippi told me something that has stuck with me ever since. He said there’s a type of prosecutor who believes that innocent babies just don’t die on their own. “They don’t believe in accidents,” he said, “especially when the parents are poor. Someone must be at fault. So someone has to pay.”
It isn’t hard to find cases to back up his theory. I’ve previously written about Hattie Douglas, a Mississippi woman who was arrested and jailed for a year for killing her infant son with alcohol poisoning until a lab concluded a medical examiner had botched the test results.
“If you want to spout, ‘My body, my body choice,’ you need to spend some time in our Arizona penal system,” said one state lawmaker.
by Carter Sherman 29.1.21
The U.S. anti-abortion movement is built on the belief that getting an abortion is tantamount to killing a child. Now, some abortion opponents want to turn that idea into law.
Legislators in at least three states—Arizona, North Dakota and Mississippi—introduced bills for the 2021 legislative session that would allow prosecutors to charge abortion providers with murder, as part of a massive wave of anti-abortion legislation that’s flooding statehouses across the country. So far this session, at least 143 abortions restrictions have been introduced in 25 states, and there's likely more to come.
Abortion opponents were among those most excited by the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in October. And they had good reason to be.
As a law professor and circuit court judge, Barrett made it clear she is no fan of abortion rights. She is considered likely to vote not only to uphold restrictions on the procedure, but also, possibly, even to overturn the existing national right to abortion under the Supreme Court's landmark rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
Aug. 5, 2020 By Megan Burbank, Seattle Times features reporter
“Did you feel they treated you like a person?” The question is posed near the end of the new documentary “Personhood” to Tamara Loertscher, a Wisconsin woman who was imprisoned in 2014 while pregnant after disclosing prior drug use to her doctor; tests showed traces of methamphetamine in her body.
Loertscher and her attorneys have maintained that she stopped using drugs when she found out she was pregnant, but as the case unfolded, her history of drug use and Wisconsin’s “Unborn Child Protection Act” became the state’s justification for giving her fetus more legal rights than she had. Loertscher’s fetus was appointed an attorney; she, initially, was not. When Loertscher refused drug treatment, she was jailed, which effectively cut off the prenatal care she had sought.
‘Personhood’ Film Shows the Cost of the Push for Fetal Rights
“If [the personhood movement] succeeds, the people who get pregnant are going to lose their fundamental rights… to privacy, to equality, to due process of law.”
Nov 7, 2019
Elizabeth Dawes Gay
Premiering this week, Personhood is the latest film highlighting the state of reproductive rights in the United States and how efforts to undermine the constitutional right to abortion cause unnecessary harm. In addition to exposing how fetal “personhood”—or the anti-abortion idea of legal protection for fetuses—immediately threatens the lives and well-being of pregnant people, the documentary film covers important issues concerning what the future could hold if state and federal policy continues in this trajectory. Personhood serves as a reminder that more organizing and political activism are needed to meet the challenges ahead.
The sorry state of abortion access in Saskatchewan
Sask Dispatch, by Sara Birrell
Sep 5, 2019
It has been more than 30 years since the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Morgentaler found Canada’s anti-abortion laws to be such an egregious overreach of state power that they violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to “life, liberty, and security of the person.” Since then, under the law, abortion has been treated as what it is: a morally and ethically neutral medical treatment. But while the decision ostensibly means that any pregnant person should be able to access medical (that is, induced by a drug) or surgical abortions at any time, the nature of the Canadian health-care system, which puts control of services in the hands of the provinces, means that abortion care is a patchwork that leaves many pregnant Canadians – especially those who are poor, Indigenous, young, or in rural and remote communities – to endure unwanted pregnancies.
The US right’s concern for the foetus doesn’t survive the trip down the birth canal
Women face jail for miscarriage while migrant children are held in unsafe conditions. Hypocrisy is thrown into sharp relief
Mon 1 Jul 2019
In Alabama, a woman who was shot in the stomach five times and lost her pregnancy as a result has been charged with the manslaughter of her foetus. Marshae Jones allegedly instigated a fight that resulted in the shooting, and, thus, according to a local police source, the “only true victim” was the “unborn baby”. Lieutenant Danny Reid further explained that the foetus is “dependent on its mother to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations”.
If Jones can be tried for manslaughter, what other types of pregnancy loss can be treated as serious crimes? If a pregnant woman is hit by a car while jaywalking, is this manslaughter? How about if – despite knowing of the tiny risk – she chooses to eat soft blue cheese and miscarries due to listeria? What if she changes the cat litter and contracts toxoplasmosis?