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Women’s Rights and the Policing of Pregnancy

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 28, 2018

The New York Times is running a series of editorials on the erosion of women’s rights in the American judicial system at the expense of extending rights to “clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings”.

You might be surprised to learn that in the United States a woman coping with the heartbreak of losing her pregnancy might also find herself facing jail time. Say she got in a car accident in New York or gave birth to a stillborn in Indiana: In such cases, women have been charged with manslaughter.

In fact, a fetus need not die for the state to charge a pregnant woman with a crime. Women who fell down the stairs, who ate a poppy seed bagel and failed a drug test or who took legal drugs during pregnancy — drugs prescribed by their doctors — all have been accused of endangering their children.

The introduction also contains a reminder that Republicans were for abortion rights until they realized it was politically advantageous for them to rail against them to rile up evangelicals and divide Democrats:

Out of concern for individual freedom, the Republican Party once treated abortion as a private matter. When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the land, in 1967. As late as 1972, a Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Republicans thought that the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her doctor.