Saturday, January 19, 2013

Women's Bodies

I have had some rough cases at work recently, dealing with demises of babies close to term, but not quite. And having to help moms deal with their losses, and their tipping over the edge into despair that was truly psychosis. Extremely sad to watch. I felt powerless to do anything except to sit there and listen.

I am dedicated to helping women and children be healthy and safe. Every day at work, my goal is "Healthy mom, healthy baby."

And then I read horrible stories about women being sent to jail for ridiculous things concerning pregnancy, mostly because of their race and class. I hope you will read this article and think of ways in which we can work together to advocate for women who don't share the same privileges we do. I've copied the first paragraphs below.

Pregnant? That Might Get You Arrested

Abortion continues to be a hot-button issue in the US, as dozens of states have passed measures to limit women's access to the procedure. But even women who want to be pregnant are not free of legal restraints on their bodies, as a new paper in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law demonstrates. In many instances, women have been arrested, institutionalized, or subjected to unwanted medical interventions due to their pregnancies.
The paper looks at 413 criminal and civil cases from 1973 to 2005 in which women were subject to legal action related to their unborn children. In all the cases, the women were deprived of their own civil liberties by legal authorities claiming to seek protection of the fetus. Many dealt with charges related to drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, refusing to follow doctor's orders, or for miscarriages that were blamed on their actions (even if there was little to no evidence to prove that those actions led to the miscarriage).
In a piece at RH Reality Check, the paper's authors detail some of the examples they found in their search of legal and public records, as well as media accounts. Here are just a few of them they include: 
  • A Louisiana woman was charged with murder and spent approximately a year in jail before her counsel was able to show that what was deemed a murder of a fetus or newborn was actually a miscarriage that resulted from medication given to her by a health care provider.
  • In Texas, a pregnant woman who sometimes smoked marijuana to ease nausea and boost her appetite gave birth to healthy twins. She was arrested for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.
  • A doctor in Wisconsin had concerns about a woman's plans to have her birth attended by a midwife. As a result, a civil court order of protective custody for the woman's fetus was obtained. The order authorized the sheriff’s department to take the woman into custody, transport her to a hospital, and subject her to involuntary testing and medical treatment.
Fifty-two percent of the women in the cases they found  were African American. Seventy-one percent were likely low income, as they were represented by indigent defense in the legal case. Sixty-nine percent were under the age of 30, and 56 percent were in the South. And, lest you think these are mostly old cases, they found more than 25 in 2005, the last year included in the paper. The authors also said that, while not included in this research, they are aware of at least 250 cases since 2005.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the article - I had no idea that this was a problem, but I guess I'm not surprised (unfortunately).

Sunday Koffron Taylor said...


Amanda Woolston said...

Thanks for sharing this.

Oh my goodness, I am in shock! :-( How horrible for women to be treated like this.