Pregnant women have already seen their rights eroded as bills that criminalize them during their pregnancies increase. Now, any late miscarriage could be seen as a suspicious event, a birth could lead to jail time for those who have addiction issues and every decision scrutinized as to whether the potential child’s best interest was represented. At the same time, while the pregnant person is seeing the rights of the child she is carrying elevated over her own, authorities — be it police, lawyers or medical staff — are treating her with even less autonomy, respect and care than ever before. Here are just four stories that show how dangerous it can be to be a pregnant person today:
1) Mother charged for drinking while pregnant. States are beginning to jail women who are caught using drugs pregnant, but so far, no one has proposed jailing a woman for drinking. But an alarming precedent is being set in England, where a court case is brewing to convict a woman for drinking excessively while pregnant, claiming that caused her daughter to be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). “An earlier tribunal hearing of the same test case ruled that the child was the victim of a crime,” reports the Guardian. “Judge Howard Levenson found that there had been ‘administration of a poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to inflict grievous bodily harm.’” Much like the current bills in the U.S. charging a pregnant person with child endangerment, a ruling could put women in danger of not only being policed while pregnant and held to higher standards of crime and behavior than someone who isn’t pregnant, it could put those mothers out of reach of doctors or caregivers to help them during their pregnancies.
2) Undocumented pregnant women detained, endangered. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has rules against detaining pregnant women unless they pose a specific threat, but that rule is being ignored, and both women and their unborn children are being hurt as a result. According to Fusion, over 500 pregnant women were reported being detained, although the number is believed to be far greater, and as a result were denied adequate prenatal care and other necessary attention. At least 14 women miscarried as a result. While lawmakers in the country declare that an unborn child is sacred and needs every protection, apparently that doesn’t apply to the unborn of undocumented women, even though their children would in fact be citizens.
3) Pregnancy no protection from cops. In New York, a seven month pregnant woman was put in a chokehold by a New York City cop. Her crime? Grilling on the sidewalk in front of her house. Police claim that she was resisting arrest as they attempted to cuff her, and that she was interfering with their ability to grab her husband, who refused to give the police his ID when they told him to move his grill off the sidewalk. Chokeholds are against NYPD policy, regardless of if a potential arrestee is pregnant or not.
4) Have a C-section or lose your newborn to child services. When does a doctor’s desire to deliver a child or a hospital’s decision to reduce risk outweigh a mother’s decision on how she wants to deliver? Apparently, whenever a person is considering a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian section). All Jennifer Goodall in Florida wanted to do was at least attempt a labor and vaginal delivery of her fourth child, after she had three children via C-section. Her doctors, however, said that if she even attempted labor, they would report her to Child Services for endangering her child. Her health center told her “because she decided to have a trial of labor before agreeing to cesarean surgery, her prenatal care providers intended to report her to the Department of Children and Family Services, seek a court order to perform surgery, and to perform cesarean surgery on her ‘with or without [her] consent’ if she came to the hospital.” Legal representatives intervened, and Goodall was eventually allowed to labor, and, when her labor did fail, she consented to a C-section. “I welcomed my son into the world after laboring, consenting to surgery when it became apparent that it was necessary because labor was not progressing,” she said via statement. “This was all I wanted to begin with.”
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