When anti-abortion activists began passing law after law after law closing clinics, banning abortions after certain points in gestation, passing massive waiting periods and other restrictions, they constantly accused those who supported reproductive rights of being dramatic when we claimed that eventually these laws would lead them to investigate miscarriages.
So much for us being dramatic. They are now officially investigating miscarriages.
According to Raw Story, Texas police were called in to a local high school, where what was later identified as a fetus was found in the toilet of a bathroom typically used by students. Police and school officials are questioning students and checking surveillance tape to learn “the identity of the mother,” according to Fox News.
Despite having no idea what the medical situation was, including the age of the alleged fetus, whether it was stillborn or not, or whether the miscarriage was natural, anti-abortion activists are reminding the public that in situations like these, it’s really in everyone’s best interest that the pregnant person carry to term in order to protect herself from possible criminal charges. “And that’s a happy ending when [safe haven law usage] happens, because the baby is safe, the mother is protected from any sort of prosecution, so it’s a win-win for both of them,” Alan Elliott of anti-abortion group Baby Moses Dallas told local news.
Police, meanwhile, made it clear during their investigation that they intended to find the pregnant person and demand answers. “Police say they don’t know how far along the mother’s pregnancy may have been, but they want to know the circumstances of how it ended,” reports the local CBS affiliate.
The questioning and tape combing apparently worked, as they were able to identify the pregnant person and confirm that yes, indeed it was a simple miscarriage and nothing illegal occurred. “The Dallas Police Department said Tuesday that the fetus found in a bathroom at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas ISD on Friday was the result of a miscarriage,” reports Dallas Morning News. ”‘We have spoken to all involved. There is no criminal case to file in regards to the fetus,’ police spokeswoman Monica Cordova said.”
While it is good news that no criminal case is being filed, it’s alarming that the potential is even there. What the high school bathroom investigation has made clear is that police are now operating on an “investigate first, dismiss later” assumption that in every miscarriage situation that they encounter, they will treat it first as a potential crime until they are given evidence that proves otherwise.
This gives police and even medical professionals incredible leeway to decide when they will continue an investigation, use their own personal biases to decide if a situation looks like a natural or induced miscarriage, or if they feel the pregnant person should be held to some sort of fault for causing the miscarriage in the first place. It opens up the door for doctors who refuse treatment of patients or question them under duress to find “missing babies” or charge women who did any drugs while pregnant if they have any sort of complicated birth.
This assumption of guilt will be especially devastating for teens, who are more susceptible to miscarriage because of lack of knowledge about sex itself, and lack of access to prenatal care, which helps make for healthier pregnancies. In Texas, where family planning funds have been decimated, family planning clinics shuttered, and a concerted effort has been underway to ensure nothing but abstinence only education is provided in local schools, that is a perfect storm for teens who may not know how to prevent pregnancy, how to tell if they are pregnant, or how to reach out for help to keep themselves and their pregnancies healthy. Together, those are issues that result in more teens giving birth early, and getting pursued by the police when they are found out.
We don’t have confirmation that the miscarriage was in fact related to a student, although that seems fairly likely. What we do know in Texas is that whomever did actually miscarry a pregnancy in public, in a school bathroom, underwent a both physically and emotionally painful medical situation, tried to do so privately, and instead had to both watch that event become a public news story and answer to the police. No doubt what was already a traumatizing situation became that much more so all because a school district and local authorities assumed there may be criminal charges to be pursued, until they learned otherwise.
We were told that no one would be investigating miscarriages. Obviously, we were lied to.
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