Few things are as awful as losing a wanted pregnancy. Parents preparing for the excitement of a new member of the family are devastated when a miscarriage terminates a pregnancy, and it’s even worse when that miscarriage is someone’s fault. That’s what happened last year in Colorado when Heather Surovik was struck while driving by a drunk driver and she lost her pregnancy as a result of her injuries.
A tragedy, and Surovik was furious when she found out that while the other driver would be penalized for driving drunk, he wouldn’t be punished for causing her miscarriage. Her anger, and the terrible situation, has served as a perfect opportunity for the always-active anti-choice movement in Colorado, which seized upon it as an ideal excuse to advance yet another attempt at a fetal personhood law. Under such laws, a developing fetus is given rights similar to those of a fully developed person outside of the womb, despite the potentially dangerous implications of such measures.
The justification in this case is that if a fetal personhood law had been in place, the man who struck Surovik’s car could have been charged with manslaughter or a similar offense (likely aggravated by driving drunk) because he’d caused a miscarriage that ended a pregnancy. In fact, Colorado already has a new law, House Bill 1154, passed in June, to address crimes against pregnant women, specifically targeting such horrible situations. State lawmakers, in other words, agree that terminating a wanted pregnancy against the will of the pregnant mother should be viewed as a crime, and that causing a miscarriage in the commission of a crime should be addressed with separate charges.
Anti-choice conservatives in the state, however, don’t think that’s enough. And no big surprise there; they’ve attempted to get fetal personhood laws passed on a number of occasions. And they’ve used both colorful and rather awful language, comparing fetuses to “slaves,” for example, in an attempt to push their legislation through. Yet, every time Colorado voters have gone to the polls with a fetal personhood-related measure, they’ve voted it down. This seems to suggest that they feel the existing legal framework is sufficient and they feel confident in their state’s ability to protect pregnant women and their developing fetuses.
Furthermore, many may also be concerned about the serious implications of fetal personhood laws. If a fetus is considered equivalent to a human being, abortion would perforce be a crime. While some members of the anti-choice community may argue that they want to make room for exceptions like situations where a pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother or the fetus has health problems that are incompatible with life, others are more extremist, and don’t support even these exceptions. Drawing lines could prove difficult, which is precisely why conservatives want such laws to pass, as they will inevitably restrict access to abortion services.
For that matter, what happens if medical providers are faced with an active miscarriage and they’re afraid to treat it because of a fetal personhood law, concerned that they might find themselves charged with manslaughter or murder? The potential for harm to women is tremendous with fetal personhood laws; here’s hoping Colorado voters vote down this attempt at limiting women’s rights.
Pregnant rower photo credit: Richard Leeming.