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Tragic Accident is the Perfect Opportunity to Bring Fetal Personhood to Colorado?

Tragic Accident is the Perfect Opportunity to Bring Fetal Personhood to Colorado?

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.

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Pregnant rower photo credit: Richard Leeming.

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75 comments

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7:50AM PDT on Mar 22, 2014

Thanks

7:10AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Sonali, good argument, but driving drunk and causing the death of someone should be chargeable with vehicular manslaughter, providing the death is of a living person. Since the unborn child was near full term, then that should be applicable. However, I have yet to read why, if so near full term, they consider it a miscarriage. Why was no attempt made to save the unborn child, or if she went into premature labor, if so near full term, why did the baby not survive?

John S. seems to know details including a name, sex and how much he weighed. Strange that an 8 lb. 2 oz. "fetus" wasn't able to be saved.

12:06PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

This tragic accident is being used to sentimentalize fetuses to get laws passed to control women. The personhood amendment is NOT about concern for unborn lives but rather the concern that *gasp* women might decide not to birth babies even after they are pregnant!! If the unborn are so important why isn't there comprehensive and free pre-natal care for ALL women?

Jenn C, There's NO excuse for denigrating a life because it isn't the same as yours either, but you do it time and time again on any gay-rights article that appears.

2:29AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Thanks for the article

8:13PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

How f!!king long is it going to take for the politicians to get it through their heads that they need to STOP trying to regulate what, should be, very personal choices made by women about their own bodies, futures, health, etc. How would they feel if government passed a law that required men to have vasectomies after having fathered "X" number of children? Picture that!

4:25AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

I do feel for the victim and her loss but we all know the risks involved in driving. The man is guilty as charged for drunk driving, not murder or manslaughter. Perhaps he is guilty of causing grievous bodily harm and could be sued for damages? That would certainly be justifiable. I mean we could push this one to the limits if we wanted to and be totally insensitive; "By driving she put her own foetus at risk so it is her own fault."

3:54AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Every danger lies an opportunity

12:42PM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Marilyn T. that's not my pov, it's the pov of so-called “pro-lifers”

11:57AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Of course, if the "fetal personhood" gets pushed through, the next thing you know the government will find some way to tax you for a child not yet living in your home. And if they have their way, they'll also do away with the child tax credit.

Sounds like another knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy that, instead of trying to right a wrong, is intended merely to gain more control over constituents. My sympathies go out to Heather Surovik for her devastating loss, but I highly doubt the politicians in her state feel the same way. They see dollar signs, nothing more.

3:43PM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Our justice system is a mis-justice system. The fact that a woman lost her wanted,unborn, yet living being, at the hands of a drunk driver is what this story should focus on and how he skates on harsher penalties is absurd

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