Constitutional rights of “unborn” would force women to give up theirs

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If the unborn child has 14th Amendment rights, any loss of pregnancy, whether intentional or not, will become the basis for arrest and prosecution.

If the Supreme Court grants protections to fetuses under the 14th Amendment, the ruling will give state authorities and doctors the power to coerce and control pregnant women in all aspects of their lives. (Lorie Shaull / Flickr)

Ross Douthat’s recent editorial “What has the pro-life movement won?” in the New York Times discusses the possibility that the United States Supreme Court – now dominated by judges who oppose abortion – may, in the next abortion case, not only place further limits on this right , but more drastically ban abortion by recognizing “human beings deserve protections under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Douthat then suggests that” pro-life “advocates should support the expansion of government programs for children. poor women would be forced to have.

More than downplaying the damage caused by the ban on abortions and forced pregnancies, the editorial reinforces the very big lie that the only thing that would be affected by the recognition of constitutional rights for the “unborn” is abortion. . The point is, it would fundamentally change the legal rights and status of all pregnant women.

The rights that Douthat says could be recognized will not only result in the recriminalisation of abortion, they will empower state authorities (police, prosecutors, child protection workers and judges) as well as doctors have the power to coerce and control pregnant women in all aspects of their lives. This power would also extend to husbands and putative fathers, who have already gone to court and used separate rights claims for the unborn child to do things like prevent a pregnant woman from moving to another part of the country. condition or to require surgery this would prevent a miscarriage.

In other words, pregnant people could be prosecuted or prevented from traveling, working or any activity believed to create a risk to the life of the unborn child.

Not only will the backlash against the abortion ban be swift and strong, but we can expect a massive uprising against the recognition of unborn rights which, in effect, force pregnant women to give up their civil and human rights. .

For example, if unborn children are recognized as separate constitutional persons, then the roughly one million people who abort each year (roughly the same number as those who illegally aborted each year before. Roe deer) will be subject to arrest, prosecution, imprisonment and the possibility of the death penalty, as murderers. Hyperbola? In the United States, women have previously been charged with murder for having aborted or seeking an abortion, whether using dangerous methods such as hangers or using the safe and effective drugs misoprostol and mifepristone outside of a setting. medical approved.

If the unborn child has 14th Amendment rights, any loss of pregnancy, whether intentional or not, will become the basis for arrest and prosecution. In countries that have banned abortion and recognized the rights of unborn children, it is not only women who have abortions who go to prison, but also those who experience miscarriages and stillbirths. For example, El Salvador has an absolute ban on abortion. Under this law, women who have abortions go to jail with women like Manuela who, in 2008, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after having miscarried.


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It may be heartwarming to think that arrests for aborting or experiencing pregnancy loss would only happen in a foreign country, but as National Advocates for Pregnant Women has documented in peer-reviewed research, it’s already happening. across the United States. Currently, Adora Perez is serving 11 years for manslaughter of a fetus because she suffered a stillbirth. Chelsea Becker spent 16 months in prison for suffering a stillbirth and remains charged with murder for suffering a loss of pregnancy.

The pace of these arrests and prosecutions is increasing dramatically. National Advocates for Pregnant Women documented more than 400 arrests of pregnant women related to their pregnancy or the outcome of their pregnancy during the years 1973, when Roe deer was decided until 2005. From 2006 to 2020, we documented more than 1,000 such arrests, more than double in two years. Low-income black, brown and rural women are typical targets of these arrests.

Constitutional rights for the "To be born" The fetus would force women to give up theirs
A National Day of Action rally for women’s rights at Dallas City Hall on July 15, 2013.
(Steve Rainwater / Flickr)

It is not only the criminalization that Douthat ignores. Separate constitutional rights claims for fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses have also been used to deprive pregnant women of their liberty through civil recognizance procedures and actions taken in accordance with civil laws on the protection of the human being. ‘childhood. Pregnant women have been detained in closed psychiatric wards and forced treatment centers. They were ordered to undergo intimate medical examinations, banned from smoking cigarettes and subjected to blood transfusions despite their religious objections.

In one case, an attorney appointed to represent what turned out to be an unviable 26-week-old fetus successfully argued that the pregnant woman carrying that fetus should be forced to undergo a Caesarean section, knowing that the surgery was likely to kill her. . The fetus’ lawyer won his case: the court ordered the operation, and neither the woman nor her baby survived.

In New York City, Northwell Health’s Staten Island University Hospital continues to advocate that hospitals and physicians have an obligation to deny pregnant patients their rights to medical decision-making and bodily integrity in order to protect human rights. of the unborn child.

Douthat and the “pro-life” activists he addresses in his commentary conveniently, if not deliberately, ignore all the consequences of granting constitutional rights to fertilized eggs. They do so at their own risk.

This NAPW video provides documentation on the pre- and post-Roe vs. Wade cases in which pregnant women who have aborted have been the subject of criminal investigations, interrogations, arrests, convictions and incarceration:

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