New Study Shows Anti-Choice Policies Leading to Widespread Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women
The full table of contents for Volume 38, No. 2, of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law can be found here. Articles in this edition will be available for public access for a full month here.
On Tuesday, January 15th, the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law will publish our study, “Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health.” This study makes clear that post-Roe anti-choice and “pro-life” measures are being used to do more than limit access to abortion; they are providing the basis for arresting women, locking them up, and forcing them to submit to medical interventions, including surgery. The cases documented in our study through 2005, as well as more recent cases, make clear that 40 years after Roe v. Wade was decided, far more is at stake than abortion or women’s reproductive rights. Pregnant women face attacks on virtually every right associated with constitutional personhood, including the very basic right to physical liberty.
Our study identified 413 criminal and civil cases involving the arrests, detentions, and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s physical liberty that occurred between 1973 (when Roe v. Wade was decided) and 2005. Because many cases are not reported publicly, we know that this is a substantial under count. Furthermore, new data collection indicates that at least 250 such interventions have taken place since 2005.
In almost all of the cases we identified, the arrests and other actions would not have happened but for the fact that the woman was pregnant at the time of the alleged violation of law. And, in almost every case we identified, the person who initiated the action had no direct legal authority for doing so. No state legislature has passed a law that holds women legally liable for the outcome of their pregnancies. No state legislature has passed a law making it a crime for a pregnant woman to continue her pregnancy to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem. No state has passed a law exempting pregnant women from the protections of the state and federal constitution. And, under Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal.
Yet, since 1973, many states have passed feticide measures and laws restricting access to safe abortion care that, like so-called “personhood” measures, encourage state actors to treat eggs, embryos, and fetuses as if they are legally separate from the pregnant woman. We found that these laws have been used as the basis for a disturbing range of punitive state actions in every region of the country and against women of every race, though disproportionately against women in the South, low-income women and African-American women.
Women have been arrested while still pregnant, taken straight from the hospital in handcuffs, and sometimes shackled around the waist and at the ankles. Pregnant women have been held under house arrest and incarcerated in jails and prisons. Pregnant women have been held in locked psychiatric wards, as well as in hospitals and in drug treatment programs under 24-hour guard. They have been forced to undergo intimate medical exams and blood transfusions over their religious objections. Women have been forced to submit to cesarean surgery. They have been arrested shortly after giving birth while dressed only in hospital gowns. And, despite claims by some anti-choice activists that women themselves will not be arrested if abortion is re-criminalized, women who have ended their pregnancies and had abortions are already being arrested.
How Governments and Individuals — Meaning Each of Us — Deny the Persistence of Racism and Abuse
When you work on human rights issues, you notice a certain pattern in government denial of abuse. First line of defense: it didn’t happen. Or if it happened, they did it to themselves. Or if they didn’t, we certainly had nothing to do with it. Or if we did, we didn’t mean to. It doesn’t matter if the issue is torture, forced evictions, or garden-variety employment discrimination. The response from those in charge is often, if not always, the same.
Though this pattern is annoying, to say the least, I have lately become acutely aware of a much more depressing trend: the denial of abuse among those of us who should know better. Of course, we don’t call it denial. We call it “realism.” But the mechanism is the same.
1. “It didn’t happen.”
For decades, commentators and a large proportion of the US public have posited that racism no longer exists. Despite the fact that skin color and ethnicity matters with regard to just about any social indicator you care to look at — health, education, employment, housing, law enforcement — most white people believe the system we live in is racially just.
The writer Touré has described this situation as a “fog of racism:” a situation so subtle, it is blurred. “With this form of racism,” he says, “there is no smoking gun. There is no one calling you a nigger to your face. There’s no sign saying you can’t enter this building. … But … it’s there.”
This is not much different from the many people who are genuinely puzzled at the need for continued attention to women’s issues in the United States now that “the genders are equal.”
Anti-Gay New York GOP Rep to Teach Courses in “Feminine Elegance” to Help Women “Act Like Proper Ladies”
Thanks to colleague Rachel Sklar for the original tip on this piece.
I would say this is in the category of… “you can’t believe it,” but these days there is nothing about today’s GOP I can’t believe anymore. From forced pregnancy, to forced ultrasounds (trans-vaginal or abdominal), to denial of care for rape victims, and denial of both health and pay inequities, the GOP is going out of its way to tell us exactly how they feel about women.
And now this: An anti-gay New York GOP legislator has decided that women are not acting “feminine enough,” so… he will teach us how to be feminine.
This is reported from Joe. My. God.
Anti-gay New York GOP state Sen. Marty Golden thinks women need to start acting like proper ladies. And he’s going to teach a class on how to do just that. City & State reports:Later this month, Republican State Sen. Marty Golden’s office is holding a career-development event for women in his southern Brooklyn district teaching them “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence.” That’s according to a taxpayer-funded mailing being sent out in Golden’s district, which an offended reader passed along. The taxpayer-funded event – presented by a “certified protocol consultant” – is part of a series teaching women in Brooklyn “what’s new in the 21st century as it relates to business etiquette and social protocol.” More details are also available on Golden’s Senate website, including the fact that women in attendance will be taught to, “Sit, stand and walk like a model,” how to, “Walk up and down a stair elegantly” and “Differences in American and Continental rules governing handshakes and introductions.”
According to Joe. My. God., “Golden says his classes are meant to help young women get jobs, therefore you are paying for it.”
What Do Sports and Reproductive Rights Have in Common?
See all our 2012 Title IX coverage here.
Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of what turned out to be one of the most important pieces of feminist legislation, Title IX. Title IX was a wide-ranging reform to educational standards in the U.S., one that required schools from kindergarten through doctoral programs to cease sex discrimination. It ended the traditions of barring boys from home economics and typing class while helping usher more women into STEM fields. But what most people think of first and often only when they think of Title IX is athletics. The requirement that schools invest as much in female athletics as male athletics has by far been the most controversial aspect to this amendment. People who wouldn’t dare suggest that only women should learn to cook or that unequal pay is fair often have no compunction about diminishing female athletes by claiming that their accomplishments simply can’t matter as much as do men’s. In the year 2012, female athleticism still causes overt anxieties.
Why is that? I propose it’s for the same reason that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy — or even prevent one — is still controversial in our society. As with reproductive rights, female athleticism brings forth social anxieties about women exerting mastery over their own bodies.