I Appeal to You Anti-Abortion Folks

Dear Anti-Abortion Folks,

I know many of you are probably thinking, after reading my last entry, “Why should I care if Rep. Campfield wants to issue death certificates to aborted fetuses?  Those are lives and anything that will make those women realize that they’re killing a human being is fine with me.  Plus, I’m never going to have an abortion, so I don’t care.”

Listen, I know we fundamentally disagree.  You believe that life, and therefore personhood, begins at conception.  I believe, at conception, we see the stirrings of life and that, throughout a woman’s pregnancy, over time, a person is brought into being.  Yes, I believe there is another life in a pregnant woman’s uterus, but, until it emerges alive into the world, it’s not a person, just the potential for one.

And I know those positions seem so diametrically opposed and that, often, my side seems so heartless and cruel, that you doubt we could have any common ground.

I ask you to consider this.  It is constitutionally impossible for the Tennessee State Legislature to declare some occupants of women’s uteruses people and not others.  They cannot, under the equal protection clause, say that these beings are people, but these beings in the exact same circumstances are not.  If you are a legal person from the moment you stir to life as two cells joined into one, you’re a legal person.  Campfield cannot declare only medically aborted fetuses people.

Consider that.

Now, we both know that this is an effort to chip away at abortion rights.  If you anti-abortion folks can get the law to recognize all forms of human life as legal people, you can, presumably, outlaw abortion because it would then be murder.

But consider this.  If the deliberate ending of a pregnancy through abortion becomes murder, all endings of pregnancies will be open for legal scrutiny.  Not just “will be” but will have to be.  If I’m driving a car and I deliberately run you over, I can be charged with murder; but if I’m just driving along and I drop my cell phone and I reach down to pick it up and I hit you and accidentally kill you; I can still be charged with a crime.

Here’s what I’m asking you to consider.  Almost all of us will miscarry at some point in our lives.  Most often, it happens so early in a pregnancy that we don’t even know we’re pregnant.  But, sadly, it happens all too frequently to women who desperately want children.

I think we can both agree that losing a wanted pregnancy is a terrible tragedy.

Are you okay with opening up these terrible personal tragedies to police scrutiny?

If a fetus is a person, a legal person with a right to life, how can that NOT happen?  The police will have to investigate every miscarriage to see if it was just “natural,” whatever that means, or if the woman did something, even inadvertently, that caused it.

And women, who even inadvertently, cause the death of another person go to prison.

Do you see what I’m saying?  You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot say “that is a person you are murdering and you therefore should be punished under the same laws as anyone else who is committing a murder” to a woman who chooses to have an abortion and not say “that is a person you accidentally killed and though its very tragic that you didn’t mean to kill that person, under the law, you’re still responsible for that person’s death and so you must also go to prison.”

It either is a person all the time or it isn’t.  You can’t establish personhood of a fetus based only on the behavior of the mother, where, if she wants to have an abortion, it’s a person, but if she wants to carry the pregnancy to term, but is incapable of it, it’s just an understandable tragedy.

I believe that Rep. Campfield doesn’t really care about the implications of his legislation, as long as it, in some way, punishes women for having abortions (and lets be honest, that’s what this is about–making sure that women who want to have abortions are “properly” stigmatized).

But I’m asking you to consider, truly consider, in your heart what the implications of establishing legal personhood for all forms of pre-birth human life are.  And ask yourself if you’re really okay with the police investigating all miscarriages and with women who desperately wanted that pregnancy going to prison because it ended.

Because I don’t see how it can be any other way.  The U.S. Constitution says, that a state cannot “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” And so, if you establish personhood (which issuing death certificates is the point of) of aborted fetuses, you have to treat all fetuses as persons and give all of them equal protection of the laws.

So, I ask you, even if you’re anti-abortion, please, for the sake of all women who miscarry, oppose this legislation.


Aunt B.

10 thoughts on “I Appeal to You Anti-Abortion Folks

  1. Theoretically, it might be the case that state power would be enforced equally on all wrongdoers and its investigate scrutiny would fall equally on every suspect. Law, however, is a system of social power that interacts with other systems (like race, gender, and so forth). Compare the number and demographic profile of people who use drugs with the number and demographic profile of those who are incarcerated for using drugs to get an idea of enforcement in practice works. The contents of Paris Hilton’s handbag were photographed the other day — her big bag of pot and the blunts were clearly visible. She’s been widely photographed stoned and smoking pot), but she will not be prosecuted because she’s a wealthy white celebutard (with wealthy and famous counting somewhat less than white, maybe…cf. Snoop Dogg). The law could be framed to exclude natural miscarriage (maybe as a form of death by misadventure, where no one is at fault?) and induced miscarriage (abortion) as first-degree murder. (Homocide laws are ranked in order of intent, with the premeditated act being considered the most reprehensible.) Since criminal charges flow from a determination of probable cause, which do you think would be much more likely to be investigated? Who would bring and what would trigger a complaint against the naturally (and probably unaware) miscarrying mom? Protesting women could turn themselves in under suspicion of violating the law as a means of breaking the state’s ability or willingness to enforce such a measure (as you so cleverly surmised)…but the panty police are not going to be making routine busts in the ladies’ room. They’ll be busting abortionists (who will be practicing illegally) and the women who use them.In my own research (going back to the late 18th and early 19th century), I study infanticide — a willful and secretive killing of a newly delivered baby. White serving girls were not convicted of the crime (even when there were witnesses to the act and the mother confessed) because juries didn’t want to acknowledge that young white women that they depended on for domestic service could be murderous. African-American women, with far less evidence and no confession, were routinely presumed guilty when their babies died shortly after birth. I guess this research has made me rather skeptical that "every miscarriage would have to be investigated" or that equal protection would actually apply in the day-to-day operations of the law.I agree that this is bad law. I just don’t think the whole enforcement thing would work as you imagine.

  2. Well, that’s depressing. Just when you think there cannot be another layer of "bad girl" punishing to the whole thing, history comes along and parades you a whole line of examples.

  3. Bridgett, that’s fascinating. Evidently (white) serving girls were prosecuted for infanticide in England in the later 18th century; one such incident is the inspiration for Adam Bede. So having a racially mixed servant class in the U.S. was already giving white women, even underclass white women, extra privileges by that time. Still, I guess it was an improvement over 13th-century Castile, where you could be executed for suckling a baby of the wrong religion.

  4. > Still, I guess it was an improvement over 13th-century Castile, where you could be executed for suckling a baby of the wrong religion.How did that work? Aside from the dualistic belief in The Left Breast and The Right Breast, I doubt babies have a religion. Maybe they do, but how would you find out what it is?

  5. NM — right-y-o on the diffs between British and US law. A grad student of mine did a comparative analysis of infanticide hearings and their outcomes in the Old Bailey versus western Virginia and Pennsylvania. Her conclusions are exactly as you suspected.

  6. ic, you were born into your putative parents’ religion. And if your parents were of different religions, well, in 13th-century Castile that could get them into legal trouble, too.

  7. Oh, and ic, don’t laugh about the Left Breast and Right Breast. If I’m not mistaken, medical manuals of the period recommended using them differentially for boys and girls. I don’t think anyone paid all that much attenion, but the idea was out there.

  8. Oh, yeah. I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale YEARS ago, and this is the sort of law that would fit right in. Now, again, if it’s a blighted ovum (no fetus, just a pregnancy sac, but your body at first acts pregnant and then miscarries at 6-8 wks), and I’ve had an abortion in the past, would I be suspected of inducing an abortion? Would we be given drug and alcohol tests to see if we induced abortion? What if my pro-life niece whispers to her friend who reports me? It’s the Salem Freakin’ Witch Trials all over again.

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