Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is aimed at protecting fetuses that are harmed during the late stages of pregnancy. He cited a Suffolk case in which a woman caused a miscarriage the day before she was scheduled to give birth. "If she would have taken it and abandoned it and it would have died, she would have been charged," Jones said.
Is this “when pregnant women attack”?! Really, are we to assume that this Virginia legislator was inundated with stories from his constituents begging & pleading with him to push a law that would put pregnant women in jail (?!) for bringing on a miscarriage? Del. Jones’ premise for this draconian legislation is so flawed; it’s amazing its being taken seriously. First of all, a miscarriage is defined as “the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.” So, unless this woman was scheduled to give birth when she was 20 weeks pregnant, he is not talking of a woman who “caused a miscarriage” but rather, induced an abortion Also, according to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, most miscarriages occur in the first 3 months. Finally, it’s probably significant to note that approximately 10-15% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage – and that’s only known pregnancies. Clearly the number is actually higher. How do we tell which one of these women caused her own miscarriage? You tell me. It’s probably safest to assume that if any harm should come to a growing embryo or fetus, we blame the mother & imprison her. Really, we just don’t want bands of women who have recently miscarried roving the streets unpunished.
I had a miscarriage after the birth of my first child. I was almost 12 weeks pregnant at the time. It was devastating. Only after I revealed to my close friends, co-workers and extended family that I had miscarried did I hear the innumerable stories of women who had also miscarried. Does this Virginia legislator propose to investigate all miscarriages? And how are we going to define “causing” a miscarriage?
Most distressing to me is that this proposed law sets up an expectation that a woman who causes her own miscarriage is guilty of essentially murder. If we are going to criminally penalize women who cause a miscarriage – ending the life of the fetus growing inside her, we must use the legal term, “murder”, to describe the result of the woman’s actions. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has been the most vocal and active advocates for pregnant women in the United States working “ to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable - low income women, women of color, and drug-using women” and I’m sure they will have a lot to say about this bill.
According to The Washington Post, the Virginia House of Delegates gave “tentative approval” to this bill yesterday, Monday, February 5. They also gave the same approval to a similar bill that would penalize someone, other than the mother, who causes a miscarriage to occur. The other law, the one I like to call “when pregnant women attack”, could result in a woman being imprisoned for up to ten years. So if a woman who is already a mother intentionally causes herself to miscarry, we not only punish the mother but we punish her living, breathing children as well by taking their mother away from them for upwards of ten years.
Once again, we see legislation designed solely to punish a woman for daring to get pregnant when she didn’t mean to or want to. Once again, we punish a woman for the intrinsic power her body can wield.
I’m shocked that this legislation actually made it through the Viriginia House. Final votes on the bill will happen today and if approved the bill will get sent over to the Senate. According to the Washington Post article, however, Republican leaders tried to block it because of its contentious nature (but not because its one more of the most woman-hating, basest pieces of anti-choice legislation that has hit our state governments in recent memory). Also, a 2005 Washington Post poll revealed that most Virginia residents want abortion to remain legal. This inherently anti-choice bill will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Virginia voters.
I read this article two hours ago and my mouth is still agape. I am truly disgusted. My brother and I have this discussion frequently: how can forced birthers/anti-choicers continue to advocate for the criminalization of abortion without calling for the imprisonment of the one who commits the crime – the woman? Eventually, we knew this was going to happen. I look forward to NAPW’s analysis of this and hope to god we don’t see copycat proposed legislation pop up around the country. Sadly, anti-choice advocates are slowly but surely succeeding at replacing the joy a woman feels, who is happily & willingly pregnant, with fear and terror. If we start prosecuting (and persecuting) pregnant women for “crimes” like miscarriage no pregnant women will be immune.