Pregnant in Handcuffs


In this op-ed from the New York Times, Lynne Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women state the evidence for how anti-abortion laws in America have incarcerated, wrongfully detained, and even killed pregnant women.

Paltrow and Flavin have documented well over four hundred cases of pregnant women being harmed by anti-abortion measures in the 32 years between the Roe v. Wade decision and 2005. Women who had miscarriages after accidentally injuring themselves charged with fetal homicide, women forced to undergo cesarean sections, the kinds of things you would expect in some misogynistic dystopia out of a Margaret Atwood novel.

These are not isolated or rare cases. Last year, we published a peer-reviewed study documenting 413 arrests or equivalent actions depriving pregnant women of their physical liberty during the 32 years between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005. In a majority of these cases, women who had no intention of ending a pregnancy went to term and gave birth to a healthy baby. This includes the many cases where the pregnant woman was alleged to have used some amount of alcohol or a criminalized drug.

Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week. This significant increase coincides with what the Guttmacher Institute describes as a "seismic shift" in the number of states with laws hostile to abortion rights.

The principle at the heart of contemporary efforts to end legal abortion is that fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses are persons or at least have separate rights that must be protected by the state. In each of the cases we identified, this same rationale provided the justification for the deprivation of pregnant women's physical liberty, as well as of the right to medical decision making, medical privacy, bodily integrity and, in one case, the woman's right to life.

Pregnant, and No Civil Rights [The New York Times | Lynne Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin]