Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rejecting the Blank-Out

For some time now I have been convinced that many of the arguments against the right to abortion have rested on a fundamental evasion and that the fact being evaded was the existence of the mother.

Now I have learned - thanks to a posting on DemoOkie - of a new movement which seems to tackle that particular evasion head-on. It's a movement of pregnant women and those who choose to advocate for them, and their strategy amounts to - in effect - standing up and saying, "I exist, and I'm not going to let anyone get away with trying to pretend that I don't."

The movement was the subject of a recent blog entry by Sarah Wildman at Slate, which also mentions the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Pregnant Pause
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008 8:28 AM | By Sarah Wildman

I'm a pregnancy cliché, much of the time. Weepy one moment (hello, Obama-mercial), enraged the next (did you forget to buy milk!?). Most of the time I can ignore the emotional lability or laugh about it. But sometimes that righteous ire is for good reason. The obscene amount of unsolicited advice one receives, for example—all aimed at some kind of collective fetus care that totally eclipses the rights of an individual. (The other day a complete stranger reminded me I shouldn't take "hot baths" lest I hurt my child. Thank you!) But much more importantly: the legistlative means states have taken to ensure fetal rights.

Last night I received a new short video produced by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women that narrates the full impact the various fetal rights initiatives on ballots next week will have if they pass (it's six minutes but it's at minute one that the really intense bits creep in, after the pitch to vote "no"). Colorado has Prop 48, a definition of personhood amendment (McCain has come out in favor of it), which would define life—and, most importantly, human rights—as beginning at the moment of conception. South Dakota has measure 11, mostly banning abortion. Normally these measures are seen as simply means of chipping away at abortion rights, and it's true that's part of their intended impact. In the video Lynn Paltrow, executive director at the NAPW, explains how these amendments end up compromising the bodily integrity of all pregnant women.

NAPW is part of a grassroots movement of women from both sides of the abortion debate who are arguing for the rights of pregnant women not to be ignored or overtaken by fetal rights—something that sounds inherently intuitive but is, in many states, painfully most definitely not. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times two weeks ago, Paltrow explained that "Such measures are used to control, and sometimes punish, women who do not want unnecessary Caesarean surgery; who want to have vaginal births after previous Caesarean surgery; women who love their children but can't necessarily overcome a drug or alcohol problem in the short term of a pregnancy; and women who suffer unintentional stillbirths."

In the video, vignettes give anecdotes about the consequences of these legislative interventions: like the case of Amber Marlowe who, in 2004, discovered Pennsylvania had the right to represent the right of her fetus when her hospital, determining the baby would be too large to deliver vaginally, got a court injunction that superseded Amber's rights for the child, forcing legal, surgical intervention. Amber fled the scene and delivered without complication elsewhere. Laura Pemberton, in Florida, was arrested, put in handcuffs, and forced to have a ceasearan. Both women consider themselves pro-life and both were caught in the peculiar dragnet of fetal rights.

(Note: Sarah's original post contains links which are not reproduced here.)

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