Commenter c andrew left a link that deserves some attention. The link is: Why Conservatives Are Criminalizing Pregnant Women. I can’t imagine that being a vote getter. But is it true?

The link has a whole host of cases. But this one was the most startling:

Amanda Kimbrough is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her fetus was diagnosed with possible Down’s syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

“That shocked me, it really did,” Kimbrough said. “I had lost a child, that was enough.”

She now awaits an appeal ruling from the higher courts in Alabama, which if she loses will see her begin a 10-year sentence behind bars. “I’m just living one day at a time, looking after my three other kids,” she said. “They say I’m a criminal, how do I answer that? I’m a good mother.”

Now I do not favor abortion. But I have discussed many times over the years the fact that criminalizing it would put a lot of women in jeopardy through no fault of their own. Well I was ignored (by a certain faction).

I did a post recently about Rand Paul’s Life Begins At Conception Act. An act which some of my commenters look forward to. Here the people are discussing a previous case mentioned in the “Why Are Conservatives…” article:

Women’s rights campaigners see the creeping criminalization of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception. In Gibbs’ case defence lawyers have argued before Mississippi’s highest court that her prosecution makes no sense. Under Mississippi law it is a crime for any person except the mother to try to cause an abortion.

“If it’s not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is,” Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer asked the state supreme court.

McDuff told the Guardian that he hoped the Gibbs prosecution was an isolated example. “I hope it’s not a trend that’s going to catch on. To charge a woman with murder because of something she did during pregnancy is really unprecedented and quite extreme.”

He pointed out that anti-abortion groups were trying to amend the Mississippi constitution by setting up a state referendum, or ballot initiative, that would widen the definition of a person under the state’s bill of rights to include a fetus from the day of conception.

By outlawing abortion you turn every failed pregnancy into a crime scene. I don’t see how you get votes that way. Or encourage women to have children. The message is: “We love children so much that we are going to make you women hazard your life by possible court action every time you conceive.”

You have to wonder where these ill conceived plans come from? It is certainly not from rational thought and contact with the real world. What wonders me is that there is such a large faction pushing this sort of thing. And you can tell them all you want about the evil consequences and all they hear in their minds is the good. Funny enough a lot of the people in that faction think dopers have a problem with reality. At least dopers know they are on a mind altering drug that can divorce you from reality. Abortion foes have no such check on their actions because they are sure of their goodness and the purity of their hearts. How could things go bad with such goodness and purity? Evidently they never studied Alcohol Prohibition.

Update: 29 March 2013 1122z

The New York Times chimes in.

The goal of Personhood USA is to establish that a fully rights-endowed person is created when sperm meets egg. To that end, it has introduced initiatives and measures in legislatures in 22 states. Though none of these measures have become law, some, like Proposition 26 in Mississippi, have made it to a ballot referendum, and other measures have passed legislative chambers in North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma. The problem with those measures, from a legal perspective, says Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, is that “there is no way to treat fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses as separate constitutional persons without subtracting pregnant women from the community of constitutional persons.”

The sometimes vague language of the initiatives and measures masks what would be the “sweeping effects on access to health care,” says Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff lawyer for the A.C.L.U.’s Reproductive Freedom Project. One district-court judge agreed with the A.C.L.U., which brought a suit to block a personhood initiative from the ballot in Nevada. Judge James E. Wilson ordered the sponsor of the state’s personhood initiative to add clarifying language. As he wrote in his opinion in December: “The initiative would protect a prenatal person regardless of whether or not the prenatal person would live, grow, or develop in the womb or survive birth; prevent all abortions even in the case of rape, incest or serious threats to the woman’s health or life, or when a woman is suffering from a miscarriage, or as an emergency treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. . . .” The initiative was withdrawn, but signatures are being gathered on a rewritten petition.

In Mississippi, Proposition 26 would have outlawed abortion, embryonic-stem-cell research, cancer treatments that might hurt a fetus and some popular methods of birth control. The measure was defeated, Paltrow said, “because its implication was obvious: once the woman becomes pregnant, she has a second-class status in which she loses virtually every constitutional right, including a right to medical privacy.”

It looks like the Republican Party has again embarked on a suicide mission. I asked in a previous discussion of this if some one in favor of the law could imagine any possible negatives. Funny. No one in favor could. Yet we know even in the case of murder there are wrongful convictions. Well I guess Democrats and Libertarians will have to point out the pitfalls. Fortunately there are already a few states providing concrete examples.

I’m already working against the Republicans on the Drug War. This will double my workload. I guess this just doubles my chances of having something to write about.

OK. I just read further in the NYTs article (it is a long one) and came across this:

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that pregnant women in Alabama, aware that they may be arrested and their medical records subpoenaed if they or their babies test positive for drugs, may be changing their behavior — although not necessarily as some prosecutors hoped. Carmen Howell, a defense lawyer in Enterprise, says she knows of one woman who drove to Georgia when she went into labor and another who gave birth to a three-pound baby in a bathtub at home. She is concerned that women who use drugs may also be having abortions to avoid prosecution. This law, she says, “is a deterrent to choosing life.”

I think I have already mentioned something along these lines but not for that exact circumstance. Women who do not wish to become wards of the state will be biased towards abortion. Or the morning after pill. Or worse.

Well it gets better or worse depending on your point of view. In a list of problems the law as implemented causes:

2. It discourages pregnant women with drug problems some carrying pregnancies to term, thus resulting in pregnant women who might otherwise choose to maintain their pregnancies choosing to get abortions in order to avoid prosecution and potentially imprisonment. (In one case, State v. Greywind, that’s exactly what happened — a woman facing prosecution for taking drugs and allegedly harming her fetus aborted the pregnancy, was released from jail, and avoided prosecution.)


5. It will make pregnant women who lawfully take prescribed controlled substances subject to criminal investigation and arrest, since the chemical-endangerment statute does not apply if a controlled substance is prescribed to a child, but does apply if a controlled substance is prescribed to a woman. (Never mind that it’s impossible to prescribe medicine to a fetus.)