My rights as a pregnant woman or the lack thereof

Growing up surrounded by people who were anti-abortion, one thing I heard all the time was that all that it would take to make pro-choice people change their mind was for them to get pregnant with a wanted child. They would then see clearly that it was a fetus was a baby, not a ball of tissue, and that it was a person, not just an inconvenience. Weirdly, my experience has been only the opposite.

As many of you know, I am currently pregnant. This pregnancy was planned and the child it will result in is much anticipated. But while I was pro-choice when I became pregnant, I am only more so today. The reason is that being pregnant in the current anti-abortion atmosphere is, well, a bit scary. As I look around I see laws being passed or considered left and right that place the rights of my fetus, a potential human being, above the rights of my own self, an actual, living breathing human being with a family that needs me. And I have to say, as a currently pregnant woman, that is frightening.

Let me offer you some examples. 

Last fall the House passed a bill that would enable doctors to refuse to perform abortions even if that were the only way to save a woman’s life and the fetus would die regardless. In other words, if I went to a Catholic hospital hemorrhaging from my uterus, literally bleeding to death, and in desperate need of an abortion to save my life, the doctors could legally stand around and watch me die. Fortunately, while this bill passed the House it died in the Senate. However, this sort of thing is not that unimaginable, as the case of a woman who was almost bled to death because the doctor on call refused to perform a life-saving abortion illustrates. She literally almost died, and was only saved when a doctor willing to provide abortions showed up at the last minute.

Recently, Arizona passed a law making it legal for a doctor to withhold information about fetal abnormalities or genetic problems from a pregnant woman if he thought providing such information might lead her to have an abortion. Yes, you read that right, this law that was passed makes it possible for a doctor to lie to his pregnant patient in order to force his anti-abortion views on her – and face no consequences. As is standard procedure for pregnant women, I have had an ultrasound checking for abnormalities. The doctor performing the ultrasound said something in passing that leads me to believe he is pro-life. If I lived in Arizona, I would have to wonder if he lied to me when he said everything looks normal.

On a related note, Rick Santorum has stated that he thinks genetic screening and checking for fetal abnormalities is highly problematic because it leads some women to have abortions. He didn’t call for them to be banned, but he did say that doctors and insurance companies should not be required to provides those screenings. Several women have written passionate articles in response, one about how amniocenteses saved the lives of two of her children and the other about how genetic screening would have given her the knowledge she needed to possibly decide to end her child’s immense and terminal suffering before his birth. If Santorum had his way, I might find that prenatal screenings and genetic testing are no longer covered by my insurance, and thus quite possibly out of reach.

A personhood bill that defined personhood as beginning at conception was defeated in Mississippi last year, but copies of this bill have since been introduced in numerous other states. In addition to banning abortion and likely some forms of birth control, this bill would make it murder to end ectopic pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the embryo implants in the Fallopian tubes rather than the uterus. Such a pregnancy is not viable and ends in maternal death if it is not removed. But like I said, personhood bills would make saving the life of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy against the law. That makes the idea of becoming pregnant a bit scary now, doesn’t it? I’d like to know that if I begin a wanted pregnancy only to learn that it is an ectopic pregnancy, I won’t have to forfeit my life as a consequence.

Last year a bill in the Georgia legislature sought to criminalize miscarriages. This bill, which fortunately did not pass, would have made every miscarriage a case for a criminal investigation. In other words, were I to lose my very much wanted pregnancy, I would have to not only grieve the loss of a wanted pregnancy but would also have to prove that nothing I had done, intentionally or accidentally, had contributed to the loss of my fetus. And believe it or not, a conviction could lead to the death penalty. As a pregnant woman, the idea that I could be prosecuted as a murderer for having a miscarriage is quite simply terrifying.

While the Georgia bill did not pass, several women in recent years have been charged for miscarrying. One woman, in Mississippi, was charged with murder after losing her third trimester fetus when it was revealed she had a cocaine habit, even though there is no evidence that cocaine use can lead to miscarriage. She faces life in prison. A woman in Indiana was charged similarly when she lost her fetus after attempting and failing to commit suicide last year after being abandoned by her boyfriend. Her intent was not to harm her fetus, but to take her own life, but nevertheless she has now been in jail for over a year. She is being charged with murder and faces forty-five to sixty-five years in jail if convicted. And apparently, these sorts of prosecutions are becoming more and more common.

Now obviously, I don’t do cocaine and have no intention of committing suicide. I’m trying my best to avoid anything that might harm my fetus. Still, the precedent is disturbing. What if I went several days without sleep and then fell down a flight of stairs, or what if I got in a wreck biking after my doctor asked me not to and suffered a miscarriage as a result? If someone determined that my actions had been reckless, should I expect to face blame and murder charges? This should not be something I have to worry about. But it is.

And as if last year’s bill was not enough, there is a bill this year in Georgia that would make an abortion illegal even in the case of a woman whose fetus had died. The law would make it so that a woman whose fetus had died would have to wait for her body to naturally expel the dead fetus rather than having a doctor clear her uterus of dead fetal tissue. Why? Because that’s the way God intended, apparently. No really, that was the argument made in the Georgia legislature. Speaking as a pregnant woman, this sounds seriously dangerous. If my very much wanted fetus were to die, I would like to know that the doctors would do everything possible to protect my health and my future fertility. If this bill passed and I lived in Georgia, this would not be the case.

Now of course, not all of these bills have passed. But at some level, that doesn’t matter. The fact that so many people want to see me first and foremost as a human incubator for nine months rather than as a person is not just maddening but also terrifying. I’d like to know that any doctor would give me an emergency abortion to save my life, that I can be sure doctors are telling me the truth about my fetus’ condition, and that if I had a miscarriage I would be given sympathy rather than accusations. But in today’s climate, I don’t feel like I can know any of this for sure.

Being pregnant has made me only more aware of the complexities and personal ramifications of the anti-abortion efforts that have sprung up since the 2010 election. And this is my perspective as a woman with a wanted pregnancy. Being pregnant, whether intended or not, is becoming a scary enterprise in this country. I am very much looking forward to no longer being pregnant, to no longer being seen by so many as primarily a human incubator, to no longer having to worry about whether a doctor would let me bleed to death or lie to me. I’m very much looking forward to knowing that my rights as a woman will not be in question. Except of course that they still will be, at least if I want to use birth control.

And finally, it strikes me that these laws don’t simply place my fetus’s rights above my own. Rather, they place the rights of anti-abortion doctors above my own. When a doctor’s right to act on his anti-abortion views trumps my right to live or my right to accurate information about my fetus, something is seriously wrong with our system. But this is the system that I, as a pregnant woman, must navigate, keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that I and my fetus both make it out of the madness that is the current discussion on women’s reproductive rights in this country.

How We Disagree
Did Ted Cruz Actually Ejaculate into a Cup? Some Thoughts on How We Cover Politics
Busting the Mommy Myth
Why Does Lily Work Two Jobs while Carl is Unemployed?
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • bridget

    At what point does your potentially human fetus acquire human status? On what basis? do you agree with some who feel they are only potential humans even after birth? If not, isn’t their opinion just as valid as yours?

    • Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

      When I’m no longer growing it in my body. Once it’s out there in the world society can have its opinions about the point at which it acquires rights.

    • Raging Bee

      bridget, do you support any of the laws or proposed laws discussed in the OP? Yes or no? And if yes, why?

    • Dianne

      Bridget, two questions for you, if you’re not just drive by commenting:

      1. When do you consider a person to be dead? What criteria do you use to separate a live person from a dead one and do you believe that your opinion should be given equal weight with those of medical ethics specialists who have considered the question is detail?

      2. How do you feel about mandatory tissue donation? Kidney donation, for example, has a mortality rate similar to that of pregnancy and definitively saves lives. Are you ready to have the government demand your second kidney?

      • Dendritic Trees

        Mandatory tissue donation?!

        First off: where and when has this ever been suggested? I’m asking a genuine and non-rhetorical question, I’ve never heard of it.

        Second off: Are you mad! Other people no more have the right to demand you remove an organ from your body than they do to demand you keep a fetus in your body.

      • MadGastronomer

        Dendritic Trees: Actually, that’s kind of the rhetorical point. Anyone who thinks mandatory organ donation is not ok should think mandatory womb use is not ok.

    • Chiroptera

      Personally, bridget, I now think that the whole “life begins at conception” is just a distraction. I mean, seriously? Even when the pregnancy will kill mother and fetus, abortion is not allowed? Doctors may decide not to tell the mother about life-threatening conditions if she may decide to abort? You can’t even abort a dead fetus?

      I just don’t believe that the underlying issue has anything to do with the sanctity of life.

      • Tony


        Personally, bridget, I now think that the whole “life begins at conception” is just a distraction. I mean, seriously? Even when the pregnancy will kill mother and fetus, abortion is not allowed? Doctors may decide not to tell the mother about life-threatening conditions if she may decide to abort? You can’t even abort a dead fetus?

        I just don’t believe that the underlying issue has anything to do with the sanctity of life.

        –Not only is it a distraction, it’s largely an uneducated, uninformed distraction. What qualifications do all these anti-choice advocates have that they can state with certainty that “life begins at conception”? Why should we listen to what they have to say? Have they graduated medical school? Are they experts in female anatomy? Are they experts in fetal development?
        It’s maddening that so many people feel the rights of a fetus trump the rights of the woman carrying it. How is it better to let both the mother and fetus die, rather than perform an abortion?
        The underlying issue can’t be sanctity of life. If they’re willing to let the mother die just to avoid the abortion, anti-choice advocates demonstrate that only *sometimes* is life sacred.
        I long for the time when religion is every bit as extinct as the dodo.

    • Josh

      The human status of the fetus is irrelevant. The fact that the fetus is wholly contained and dependent on the mother’s body is the only relevant fact. A woman has the absolute right to determine what to do with her own uterus on a minute-by-minute basis, regardless of who or what might be currently occupying that uterus.

      • Judy L.

        A fetus is the development of two cells, which were ‘living’ before they came together to produce a single, totipotent stem cell. Those cells, the ova and sperm and the developing zygote/embryo/fetus are all human tissue, but they are not human beings (persons) in a legal or moral sense. And even if a fetus were to be assigned legal or moral personhood, and many of us do regard third trimester fetuses to be at the very least proto-persons, the fetus’ personhood is subsumed by the woman’s personhood. A fetus isn’t an independent entity; it is both within and of a woman’s body, and thus subject to her will, her whim, and her choice. Whether or not a woman invited her little, parasitic, uterine guest in or not, she still retains the rights to evict it.

        I am very pro-baby, pro-woman, and pro-abortion and contraceptive freedom. A lot of people refuse to say that they’re ‘pro-abortion’, and yes, in an ideal world no woman would ever find herself with an undesired or impossible pregnancy, but we don’t live in an ideal world. When abortion services are delivered in a safe, respectful, and caring environment by doctors and nurses who are dedicated to their patients, having an abortion can be a very positive experience. Seriously, I’ve had more than my fair share of unpleasant, painful, and downright traumatizing medical experiences, but my abortion procedure was some of the finest healthcare I’ve ever received (thank the fates I live in a major urban centre in Canada).

        And about that law that allows doctors to withhold information about a woman’s health? Someone needs to challenge that as unconstitutional, or at the very least a gross violation of medical ethics. When a doctor withholds information about a woman’s fetus or pregnancy, they’re withholding information about the woman herself, and that’s just wholesale medical malpractice.

    • kagerato

      Are you interested in the answers, bridget? Or are these rhetorical questions designed to make an argument for your point of view?

      Let’s correct some misconceptions, first. The “human” status of a fetus is never in question. The concept is personhood, not biological species. Personhood is an emergent property, meaning that it arises from the characteristics of the person in question. These characteristics most prominently include consciousness, thought, will, and emotion, but the exact set and their precise prioritization varies by viewpoint.

      The genetic makeup of a particular set of cells or a clump of tissue is morally irrelevant. If tissues can have rights merely through their DNA, then we are all genocidal tyrants merely by existing.

      Theologians know they can’t get to their desired conclusion through biology, so they invented magic ghosts called “souls” to fill the gap. Then they arbitrarily decided to draw the line of ensoulment at the earliest possible point of potential pregnancy, so as to ensnare women to the greatest degree obtainable. This creates some odd theological dilemmas due to being contrary to biological facts, including the high rate of spontaneous abortions and miscarriages. What happens to all these preformed souls, then? More importantly, what is their character when they have never lived or had any experiences? And why is God so incompetent about a matter that is completely under his control?

      Now that we’ve gotten those misconceptions out of the way…

      In development, a fetus gradually becomes slightly more and more advanced toward personhood. There is no particular point during pregnancy at which one can safely draw a line and say “there, there it is”. Biology is not magic, however convenient that might be. The most significant developments occur in the third trimester, once the brain begins to form into a coherent mass. However, even at that stage there is no good evidence of consciousness or thought. The primary development of these and other traits appears to occur after birth, by essentially all accounts.

      There is an undercurrent by some to take an absolute stance to the issue, essentially drawing lines in the sand. Typically, this is explained (though not justified in any respect) with some kind of slippery slope or appeal to absurd consequences. For example, if we don’t set personhood at conception, then it’s legal to kill babies. This doesn’t follow, obviously, and is completely incorrect — whether logically, emotionally, socially, or otherwise.

      Even if we don’t regard infants as complete people, but only as on the road to personhood, that still doesn’t provide any reason to kill them. Obviously. There are plenty of emotional and social reasons to try to preserve infants already born, and evidently no actual compelling reason to kill them. So we don’t really have any threat to murder laws. Similarly, we can repeat this argument with extreme cases of mental retardation and so forth.

      The only cases which seem genuinely troubled by a rational approach to personhood are that of the brain dead and that of animals. In the former case, there doesn’t seem to be much to really argue over. In practice, someone must make the decision of what to do with people who are in all functional respects, dead. That’s a matter for the law and power of attorney to work out. Concerning the latter, it’s really only the clear conflict between our mistreatment of animals compared to human infants that creates the problem. If we were to stop cruelty and consumption of animals that appear conscious, emotional, and even intelligent the entire ‘dilemma’ goes away.

      Perhaps the most interesting element of the whole situation is that no one seems to question a right to bodily autonomy in any other circumstance. If it were a potentially deadly parasitic organism attached to you instead of a would-be child, you wouldn’t think for a moment to question anyone’s right to eliminate it. Truly bizarre it is to see people defend something similar on the basis of it “having a heartbeat” or some other clearly biased concern. Such people will rarely be heard arguing for the rights of most reptiles on that basis. Nor will you hear much for insect’s rights, what with their nervous system and even potential pain response. Clearly there is something more to it than these trivialities.

      One last thing: not all opinions are equally justified. That’s merely a last-ditch escape hatch for admitting one cannot explain their views or behavior in an understandable or acceptable manner.

    • holytape

      Is a fertilized egg more “human-like” than egg and sperm alone? Yes. Is it equal in “human” status as the mother? Absolutely not. A woman has full rights to her body.

      If you really think that abortion is wrong or murderous, then fight to make sex-ed and birth control readily available. These are proven to actually reduce the number of abortions.

      Personally, I wouldn’t count it as legally fully human until it is 18, has a job and apartment of its own. (P.S. I’m joking. I don’t know who your are referring to, but I have never heard of anyone referring to a baby as a potential human.)

      • MadGastronomer

        It’s not generally a modern opinion that babies aren’t people, but a lot of pre-modern cultures had some version of it, which was strongly influenced by the high infant mortality rates.

    • KA

      I suggest that Libby Anne is only a ‘potential human being’ until she can understand and value human life. The fetus within her is a unique set of DNA that was created at conception from the parents reproductive cells. There is nothing about the fetus that is part of the woman’s body. it is wholly an independent life as defined by its unique DNA.

      • Libby Anne

        You know what else has unique DNA? Cancer. Also, my fetus isn’t “independent” – it’s feeding directly off of my body.

      • Chiroptera

        The fetus within her is a unique set of DNA that was created at conception from the parents reproductive cells. There is nothing about the fetus that is part of the woman’s body. it is wholly an independent life as defined by its unique DNA.

        Seriously? You mean before DNA was discovered, abortion was perfectly acceptable morally? Are you implying that if DNA had never been discovered, you would have no moral qualms about abortion?

        Somehow, I don’t think you care at all about DNA, and that DNA has nothing to do with why you want to protect fetuses.

    • David Hart

      I think you may be conflating two distinct concepts, ‘legal entitlement to have and to express an opinion’ and ‘likelihood of one’s opinion actually being correct’. If you think that New Mexico shares a border with Nebraska (to pick an easy question from geography) and I don’t, we are both equally entitled to express our incompatible claims, but only one of us can be right – i.e. only one of our opinions is valid when measured against reality. Now, acquisition of human status is a more ill-defined concept than sharing a land border, but in any discussion of the subject, once you have agreed with your opponent on what clearly-identifiable criteria you are going to use to define human status, you then can have a reality-based discussion about whether a fetus at a certain age meets those criteria. It is only our failure to define in advance what criteria we are judging human-ness by that could possibly allow us to say that one person’s opinion is as good as someone else’s. So if you are going to challenge the author here, you really ought to be setting out your criteria for humanness first.

  • Dianne

    I have been pregnant once. The fetus had 2 X chromosomes and they both functioned as expected. In short, I have a daughter. I was pro-choice before, but I am far MORE pro-choice now. For my daughter, for my niece, for all the young women whose lives must not be ruined by unwanted and life threatening child bearing.

  • Mattir

    Yep, being pregnant is terrifying. I remember being lectured by a patient of mine about drinking coffee. I was, at the time, working in a drug rehab, and the patient had used crack and PCP while pregnant and almost killed a 2 year old in the process, but she had absorbed the message that pregnant women deserve to be monitored by everyone around them and that Risk Is Bad. Every time I went to the ob, I left in tears because he had identified yet another Severe Risk Factor(tm) that had to be addressed Right Now, via this stringent diet on a bluffy mimeographed sheet. When I asked about evidence for one of the Severe Risks(tm), he said “I don’t know of any empirical studies, I’ve just heard anecdotes.” In other words, he was scaring the shit out of me based on gossip he’d heard in his residency. (I have fully normal twins, fwiw.)

    Between the snoopy pregnancy police people and the “I can’t make eye contact with you because you’re big as a house” people, I was really glad to get back to my normal body shape. (And it was amusing that after being so careful about drinking modest amounts of coffee while pregnant, no one blinked an eye at my drinking 6 or more cups of the caffeinated stuff while nursing or identified caffeine as the reason my 6 week olds turned into Awake Screaming Demons(tm) – I got to figure that out on my own.

  • rq

    Even if their opinion is just as valid as mine (which it is), it is still my body (and my pregnancy and my decisions etc.), and they should not be allowed to impose their opinion onto me. Doesn’t matter if they agree with me or not, once they start making decisions FOR me, I don’t like it because they’re stepping into my space to make sure I follow THEIR rules. And that’s just not right.
    Otherwise, why not just bring back the practice of confining a woman during pregnancy, just to be sure she is safe from all possible risks and can be adequately supervised to prevent her from doing anything that may harm the fetus? Sounds like fun to me!

  • Sheila Crosby

    No wonder a lot of the GOP want to ban birth control. If they get their way over personhood rights, no sane woman would chose to risk pregnancy. Solution? Try to make pregnancy mandatory.

    You know that somebody said that employers having the right to fire you for birth control was improving rights (the employers’ rights – the workers’ rights don’t count.) Next thing you know, they’ll be bringing back the right to own slaves.

    • karmakin

      The long-goal is a move back to the “company town” model.

      • seditiosus

        Sadly, that’s probably very true. These scumbags aren’t just anti-women, they’re anti-humanity.

  • Didaktylos

    If a fetus is a person, then legally, an ectopic fetus should have the equivalent status to an armed and dangerous fugitive.

    • nm

      Interestingly, the Jewish take on abortion is that in some instances the fetus is a rodef — a pursuer that can be killed in self-defence. In such cases, obviously, abortion is not merely permissible; it is mandatory.

      • Amanda

        Even when the fetus can not be considered a rodef, though, it is not considered a person under Jewish law and the abortion is not considered murder. The writings are very clear that the fetus becomes a person when either the head (or in the case of breech birth, a majority of the body) has been delivered.

        Which is not to say that Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, doesn’t consider abortion problematic in the majority of cases.

  • embertine

    Thanks, Libby Anne. This is a wonderful post and the clearest explanation I have seen so far of how this is a war on women’s rights and has nothing to do with the sanctity of life.

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    Thank you, I felt the same way when I was pregnant. I have been pregnant 3 times, miscarried the first 2 and have one healthy 17 year old. The thought of her having to have so many unscientific , contradictory laws governing her bodily integrity if she ever gets pregnant scares the crap out of me.

    The noisy bossy “pregnancy police” also bother me greatly, for example the waitree who wouldn’t serve a pregnant woman a glass of wine: . Is doing drugs or drinking much during pregnancy good for the fetus, no probably not, is caffeine or certain other foods good either(example mercury is found in many ocean-caught fish) again probably not. But I think educating people on the dangers and letting them decide for themselves is a much better way to go. I do not want to live in a country that feels it is OK to decide what a person can eat, drink, smoke, what activities they can participate in, just because they are pregnant, “pregnant women aren’t communal property” as the article states.

    Maybe it sounds heartless but people miscarry every day, for many reasons and no reason that anyone can determine. What would have made my miscarriages much worse would have been someone official trying to determine what I “did” to cause them. Traveling to Korea for work? Drinking too much tea? Riding my bike to work? Just how many restrictions should a pregnant woman have to put up with?

    And since what men do affects their sperm, what about all those chemicals my husband was exposed to at work? (we were both in the navy) What about the heat he was exposed to in the engine room, maybe it damaged his sperm? If our government is going to go all Republic of Gilead lets make it apply to everyone!

    • ellyphillips

      Another point about all the attempts to criminalize miscarriage is the assumption that anyone can tell why a particular woman miscarried. I miscarried 5 times and even the fertility doctor specializing in miscarriage wasn’t really sure why.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Exactly, usually they won’t test for anything until you have 3 in a row. My OB was very helpful and ran quite a few tests for thyroid problems, lupus and a bunch of other things, he couldn’t find any reason why. I’m really sorry you had to go through that.

      • amhovgaard

        The main reason why they won’t test for anything until you’ve had several miscarriages is that in a lot of cases (esp. early miscarriages) there’s nothing to find – the fetus simply wasn’t viable.

      • Dianne

        True, most early miscarriages are idiopathic: we just don’t know why something goes wrong. So are most cases of SIDS. Yet we don’t wait until someone has lost three infants to SIDS before advising them to put the baby to sleep on its back and not smoke around the baby. Subsequent babies will probably be monitored for apnea and other problems after a single loss. And there is a lot of research ongoing to try to further prevent this rare but devastating problem.

        So, if embryos are the moral equivalent of babies, shouldn’t we be doing something similar? Investigating known causes of miscarriage after a single miscarriage-arguably in any pregnant woman, regardless of history, spending money to find ways to avoid the currently “inevitable” miscarriages, etc? Somehow, this is not a part of the “pro-life” platform. Which convinces me that at least the leadership doesn’t really think that embryos and first trimester fetuses are really babies.

  • Mr.Kosta

    And this is why I choose to call so-called “pro-lifers” woman killers. It’s more accurate.

  • Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    one thing I heard all the time was that all that it would take to make pro-choice people change their mind was for them to get pregnant with a wanted child.

    Really? Did they think it was all young, never-been-pregnant women who were pro-choice? That doesn’t make any sense (meaning the numbers don’t add up). Actually, from my experience, it’s more likely to be young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are anti-choice and later, once they learn more and have more experience, change their position.

    •!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

      Actually, from my experience, it’s more likely to be young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are anti-choice and later, once they learn more and have more experience, change their position.

      Or clueless patriarchal men who never learn.

    • Twist

      Actually, from my experience, it’s more likely to be young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are anti-choice and later, once they learn more and have more experience, change their position.


      While I was never anti-choice exactly, as a teenager I was a very wishy-washy pro-choice, of the “it shouldn’t be illegal but it’s definitely wrong and I’d certainly never have one” sort. Then I became a pregnant teenager. Afterwards, realising the main things I felt were a) relief that I could go back to school and not be linked via a child to that unpleasant man for the rest of my life, and b) guilty for not feeling guilty, like everyone said I was supposed to feel. It led me to examine a lot of things and change a lot of opinions.I’m actually rather ashamed that it took that situation to make me evaluate the things I thought I knew about abortion.

  • smrnda

    I think that if the real issue in terms of getting women to avoid things like drugs or alcohol during pregnancy because of a potential risk to the fetus, it would be handled as a medical matter and not as a criminal matter when you lock someone up.

    I also think there’s a degree of classism going on there. Women who are likely to smoke, drink or use drugs during pregnancy are more likely to be poor and are less likely to be educated or to have access to proper health care, so when mothers get prosecuted or some kind of government censure for what they do while pregnant it’s really punishing someone for just being disadvantaged most of the time.

    The same gets carried over in that poor mothers get accused of child neglect as if it’s their fault they are poor or don’t live near a grocery store where they can get their kids decent food to eat, or that it’s their choice to work hours when they can’t be there for their kids.

    Another thing, women who are pregnant get fired from jobs because their employers refuse to make accommodations for them, despite the fact that I believe there are at least some laws on the books to protect them.

  • karmacat

    What all these laws really say is that women can’t be trusted to make the “right” decision. the majority of women do not take the decision to have an abortion casually.
    I got pregnant again when my son was 18 months old. I was exhasted, my boyfriend was being as ass, and I was worried about finances. I worried that if I had another child at that time, I wouldn’t be able to be a good mother to both children and it would negatively affect my son and me. I decided to keep the pregnancy based on the more irrational argument that other people have managed with 2 children. In the end I had an early miscarriage, which was in the end a good thing.
    I wonder what politicians would say if only women got to vote on these issues of abortion, pregnancy, etc. Then we would really hear about how women can’t be trusted….

  • Dianne

    I am currently pregnant.


    I know you’re getting unsolicited advice from everyone and their dog, so please feel free to tell me where to go with this advice, but…

    May I suggest that you find an OB who includes abortion in his or her practice? With reasonable luck, this will be irrelevant to you as your pregnancy will go swimmingly and result in a healthy baby with you also being healthy. But if the pregnancy takes a turn for the worst, if the fetus is so malformed that it can’t survive or you become so ill you can’t continue-or, for that matter, if you change your mind-at least you’ll have someone on your side who is willing to help you and knows how to do so.

    This may be particularly important if you live in Arizona, the southeast, or midwest. Places where law and custom restrict abortion severely. You don’t want to be caught in a bureaucratic morass just when you’re feeling your worst.

    Again, I’m sorry if I’m giving unwanted advice. I wish you all the best.

    •!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

      Is it relatively easy to find out if your OB is pro-choice? Here in KS there is another of those nasty bills on the table that would let doctors withhold information from their patients, and a few other nasty things. Like this place wasn’t bad enough already.

      • Dianne

        Is it relatively easy to find out if your OB is pro-choice?

        Ask. Discuss various scenarios with your OB. Discuss amniocentesis. If you don’t get straight answers from him or her, you might be best off going elsewhere, regardless of his/her position on abortion. You might still end up with someone determined to lie to you, but if it’s not Kansas (and I don’t think the law has passed yet even there), you can at least sue if they lie.

  • Tanit-Isis

    This stuff boggles my mind—and we aren’t even safe from such craziness in Canada, as a Conservative MP recently tried to bring up the issue. >_<

    Having been in the situation where I had to make that choice—abort, keep, adopt—I know only a few variables would've had to change for me to have made a different decision. I kept, but if only a few things had been different—different man, different health situation, different reason for becoming accidentally pregnant—I know my decision would've been different, and the idea that that choice could be taken away from me is horrifying. The idea of taking that choice away from someone like my neighbour, who aborted a (wanted) fetus at five months gestation because its brain had failed to develop, is, if possible, even worse.

    I *was* that young, un-married, unexpectedly pregnant girl. I had to weigh for myself what my responsibility was, what my situation was, and make that decision. Thank goodness I got to make that decision for myself. I know I wouldn't want to make it for anyone else.

  • daenyx

    Context not really relevant here, but about a year ago, I was in the position of considering whether I wanted to have children at some point in my life. My position on the issue eventually settled into a firm negative, but there was a tremendous amount of anxiety while I was still thinking about it given the recent concerted attack on women’s health. Even if I wanted a child, I’d be afraid to have one in this country. Because while some people tired to tell me that if I wanted a child, it would be “worth any cost”… no, no it wouldn’t. It really wouldn’t. I love my life too much. And I won’t apologize for that.

    I’m very glad, now, that I’ve come to a conclusion that no longer makes those things a likely consideration for me. But it continues to horrify me that it’s a very real set of concerns for women across the country, and it infuriates me that we even have to ask these questions. I can’t even deal with male acquaintances “oh, it’s not a big issue for me, I mean, I see where you’re coming from but I just don’t care that much” attitudes anymore.

    This is huge. This matters, whether you have a uterus or not.

    My best wishes for your safe and uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery of your child.

  • MadGastronomer

    Mikki Kendall, who almost died because the doctor denied her a lifesaving abortion, got a massive amount of harassment, a lot of death threats, and was stalked (physically, in the real world — she received emails telling her where she’d been and what she’d been wearing on specific days) for weeks. She and her family had to move from Atlanta to Chicago to be safe.

    • MadGastronomer

      *sigh* Left out a clause. She was harassed, threatened and stalked for writing the Salon article Libbey Ann linked to.

    • Dianne

      Wow. I have to wonder what the doctor who refused to do the procedure originally was thinking. Not only did s/he not do the procedure necessary to save the patient’s life and not call the person who could and would do it, s/he also failed to transfuse a woman dying of blood loss. Was s/he actively trying to kill the patient? Ms. Kendall would have a good case for suing the doctor for malpractice and possibly attempted murder, assuming everything she wrote is accurate.

      • MadGastronomer

        I’m sure she would have had a good case, but she chose not to pursue it. I believe her stated reason were that she couldn’t really afford it, in money or in the time that such a suit requires one to invest; her recovery from it was long and difficult; and she really just wanted to put it behind her.

        You can go look her up, actually. She’s blogged a fair bit about the aftermath of both the miscarriage and the article at her LiveJournal.

      • Dianne

        She was probably also tired of being stalked, threatened, and harassed.

        This is one reason why I don’t like the legal model for preventing malpractice: A person with a grudge and a lot of time on their hands or a lot of money to hire lawyers to spend the time for them can stretch a frivolous suit out for years but a person with a legitimate grievance can be prevented from making a claim due to the amount of time and work involved.

  • Lisa

    I was pregnant for the first time a couple of months ago and chose to have an abortion (I am a happily married woman in her late 20s if that at all matters, which it shouldn’t), Choosing abortion was one of the hardest things I ever had to do even though my husband and I both new with every fiber of our beings that it was the right choice for us right now. I live in a liberal state with none of the invasive things mentioned above (no waiting period or trans-vaginal ultra sound, though I first came in at 5 weeks, the very minimum they would allow, and when nothing was visible on the regular ultrasound, they used trans-vaginal, and when nothing was visible there, they sent me home and told me to re-shcedule for the following week, so I guess I pretty much experienced both anyway!)
    I have always been pro-choice (even though neither of my parents are) but being pregnant and having my own abortion really solidified that position for me. The thought that anyone besides me felt that they had the right to have any sort of a say in this, and the idea that people actually wanted to make one of the hardest experiences of my life even harder for me is ridiculous, ignorant, and cruel. No amount of Jesus and guilt tripping and emotional abuse would have changed my mind, but do you know what would have? Heath care. Child care. The knowledge that my child would be able to attend pre-school without tuition being a factor and that pregnancy would not put my job at risk (I work a very physical job, mostly as an independent contractor and would not have been able to work long while pregnant, nor would any paid leave have been available). The fact is, I really wanted this baby, but my husband and I did not have the means to take care of it, we’re just getting by by ourselves right now, but if guaranteed maternity leave, health insurance, day care, and pre-school–the very programs the GOP are fitting against implementing and fighting to cut constantly–had been available to us, I would not have had an abortion. I am more convinced than ever that conservatives don’t give a fuck about preventing abortions, but simply want to control women’s lives and bodies.

    • Lisa


    • Julia

      Wow, Lisa. What a powerful statement.

    • ArachneS

      Thanks for putting this out there, Lisa. It was this realization that first led me out of the GOP.

      • Lisa

        Thanks, Julia and ArachneS, not a super easy thing to share, but I think it’s important that it is shared, glad it came across that way.

    • becca

      Thank you for sharing your story. I just want to add mine, to underscore the importance of good state programs.

      Three years ago, I was a young, unwed mother (still in school, albeit grad school). I’m in PA, so we have a waiting period. My compassionate GP doctor told me what my options were… Reluctantly admitting that the president of the medical school had ordered them not to perform non-therapeutic abortions, and that, no, mine would not count despite the fact that it was likely to (and in fact did) trigger some pretty risky peri- and post- partum depression. She suggested I make an appointment at Planned Parenthood and with an OB, and keep whichever felt right.
      I went to the first appointment at Planned Parenthood, knowing from what they’d told me that I’d get an ultrasound and watch a video- and that I had to do this before the abortion in any event.
      The video had some strange language about the risks of abortion, but they at least made it clear that they were lower than the risks of pregnancy. The video also told me about state assistance-including information on child care.

      Over the next few days, I was in a flurry on the phone trying to figure out child care costs and subsidies. There was a university program (though it later turned out I didn’t meet the requirements) and a state program (ChildCare Works) which was phenomenally helpful.
      I also looked into our school’s policy on new parent grad students/postdoctoral fellows (6 weeks paid leave).

      The state subsidy for child care was the only factor that the state had any control over that impacted my decision. If PA had been more difficult, I would have gone down to Maryland which doesn’t have the waiting period (it was only about an extra half hour drive for me- there weren’t a lot of abortion providers in my area).

      Overall, the effect of the visit was to make me passionately care about protecting the good work Planned Parenthood does. If the state hadn’t mandated the clinic visit, I might not have known how important they were (and how utterly decent their treatment was).

      My state’s antichoice laws made me a Planned Parenthood supporter. My state’s child care subsidy prevented an abortion. It may also have meant one more PhD in molecular medicine.

    • Naomi Most

      No amount of Jesus and guilt tripping and emotional abuse would have changed my mind, but do you know what would have? Heath care. Child care. The knowledge that my child would be able to attend pre-school without tuition being a factor and that pregnancy would not put my job at risk (I work a very physical job, mostly as an independent contractor and would not have been able to work long while pregnant, nor would any paid leave have been available).

      AMEN, sister.

      Even women who work non-physical jobs are vilified and prejudiced against from the moment they become pregnant.

      And you didn’t even get as far as experiencing the misunderstanding and lack of accommodation given to breastfeeding, arguably the healthiest and most positive practice that can be accomplished by a mother… completely unsupported by most states’ laws.

      To simply say there’s a lack of social support for having a child is a gross understatement. Institutionalized oppression, often needless and stupid, of the functions of motherhood are the norm in this country.

      “Pro-life” INDEED.

  • ArachneS

    I wholeheartedly agree with you Libby. The amount of restrictions and proposed laws put upon women right now is horrible.

    I am one of those people who was pro-life up until I first became pregnant and had my first child. It was after that I really began to reflect on what that really meant, and I soon became very pro-choice.
    I have two children, and as far as I know I am done. Getting pregnant in this political climate would be rather frightening.

  • karmacat

    What really gets to me is that a lot of people who are against abortion are not protesting infant mortality and making sure all women have prenatal care. I assume if a person is against abortion but is not equally horrified by the rates of infant mortality in the US, then the person must in reality be against women.

    • Barbara Saunders

      Exactly. Collateral damage includes the woman pregnant with a wanted, sick fetus, and that child who does not get treatment for a condition that could be treated.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    They aren’t even bothering to hide how much they hate women. In Illinois, one of the bluer states, the next anti abortion bill is being heard by the LIVESTOCK COMMITTEE!

    Dammit reality, you’re not supposed to bve as evil as my dark science fiction. I never expected to see Livestock Office–Sentient Division.

  • plch

    If somebody refuses to remove a dead fetus from a hemoraging woman, they cannot call themself pro life, they are as pro death as they can be!

    • leni

      Not only that, but why on Earth would this person be a doctor? Wouldn’t any medical intervention be interfering with God’s will?


      Imagine if a doctor said “I’m not going to treat your cancer because God obviously wanted you to have it. Or maybe I just won’t tell you about it because you’re pregnant.” What hospital would want that liability and what insurance company would knowingly cover the doctor without jacking their premiums through the roof?

      • Dianne

        The point of all these laws that are being proposed is to allow incompetent and heartless doctors like this to practice without liability. As far as I can tell, under the AZ law, if a doctor withheld the information that a woman had cancer because she was pregnant and s/he feared that the patient would have an abortion if told of the pregnancy, the doctor is not liable, even if both the patient and the fetus die.

      • plch

        Exactly what I was thinking leni! I wonder if they got, say, pneumonia and they were told ‘sorry, no antibiotics for you, that’s god’s will’ how would they react?
        >>this is really putting stupid principles above living people, it’s not like they are saving babies!
        Allegedly even Jesus Christ hadn’t the highest opinion of this kind of people (BTW: I’m atheist).

      • Dianne

        I wonder if they got, say, pneumonia and they were told ‘sorry, no antibiotics for you, that’s god’s will’ how would they react?

        I saw a patient once who was told that she couldn’t take antibiotics for her urinary tract infection because she was pregnant and no drugs were safe during pregnancy. There are so many ways that that statement is wrong that I would go over the word limit if I tried to list them all here, but let’s just say that it’s fortunate she went for a second opinion.

    • Leely

      (This is actually in reply to Dianne, who is too far indented.)

      But…but…untreated UTIs can easily cause pregnancy complications! What the hell?

  • bridget

    Thanks for answering my question, Ibis3.

    You’re right Kagerato; i should have said “personhood,” not human.

    holytape: Not questioning a baby’s humanity, but his/her “personhood”. (Word mixup, see above. sorry)

    I enjoy reading this blog from time to time! It teaches me a lot about what other people think and believe, and why.

  • Amanda

    I’m 28. My boyfriend and I are planning on having kids in another couple of years. We’re well educated and have all the benefits of a good home, supportive family, and good school districts. If these laws being thrown about passed there is no way I would let myself become pregnant in the US. I value my own life too much.

    • Dianne

      If these laws being thrown about passed there is no way I would let myself become pregnant in the US. I value my own life too much.

      I agree. Only the liberal laws of New York allowed me to feel safe enough to become pregnant.

  • Thinking

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time, Libby Anne, and have come to really appreciate the thoughtful way you have approached so many of the issues in the ultra conservative world. Like you (actually, far worse than even you) I grew up deeply steeped in fundamentalism. I too am reexamining everything we believed and were taught. The issue of abortion has been on my mind of late as well. I guess what it boils down to for me is whether or not the fetus is a person. If it is, then the parameters of when an abortion should be allowed are different (for me) than if it is not. Growing up we always believed it definitely is a person. However, I am encountering many who believe it definitely is not. So, my question (and it is a completely honest question) to you is this: would you be able to explain what you have considered/learned/thought through that has convinced you the fetus is NOT a person? Especially addressing why the arguments for personhood that we learned growing up have ceased to make sense for you?

    • Jeremy

      Just wanted to mention that there is a middle ground between thinking the fetus is a person and not a person. To me, the fetus is a potential or partial person — a living thing that has rights, but not the rights of a person.

      The mental shorthand I use is that before the fetus becomes a person, I think of it as a cow. You can’t go up to someone else’s cow and shoot it (i.e., kill a fetus without the mother’s consent); you can’t be unnecessarily cruel to a cow (i.e., poison your fetus with alcohol or drugs); and you should treat the cow as a living being with a limited right to life (i.e., abortion should be a difficult moral decision). However, the owner of the cow has the right to end its life, no questions asked (voluntary abortion); the cow’s life should never trump the life of a human being (abortion to save the life of the mother is always fine); and if you do harm a cow illegally, the punishment should befit animal cruelty, not human murder (someone who kills a fetus illegally shouldn’t be convicted of murder).

      • Lisa

        I really love this example, Jeremy, (which is odd I guess, since I’m a vegetarian!)

    • Libby Anne

      Good questions, and I have lots to say on this topic. I’m a bit busy at the moment, but will try to get to addressing this – probably in a short series of posts – sometime within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I would point you to a post I wrote that talks about why I stopped working to have abortion banned. This happened when I still technically believed that a fetus, from start to finish, was a “person” with the rights that entailed. You’ll have to read the post to see why I changed my mind even though I still believed that abortion was murder. Send me an email if I don’t post further on your questions in the next couple of weeks to make sure I don’t forget. :-)

    • MadGastronomer

      I’m not Libby Anne, and I’ve never been a Christian, much less a conservative Evangelical-movement Christian. I have to say, I do not understand why anyone would consider a fetus a person with full rights.* Can you explain the reasoning behind it to me? Other than the Bible, as Libby Anne has already covered what verses people use, and frankly, given other things in the Bible, you have to start from the view that a fetus is a person and then go mining for quotes that can be twisted to support it.

      *Nor do I understand, at all, why, even if it were considered such, its rights would trump those of the person carrying it, in ways no one else’s rights trumps those of other people; we don’t have mandatory donation of even things that our body naturally replaces, we don’t force anyone to do something that threatens their life and health to keep another person alive — and pregnancy is always a risk to the pregnant person’s life and health, and indeed livelihood. There are no circumstances in which one person’s right to life trumps another person’s right to bodily autonomy. To say that simply because a person is capable of getting pregnant, that person has fewer rights than another is not to just give a fetus full human rights, it is to take away the human rights of a pregnant person, to say that she is not a person, but the fetus is. It is completely absurd. Even if you believe that a fetus is a person, restricting abortion rights means making a pregnant person less that human under the law.

    • Dianne

      I guess what it boils down to for me is whether or not the fetus is a person.

      So if you decide that the answer is yes, you’d be fine with abortion prior to 8 weeks?

      Do you recognize the distinction I’m referencing in the above question? I’m sorry if it comes out kind of obnoxious and/or condescending. That’s not my intent. The thing is that it’s my impression that people who are strictly opposed to abortion often don’t know much about the details of embryonic and fetal development and care even less. So I wonder how much you and others who grew up in a fundamentalist milieu learned about human development during gestation and how that affected your opinions.

  • Tony


    As many of you know, I am currently pregnant.

    Congratulations. Best wishes to you and your family!

    Having read through your whole post and most of the comments, something just dawned on me about this war on women. What are married couples supposed to do that don’t want children? I know many people say they don’t want them, but change their mind over time, but there are also people that *don’t* change their mind. If you’re a married couple and you decide you never want kids, I would think relatively cheap access to contraceptives would be essential to them. If anti-choice advocates and catholic bishops have their way, a married couple in that situation would have to be *extremely* careful when having sex. Or, y’know, abstain (because abstaining from sex is so easy or even desirable).

    • Nathaniel

      You say abstaining from sex as though its a bad thing. The Catholic Church would love that.

      • Tony

        Unless its in the confines of a marriage. Then wife/husband can have sex all they want. As long as there are babies.

      • Annie D

        I believe that the Catholic position is that sex is something one does in furtherance of a duty to procreate within marriage. So even if you are procreating, you’re not supposed to enjoy it. To enjoy sex would be to give in to bodily urges and lust.

        I was raised in a Catholic household, went through 12 years in the Catholic school system and have looked up the position in the Catechism.

  • Gina

    My state has the same law that Arizona just passed. It’s intended to prevent “wrongful life” lawsuits (because no prenatal or genetic testing is 100%) but it just ends up protecting doctors who want to lie. I am terrified of getting pregnant here.

  • Caitlin

    Like Libby Anne, I also found that pregnancy strengthened my pro-choice convictions. This was especially true when I had an unplanned (and unwanted at the time) third pregnancy that I decided to carry to term. I know that fully embracing my new son was possible in part because I knew that it had been completely my choice to have him.
    A great organization that confronts many of the issues written about in this post is the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Their web page is here:

  • Jenna

    I just wanted to say that I feel the same way about pregnancy making me pro-choice. Although I grew up very evangelical, my mom and her family were always left leaning (because they came from the old-school, social justice focused Southern-baptist, before the moral majority takeover) I had been a wishy-washy “abortion is bad but should be legal” type. After having one child, I realized how much a woman’s bodily autonomy is violated in our society just by being pregnant and it made me delve much deeper into the matter.

  • Philosotroll

    I tutor an upper division bioethics class at a reasonably situated public University, and have been working through a number of papers and potential exam answers from students dealing with the abortion issue. I’ll admit, I’m used to a lot of the public nonsense that comes along with contemporary discussion of the abortion issue; I deal with it when the issue comes up that it is one of my areas of study (euthanasia, about which I’m more experienced and knowledgeable, seems to be a less popular topic for discussion).

    It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable people are with staggering ignorance about the particulars of these cases, and how terrible the ethical arguments supporting a number of the pro-life positions are. Most of my students are reading J.J. Thomson’s arguments from self-defense and self-determination, which are about life-threatening conditions and rape cases, and they can’t make sense of the scope of the argument, they can’t make sense of simple ethical concepts that are important to ethical consistency within their own views.

    I’m not of the view that one should have to be a woman to comment on abortion, but I think some basic philosophical and medical literacy on the subject should be necessary before one starts writing legislation about it. It is a complicated issue, and I don’t carve it up as simply as many of my fellow self-identified pro-choicers and feminists; but I’ve oft found myself inclined to whomp a “Students for Life” representative (or a local political demagogue) over the head with an introductory bioethics textbook. Anyway, that’s the end of my rant; there are many interesting ones in this comment, and I figured I would add a contribution and invocation to those on either side to be familiar with the philosophy and medicine, because so much of the mainstream material is absolute nonsense.

  • Miarianna

    Isn’t it ironic? The pro-lifers want to FORCE you to hear the heart beat of a fetus with a transvaginal ultrasound AND they also want the right to withhold information about any potential abnormalities with the fetus??? They want it all ways, just so YOU can have no choice in the matter. How freakin’ barbaric is THAT????

  • lorimakesquilts

    I wish I could be there to hold your hand. Pregnancy is scary enough without all this woman-hating crap going on. I had my first and only pregnancy when I was 46, five years ago. There were so many things that could have gone wrong that I can’t imagine dealing with it under the current atmosphere. Luckily no genetic anomalies were found and my son is now a healthy happy four year old. But I did have severe preeclampsia. He almost killed me. Luckily for both of us it didn’t get to the worst until he was (barely) far enough along to survive, but it did take 7-1/2 weeks in the NICU. I think my husband would have gone on a killing rampage if some stupid legislation had forced doctors to let us both die if the crisis had happened any sooner.

    The lack of compassion shown towards half the human race by these legislators and bishops and all the rest horrifies me. I am very much against the death penalty or any other kind of killing but I’m starting to feel like I need to make an exception. I hope they all get prosecuted for murder for every single woman that dies when she could have been saved.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    I’ve always been pro-choice, and I’ve also often heard the argument that I would change my mind once I experienced a pregnancy for myself. Seeing an ultrasound of my baby, feeling him kick, all of that would convince me.

    And, like you, having been through a wanted pregnancy has only made me even more strongly pro-choice.

    I had an amazingly easy pregnancy. I had very little morning sickness, only a little muscle soreness in my pelvis, and other than that I was totally fine. I was still walking, and even running to catch buses, right up until the day before I went into labour. By all measures, I had the dream pregnancy, the pregnancy all women hope for. But you know what? It was still pregnancy. And pregnancy is qualitatively different from non-pregnancy. Even without taking labour into consideration (yaaargh), I wouldn’t wish pregnancy – even a pregnancy like mine – on *anyone* who didn’t want it, or who wasn’t looking forward to the baby.

  • Renee

    If people would just stop killing babies because they don’t want them then maybe all those things you talked about would never take place. All of those proposed laws are silly and some are stupid, but millions of babies have been killed just because someone got pregnant and didn’t mean to. That’s the real tragedy. Human life should always try to be saved.

    • MadGastronomer

      They aren’t babies, and if they were, they still would not get to use anyone else’s bodies without their permission. In addition, medical complications that necessitate abortion happen even in wanted pregnancies.

      You clearly know absolutely nothing about abortion in the real world, if you think that’s all it boils down to. Go educate yourself.

    • Chiroptera

      If people would just stop killing babies because they don’t want them then maybe all those things you talked about would never take place.

      Right. Because legislators are not capable of fine tuning their legislation to make exempt “legitimate” medical emergencies. Because the only way to eliminate “elective” abortions is to make all abortions inconvenient or impossible.

      Frankly, I think this proposed legislation really exposes the real attitudes of the legislators you support: the value they place on women is based on their abilities to be brood mares. Sorry to say this, but the movement you support is led by pretty reprensible people.

      • Rosie

        I used to distinguish between “elective” and “non-elective” abortions, but I can’t really do that any more. I suppose to any outside observer, mine would have appeared “elective”, because I’m married and stable and own a house and even work from home. I have tons of supportive friends and family. But none of that changed the fact that I seriously wanted to die rather than carry to term, and I had the means at hand to make that happen. I chose between an early-term abortion and suicide. Was it still “elective”? Not for me.

  • Want to be mother-to-be

    Thank you for your post, Bridget. I just recently experienced a miscarriage at five weeks. I was devastated. I am also a runner. I did two marathons last year. My physician and many many books and articles I have read said one can continue running while pregnant if she was already a runner. I continued to run. My miscarriage started the day after a seven mile run. Early first trimester miscarriages are common and are usually due to chromosomal abnormalities…thus this is natural. However, I still can’t shake the thought that perhaps I shouldn’t have continued running. I am meeting my OB tomorrow to discuss possible issues and to find out when we can try for a baby again. After seeing all the crap the GOP is trying to pull, I’m scared to ask my OB about the seven mile run. Will she think I was reckless despite the commonality of early trimester miscarriages? But, I want to know if she thinks I should stop running next time I get pregnant. It may have nothing to do with it…but I want to talk to her about it. It’s crazy to be scared to ask her this. And not right. Whether or not I am pro-life or pro-choice, I think these disgusting laws are going too far. …to the point I am scared to talk to my doctor so I can make sure I do the best I can to make sure my next WANTED pregnancy continues to term healthily.

    • Libby Anne

      I wish you the best, and I’m sorry for your loss!

  • Leely

    Just wanted to chime in – I’m another woman whose pro-choice position was strengthened by pregnancy.

    For me, the early stages of pregnancy were clearly changes happening in my body. There was no sense of “anybody else” in the equation, if that makes sense. It wasn’t until I started to feel movement that I felt like it was me + 1. (And I really understood why, before modern medicine, “quickening” was such a big deal.)

  • Nurse Bee

    It is worth pointing out that all the examples you give are extreme, unlikely to pass (or hold up in court if they do) and honestly would not even be supported by the majority of the pro-life crowd (like myself).

    You said “As I look around I see laws being passed or considered left and right that place the rights of my fetus, a potential human being, above the rights of my own self, ” I think you hit on the difference between someone who is pro-choice and pro-life. I do not see my growing baby as a potential human being, but he/she already is one. I am already it’s mother and therefore am going to put it’s interests above my own.

    Just curious (not trying to be snarky) , when will you consider your baby an actual person?

    • Libby Anne

      To answer your question: When it becomes its own individual person by exiting my body.

    • MadGastronomer

      A) Just because you believe that a fetus is a person does not mean you get to impose that belief on me.
      B) Even if a fetus were a person, it would not have the right to use my body without my permission — no, not even if it means the fetus dies. Many many homeless people die of exposure every year, but there is no law stating that if you leave your door unlocked and a homeless person comes in, you’re not allowed to kick him out just because he’ll die out there. We don’t have mandatory organ donation laws, even for things we grow back like blood, marrow, and kidneys, and people die for want of those all the time. One person’s right to life does not trump another person’s right to bodily autonomy. To force someone to give birth by outlawing their other options takes away their rights, places them, not equal to the rights of the fetus they carry, but less than. When you say abortion should not be permitted, you are not only saying that fetuses are people, you are saying that people who get pregnant are not.

      Your belief is irrelevant.

      • Nurse Bee

        No, I’m not. And my belief is not irrelevant, anymore than yours is. Most of us who end up pregnant make a conscious choice to engage an activity that a likely consequence is pregnancy (not trying to debate abortion related to rape), and I believe we need to take responsibility for our actions (which I realize is an unpopular view). (And I’m not debating life of the mother vs. the baby…I’m talking about abortion used in place of birth control…which is the majority of abortion).

      • IslandBrewer

        Um, actually, kidneys don’t grow back. That’s why you can only donate one.

        /science pedantry

      • Chiroptera

        Reply to Nurse Bee, above.

        …and I believe we need to take responsibility for our actions….

        It is when you say things like this that I tend to believe the issue is not to protect “life” but to control the behavior of women.

        Whether or not a fetus is a human being does not depend on whether or not the mother is “responsible.” The value of an existing two year old child does not depend on how she was conceived or on the responsibility of the mother.

        Either protecting fetuses have nothing at all to do with the “responsibility” of the mother, or you are placing a value on “babies” depending on the circumstances of its conception.

      • MadGastronomer

        Yes, actually you are. You are putting pregnant people in a situation we put no one else in under any other circumstances: You are telling them that their rights to their bodies are less important than the rights of other “people”. There is no other place where we say this. So yes, you are saying that a pregnant person doesn’t get full human rights. And all your talk about “responsibility” can’t make that not true, no matter how much you try to deny it.

        Your religious beliefs do not matter in that they do not get to be enshrined in law to limit the rights of other people. This is what separation of church and state is all about. Your religion does not rule. Laws should be made based on what is best for society, and all the evidence says that what is best for society is safe, legal, accessible abortion. Far more people die when abortion is not legal or accessible, and therefor what is accessible becomes unsafe. Because outlawing abortion does not cause any significant drop in actual abortions, people just have unsafe ones. Your solution of outlawing abortion does nothing to fix the problem you say you want to fix, and does everything to harm so many people. That’s why your opinion of a fetus’s personhood is irrelevant: because it has nothing to do with the laws as we make them in this country.

        The majority of abortion is NOT used instead of birth control, and anyone who says so is lying. Women who get abortions use birth control. Birth control fails, or isn’t used quite right. And even in cases where someone hasn’t used birth control, they still have every right to an abortion, for all the reasons I’ve discussed.

        You have yet to come up with any actual argument against anything I’ve said, btw.

        Island Brewer, You right, I was thinking of a lobe of a liver. Sorry, I’m kinda tired.

      • Chiroptera

        Reply to MadGastronomer above:

        You are putting pregnant people in a situation we put no one else in under any other circumstances….

        And for no other medical condition do we withhold treatment because of the “lack of responsibility” of the patient that led to the condition. We treat lung cancer and emphysema despite smoking, heart disease regardless of diet, and herpes despite sexual history.

        It is only abortion where we worry about the “responsibility” of the patient. And regarding the fetus as a “human being” doesn’t even make sense even in this context since, surely, the value of a human being shouldn’t depend on the circumstances of its conception.

    • Anat

      This is in response to your later posting, where you said:

      and I believe we need to take responsibility for our actions (which I realize is an unpopular view).

      Why isn’t having an abortion a form of taking responsibility for one’s actions? What isn’t responsible is having a baby while not being able to care for one and not arranging for good care of said baby, having a baby and abandoning xir, or having a baby who will inevitably live a short and painful life. But aborting before the fetus becomes capable of suffering? That is exactly what responsibility is – containing the effects of one’s actions so that suffering is minimized.

  • Froborr

    First, pregnancy is not a likely consequence of sex; most sex does not lead to pregnancy.

    Second, having an abortion *is* taking responsibility. What’s irresponsible is adding to the number of unwanted children in the world, or having a wanted child you are unable to care for.

    Third, if you want to eliminate the use of abortion as a substitute for birth control, the best way to do it is to make sure everyone has access to birth control and the education on how to use it, and to combat those who seek to make it socially unacceptable or restrict access to it.

    Fourth and most importantly, it *does not matter* why a woman gets an abortion; it is still her body and she has an unlimited right to deny others access to it, including a fetus.

    (Also, hi MadG!)

    • Froborr

      Whoops, meant that as a reply to Nurse Bee’s latest. Sorry!

    • MadGastronomer


  • Scotlyn

    This is another cautionary tale on what happens when religious beliefs get tangled up with medical practice and women’s bodies.

    tl;dr – woman at 18 has ceasarian section birth, catholic doctor thinks this may lead to her choosing to use contraception or sterilisation in future (as she will be cautioned against having too many caesarians), so he performs a symphysiotomy (remember – nonvaginal birth – absolutely no birth-related indications for this outmoded procedure). She doesn’t know for 30 years that she received this operation – during which time she believes she is a failure for having found the birth and its aftermath so excrutiating that she could not function, bond with her baby, or contemplate having any more children, for suffering depression, etc, etc. When she does find out, after listening to a radio programme – she sues, nearly loses the chance to do so because of limitations statutes, wins the right to sue, and has had her suit upheld – nearly 43 years after giving birth.

  • Bruce

    I suppose an ectopic pregnancy can be terminated on the grounds of self-defense. If a fetus is a person, and a person is engaged in an action that will kill you, you have the right to kill that person in self defense. It’s an odd way to look at it, and it shouldn’t be a necessary way to look at it.

    But finding a doctor who will do it for you could be a problem.

    I still find it so odd that people who are so concerned about protecting someone else’s child in the womb seem to be so callous about doing anything to help that child (or its mother) once it’s actually out of the womb and clearly needing help.

  • kate

    Thank you! for writing this. I’m pregnant with a wanted (though unplanned) pregnancy, and it sure is terrifying to be a pregnant woman in this political climate. I’ve always been firmly prochoice, but now even more so. Anyway, I wish you a healthy pregnancy and a wonderful birth.

  • Brandy

    I am not sure of your sources of “research” for this article but there is PLENTY of research that proves cocaine use is harmful to a fetus! Cocaine use damages the placenta. No placenta. No baby. Same with smoking too! I am so tired of people saying, “smoking doesn’t harm the baby…” You know why smoking leads to a small birth weight? Because you baby has been STARVING inside your body for 10 months due to you continuously damaging his/her only source of nutrition (the placenta) the entire pregnancy. I agree that a lot of these bills utterly ridiculous and very unnerving but I also believe a pregnant woman needs to stop being so damn selfish, irresponsible, and immature and realize there IS another person in her that depends on what she does (or doesn’t) do to her body during pregnancy. The cocaine user deserved to be prosecuted! I wish they would do that to all drug users!

  • Wolfmother

    These are great reasons for why I would never move to the States. Canada is looking far friendlier every day. If my province would pass anything remotely controlling of my body I would not only protest it, but relocate if my rights were not respected. Perhaps if women were more aware of this issue and willing to take serious steps in expressing their distaste for this, such outrageous bills would never even come into consideration. It is actually disgusting to me. I fear for our daughters.

  • Sharp Dressed

    I’m coming from the Y chromosome part of our species, which is essential to every single pregnancy. I’m reading through most of the links in this article, it’s a very interesting perspective and thought provoking. Thanks to the author for writing.

    I have a question or two. Are these law proposals reactions to something? Could the screening proposal be a reaction to the eugenics-like use of abortions to weed out downs syndrome? Could the stillbirth investigation proposal be a reaction to born-alive babies being left to die on the table? Could the doctors preference to not perform the abortion have something to do with his rights, rather than the fetus’?

    It would be interesting to see an article where someone tried to understand the reason these proposals were made in the first place.

    • MadGastronomer

      It would be far more interesting to me to see people who like to say things like this and then claim they’re just plays devil’s advocates or being contrarian as a social experiment or whatever the latest excuse is actually think about the rights of pregnant people to healthcare.
      Because, you see, it ISN’T about the rights of doctors, or about eugenics, or whatever else you can come up with to try to excuse not providing us with healthcare we have every right to. It’s about denying people abortions even when they’re dying, and abortion is the only way to save their lives. It is about making pregnant people jump through hoops to limit their access to healthcare. It is about shaming pregnant people who do not want to continue their pregnancies. It is about requiring pregnant people to carry to term, no matter what the consequences to them are.

    • MadGastronomer

      Also, it would be really interesting, just once, to see people who say these things acknowledge that chromosomes are not either sex or gender, and that, while very rare, there are actually women with XY chromosomes who get pregnant and give birth. And then to see them stop using chromosomes as shorthand for gender.

  • Sara

    As someone who supports legislation to protect the rights of unborn children, I suppose that makes me “Pro-life.” But I also support legislation to protect the rights of pregnant mothers. It’s not Pro-”Life” change in society if YOUR life is as risk.

    I feel like there are two different streams developing in the US, and neither of them is good. You have a Pro-choice “Pro-Abortion” stream that refuses to acknowledge that abortion can harm women, cause PTSD or increase the risk of breast cancer and miscarriage, because they want to avoid giving “Fodder” to the Pro-life movement. And you also have a “Pro-life” camp that has so fetishized the fetus that there’s a complete disconnect of concern between what happens to babies before they are born, and when they end up in foster care, or what happens to the mother at all.

    Neither of these streams represent the Pro-life or Pro-choice movements at large, but I do feel like (as with the rest of politics), that they are driving the discourse and policymaking. And THAT is scary.

    • Anat

      The problem with the protection of pregnant women that people in the anti-abortion camp are willing to agree on is that they usually limit protection to ‘when the woman’s life is at risk’. And then they (or the politicians representing them) start playing games of how immediate the danger of dying needs to be for a woman to ‘qualify’ for abortion. By the time the woman is endangered ‘enough’ even an abortion can’t save her, the damage was done. See How sick must a pregnant woman be in Ireland for her doctor to say her life is at risk?

      Also: When a politician decides if the life of the mother is at risk

      As for your claims about abortion, see New study confirms no link between abortion and breast cancer

      Regarding mental effects – do you have a comparison between women who had abortions and women who were considering abortions but ended up not having them? Otherwise your source is comparing apples and baseballs.

    • M

      Abortion can cause PTSD. Pregnancy/labor causes PTSD much more often, so should we ban/regulate pregnancy?

  • TheDom

    Every single doctor who refuses to perform an abortion or lies to a woman to prevent her from having one should, by law, automatically be awarded custody of the resulting child, and made legally responsible for that child for however long is necessary. Any resulting abandonment should, of course, result in incarceration.