Pregnant women’s rights are not just for developing countries

I was shocked today to read on Live V 2.0 the story of a woman in USA who almost lost her life because the doctors on duty refused to perform an abortion on her. She arrived in hospital with serious bleeding in her 20th week of pregnancy. She had known that this could happen as it seems that the pregnancy carried certain risks. By the time she arrived at the hospital it was clear that the foetus was not viable. Despite this, two doctors refused to treat her, objecting that they did not perform abortions, so she was left bleeding and in pain for many hours until a nurse decided to call another doctor, who agreed to treat her.

“My two kids at home almost lost their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that was going to die anyway. My husband had told them exactly what my regular doctor said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would have to happen. Yet none of this mattered when confronted by the idea that no one needs an abortion. You shouldn’t need to know the details of why a woman aborts to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don’t regret my abortion, but I would also never use my situation to suggest that the only time another woman should have the procedure is when her life is at stake. After my family found out I’d had an abortion, I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me I was wrong to have interfered with God’s plan. And in that moment I understood exactly what kind of people judge a woman’s reproductive choices.”

There are many elements behind this story that are quite shocking. It’s not just the whole question of conscience clauses in healthcare that T Mae talks about in her post, but also why pregnant women do not have a choice in certain countries when it comes to making decisions about their own life. To me, behind the debate on conscience clauses in healthcare is the idea that the male medic is still in control of pregnant women’s bodies.

 In America there is an association called National Advocates for Pregnant Women that “works to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable – low income women, women of color, and drug-using women.

This group tries to inform the public of the consequences of prosecuting women accused of “murdering” their unborn child

 “In the name of fetal rights and under the guise of the war on drugs, hundreds of women have been arrested for being pregnant and continuing to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem. One state, South Carolina, by judicial fiat has declared that viable fetuses are legal persons and that pregnant women who use illegal drugs or engage in any other behavior that jeopardizes the fetus can be prosecuted as child abusers or murderers. Indeed, the arrest of pregnant women is not limited to those using illegal drugs. In Utah, a woman was charged with murder based on the claim that she caused a stillbirth by refusing to have a c-section earlier in her pregnancy. These arrests are taking place in spite of the lack of authorizing legislation and in spite of overwhelming opposition from medical, public health and child welfare organizations.”

 Worst of all, in some US states a single early drug test has been used to detect pregnant women’s consumption of drugs or alcohol in pregnancy, and if this is positive the newborn is removed from its family of origin (yes, I’m taking about one single test). Of course consuming drugs and alcohol during pregnancy is not good for the mother or the baby, but this sort of intervention does not make things better. What about setting up programmes to help women to deal with their addiction during pregnancy? Well, maybe that’s too expensive, so better let social services fix it.

 If you surf around this webpage you will find amazing and awful stories of women who went to jail for many years because they had a stillbirth when they were drug addicts. These women were stigmatized, segregated and punished, and left without any sort of help.

Would we have the same sort of reaction to a doctor or a pharmaceutical company that by mistake poisoned some medication given to pregnant women?  ( Thanks Sally for the link) Very likely not. So, have a look at what these guys are doing, because I do believe it’s worthwhile.

Natalia

3 responses to “Pregnant women’s rights are not just for developing countries

  1. Ugh. I really can’t even begin to coherently process how pregnant women in the United States are viewed as public property. By which I mean, everyone else knows what is best, except the pregnant woman. Women can’t be trusted to decide how to birth (or not birth) babies, they can’t be allowed to refuse intervention while they are laboring, they can’t be allowed to raise their children if they have used drugs….the list is so epically long, and disheartening that I get too angry to unpack it all.

    I wasn’t aware of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. (Don’t know how I missed them!) Thanks for linking to the organization.

    • Your post inspired me to write mine.It’s long time that I wanted to say something about it but I found it very difficult. So it was good to read your post and find the excuse (and courage) to talk about something that was in my mind for a long long time.

      • It’s nice to know that something I wrote was a catalyst for you – I admire this blog greatly. Thanks for linking to my post, too.

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