When Did Pregnant Women Lose the Ability to Make Decisions for Themselves?

In March, a Florida judge virtually imprisoned a pregnant woman at a hospital in order to force her to stay on bed rest and to undergo any and all medical treatments deemed necessary to save her fetus. In June, a federal judge in Maine sentenced a pregnant woman living with HIV to spend the duration of her pregnancy in jail solely because she was HIV-positive and pregnant (her sentence was later vacated). And just last week, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case where local probation officers admitted they threw a probationer who failed a drug test into jail because she was pregnant; if she had not been pregnant they would have taken less drastic measures.

In a blog post on Double X, Beth Schwartzapfel does a great job of discussing this unlawful and discriminatory treatment of pregnant women. She writes:

One reason these cases keep coming up, despite their clear illegality, is simple paternalism — overzealous prosecutors and judges think they know what’s best for a healthy pregnancy, as if that’s separate from what’s good for the pregnant woman. This is particularly troubling when judges assume that the woman must be confined or coerced in order to take good care of her child. . . . And the effect of prosecuting pregnant women who use drugs may be to deter other women with addictions from going to doctors’ offices and social service agencies — precisely the places they need to be. If going to the emergency room might get you arrested, would you go?

The bottom line is that pregnant women enjoy the same civil liberties — including the right to make decisions about their own health care, to equal treatment under the law, and to conduct their lives according to what they believe is best for themselves and their families — guaranteed to us all.


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Unfortunately, this type of thing is not quite as binary as many would like to think. Ironically, many of the same people who cry foul at this type of thing also believe quite strongly that someone should stand up for the rights of animals.

While I'm certainly not saying animals have no rights, I AM saying that someone needs to stand up for the rights of unborn children.

Being a Christian, many might assume this is a faith-based stance. However, this has less to do with my faith and more to do with the fact that any unborn, living fetus is as much of a human being as any other living, breathing human, albeit at a very early stage of development.

Aside from various controversial circumstances which can always be brought up, a pregnant woman, particularly one who consciously and willingly becomes pregnant, assumes the responsibility to care for that child...at least until birth. Failure to do so results in the endangerment of a human life which, I thought, groups like the ACLU were formed to protect the rights of.

This isn't about being sexist just because I haven't mentioned the father's responsibility (as I believe he has a good deal as well) but because this post is specifically targeted to the idea of women who "aren't allowed to make decisions for themselves" my point is that these decisions involve more than just themselves.

As a side note, I am also not advocating that the manner in which these situations were addressed was correct, either. Incarcerating someone for something like this seems a bit extreme. But, in general, someone should look out for and protect the rights of the unborn.

I'm just surprised (or not) that the ACLU doesn't bother with doing that. Perhaps they're too concerned that some Bible-thumper will claim that all human beings have value regardless of what stage of development they are in.

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