Another day, another anti-abortion law — this time in Alabama, where Republicans are trying to make abortion punishable by up to 99 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest survivors. A vote on the bill, which is expected to pass, was delayed after a clash on the Senate floor.
As more states try to adopt what are essentially full bans on abortion, I’ve seen some on the right argue that criminalizing the procedure won’t really punish women — that no matter what the law says, in reality no one is going to put a woman in jail for getting an abortion.
This is absolutely not true, and we have proof: Women are already being arrested and put in jail because of anti-choice laws — even with the protection of Roe v. Wade.
Melissa Ann Rowland of Utah was arrested and charged with murder after one of her twins was stillborn. The reason? She had refused a C-section.
Purvi Patel of Indiana was sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide. She said she had a miscarriage, and no traces of any abortifacient were found in her blood work.
Angela Carder was 27 years old, 26 weeks pregnant, and had cancer. She was forced to undergo a C-section in Washington, D.C. to try to save the baby despite the risk to her health. They both died.
Michelle Lee — on a waiting list for a heart transplant — was denied an abortion by a Louisiana hospital despite the pregnancy endangering her life. She had to be transported to Texas by ambulance to end the pregnancy.
Anti-choice organizations have long claimed that women who have abortions are victims; when questioned about criminalization, they insist women won’t be punished.
Rennie Gibbs of Mississippi was 16 years old when she delivered a stillborn baby — she was indicted on charges of “depraved-heart murder” after accusations that she used drugs. A woman in Louisiana was jailed on charges of second-degree murder after she went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding. It was over a year before medical records showed that she had a miscarriage.
Christine Taylor of Iowa was charged with attempted feticide after she fell down the stairs at home. Bei Bei Shuai lost her pregnancy after she tried to kill herself — within a half hour an Indiana homicide detective was questioning her. She was arrested for murder.
These all happened in spite of Roe v. Wade, because of state anti-choice laws, and policies that prioritize fetal rights over women’s.
It’s tempting to believe conservatives when they say the only people punished by criminalizing abortion will be providers themselves (a consequence which is unacceptable on its own). Anti-choice organizations have long claimed that women who have abortions are victims; when questioned about criminalization, they insist women won’t be punished.
Putting aside how condescending it is to claim women don’t know what they’re doing when they end their pregnancies, that’s not how the law works. And that’s not how the criminal justice system works, either.
We don’t need to imagine what a post-Roe world will look like — we already know. Women — most often women of color, immigrant women, and low-income women — are being punished across the country because of Republicans’ insistence that women’s personhood come second to the pregnancies that they carry.
These women have names and they have stories — stories cut short or stained by mostly-male legislators who have no idea what it means to be pregnant.
The more laws that are passed that limit women’s freedom, the less freedom we will have. It’s not rocket science — but it is wrong.