The Personhood of Pregnant Women

The reason I continue to be anti-abortion even though I identify as a feminist is that I fear abortion could be an infringement on the rights of a person. This does not change the fact that outlawing abortion is definitely an infringement on the rights of women everywhere. I’ve always justified this by saying that I’m more frightened by the possibility of depriving a person of life than I am of the certainty of depriving a person of liberty—the liberty in this case being a woman’s liberty to make her own reproductive decisions.

Even accepting this, though—which many do not—the most I think the government should do is deprive women of their liberty to terminate a pregnancy. But a new study soon to be published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law indicates that anti-abortion laws are being used to justify all sorts of civil-liberty violations against women:

  • A woman in Utah gave birth to twins. When one was stillborn, she was arrested and charged with criminal homicide based on the claim that her decision to delay cesarean surgery was the cause of the stillbirth.
  • After a hearing that lasted less than a day, a court issued an order requiring a critically-ill pregnant woman in Washington, D.C. to undergo cesarean surgery over her objections. Neither she nor her baby survived.
  • A judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion.
  • A woman in Oregon who did not comply with a doctor’s recommendation to have additional testing for gestational diabetes was subjected to involuntary civil commitment. During her detention, the additional testing was never performed.