News broke yesterday about a bill proposed in the Georgia House that would outlaw abortion, and, as one of its provisions, require that women who have had miscarriages submit to investigations proving the miscarriage was “spontaneous” and that the pregnancy had not ended in an induced abortion. It is also worth noting that the legislator who proposed the bill is also responsible for one in which the term “victim” in regards to sexual assault cases would be replaced with “accuser” in Georgia’s Criminal Code. For what it’s worth, he also doesn’t believe in driver’s licenses and thinks that anyone who wants should be allowed to operate a vehicle on Georgia’s roads. I’m just glad I live in Alabama and not Georgia (wow, never thought I’d utter that sentence). The good citizens of Marietta should be proud of their esteemed representative.
As expected, news of this bill generated quite the firestorm on Facebook and in the blogosphere. I don’t think I saw anyone actually defending the measure, which does much to show how absolutely out of touch this man is with reality. What I did see, however, were responses from anti-choicers, along the lines of “I’m pro-life, but this is just awful.” And it is awful. Anyone who’s experienced a miscarriage can tell you; hell, anyone who’s been pregnant or thought about being pregnant or known someone who’s been pregnant can imagine how awful it would feel to be investigated to ensure that your miscarriage was spontaneous and not deliberate. And it could just be me, but I even feel a little sorry for the people who’d have to do the investigating if this bill were to pass. My miscarriage was diagnosed by two OBs and I had a D&C, so I assume looking into mine would be uneventful. A vast majority of women miscarry at home, however, and first trimester miscarriages don’t leave much by way of evidence. “Well, ma’am, did you happen to save the toilet paper with the blood on it?” One hopes Representative Franklin would also be so kind as to add a provision to protect his investigators from the threats of violence that would surely accompany their questions.
So it seems we can all breach the pro-choice/anti-choice divide and agree that this bill is heinous. But here’s the thing that bugs me: if you are anti-choice (or “pro-life”) and vote for anti-choice politicians, do you not bear some responsibility for their actions? A pro-choice elected official would never think to propose a bill that would treat women who miscarry as potential criminals. Yet, this bill is not the first of its kind and I doubt it’ll be the last. It’s simple logic: if you think abortion should be a crime, then every case of fetal demise is potentially suspicious. If you elect people who want to criminalize abortion, they will–deliberately or not–propose legislation that could work to punish women who have miscarried. The “Protect Life Act” being considered by Congress is a good example of this. It allows public hospitals to refuse to give abortions to women who need them even if their life is in danger. Ostensibly the bill only touches upon women who are carrying a live fetus (even though that in and of itself is reprehensible), but in my very personal experience, such policies can and do affect women who’ve suffered miscarriages. When I miscarried in 2006, the OB I’d been seeing was unable to perform the D&C because the hospital where she had privileges did not allow procedures–even for proven intra-uterine fetal demise–to be performed there if the woman was past 12 weeks (I was 13 weeks along). I found out later from the OB who ended up doing the D&C that the hospital was afraid they’d be “tricked” (his word) into allowing an actual live fetus to be aborted. How many more women will be subjected to that kind of pain and sadness in the name of “protecting life”?
It’s clear that anti-choicers have special sympathy for women who have miscarried, and that’s touching. But it is imperative for them to understand that when it comes to law and policy, induced and spontaneous fetal demise are all too often wrapped up together. If you find the idea of investigating miscarriages or forcing women who have miscarried to find someone who will give them a D&C appalling, then perhaps it’s time to ask how and why such elected officials are elected in the first place. And if you vote anti-choice, look no further than your own mirror.