Michele Bachmann’s Miscarriage and the Miscarriage of Justice


Recent events have shed increasing light on the disturbing trend of incarceration of women following a miscarriage or stillborn birth.  The women profiled in news articles have been poor, often of color, sometimes drug addicts, struggling with mental health issues or domestic abuse. If not physical abuse, the women may be grappling with a relationship landmine such as the widely reported case of 34 year old Bei Bei Shuai who tried to commit suicide by taking rat poison after discovering late in her pregnancy that the baby’s father who had committed to marry her was already married and planned to abandon her.  While Ms. Shuai survived, the baby died.  Shuai was charged with murder and incarcerated where she continues to struggle with depression. Denied bail, she may be in jail while her case works its way through the legal system. 

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which is handling Shuai’s case, states that these charges are not only cruel to Ms. Shuai but “would make every pregnant woman in Indiana criminally liable for the outcome of her pregnancy.” Yet these types of criminal charges for miscarriages, stillbirths and the like (Ms. Shuai’s baby died four days after delivery by c-section), are cropping up in various states (e.g., IN, GA, SC).  These prosecutions run counter to medical and public health knowledge about the best ways to address health problems, suicide attempts and drug addiction that pregnant women experience.

Enter Michele Bachmann stage right.  Stylish, white and wealthy, announcement of her miscarriage was expected to elicit sympathy from the millions of American women who have silently suffered miscarriages.  The Washington Post makes it clear that the paper does not mean “to suggest that Republican presidential candidate Bachmann’s decision to talk about her miscarriage was in any way a political…gambit.” However, it doesn’t take a political scientist to argue that no candidate for office would announce anything so personal without a political calculation.

I expect the reaction to Bachmann’s announcement will be a lot of sympathy for this mother of five children and 23 foster children.  She deserves this sympathy.  Miscarriage is the cause of personal grief that has largely gone unacknowledged in American society.  Often only after a woman suffers such a loss and quietly confides in a couple of close friends does she begin to appreciate how widespread it is.  The American Pregnancy Association’s website indicates that more than 600,000 women each year experience pregnancy loss through miscarriage or stillbirth. 

So I greet Bachmann’s personal share with a mixed reaction: on the one hand she is shedding light on a secret women have harbored –in some cases at high emotional cost—for years.  Perhaps a public airing can prove cathartic for many women in the American way of psychotherapy through public discourse.  Oprah may be gone from the 4 pm time slot but now we have Michele Bachmann.

On the other hand, Bachmann’s zero tolerance stance against abortion puts her in cahoots with those who would incarcerate women for a bodily function.  During a recent debate, Bachmann described herself as “100 percent pro-life.”

It is the stretching– the gross overreaching–of the antiabortion agenda that has gotten us to this surreal place where women can be imprisoned for a miscarriage.  So while candidate Bachmann is garnering sympathy while attempting to reel in women voters on the strength of her miscarriage story, other women are languishing in jail for their losses. 

If the personal is political, it seems it would extend that women’s own experiences with miscarriage would lead to sympathy for those facing similar losses.  Perhaps I’m waiting for the uprising of women who’ve had miscarriages without legal interference, to defend their less fortunate sisters.  At least I hope that candidate Bachmann will use her bully pulpit to express not only sadness about her miscarriage but outrage over the imprisonment of women who have lost their pregnancies as well. 

There’s a miscarriage of justice that needs to be righted.

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  • charlene-0

    I have read many articles on this site, some eliciting a nod of the head, others a chuckle. But this one takes the cake in terms of “overreach.” Does any intelligent man or woman truly believe that Bachman and her allies really wish to “incarcerate” women who have miscarriages? Of course, if you redefine “miscarriage,” anything is possible.

    You suspend reality and do your readers an injustice with such a screed.

    Truly shameless and dispicable.

     

  • prochoiceferret

    Does any intelligent man or woman truly believe that Bachman and her allies really wish to “incarcerate” women who have miscarriages?

     

    Why wouldn’t they? This already happens regularly in countries like Nicaragua, and she has already agreed with off-the-wall stuff like Black children being better off under slavery.

     

    Of course, if you redefine “miscarriage,” anything is possible.

     

    Well, they’ve already tried to redefine “rape.” It’s not like “miscarriage” will be any harder.

     

    You suspend reality and do your readers an injustice with such a screed.

    Truly shameless and dispicable.

     

    Ms. Bachmann certainly does.

  • jennifer-starr

    You know, Mom Charlene, there was a time when I would’ve said ‘of course not’, and called this farfetched and hyperbolic. But no longer. Women are already being jailed for miscarriages in Mississippi and Alabama, so anything is possible in this current climate.  Bachmann and friends seem to be bringing us closer to a theocracy each and every day–if they had their way this would be a Christian version of Afghanistan under the Taliban. 

  • ack

    Charlene, this blog has extensively covered legislation in various states where the language is so vague that women and girls would, indeed, be subject to investigations of miscarriages. It has covered cases where women and girls were subject to court orders for refusing to undergo a C-section.

     

    Draw the argument of those bills to their logical conclusion. A woman is pregnant. She miscarries. Health care providers decide it may have been caused by something she did. What happens next?

  • crowepps

    Woman in Iowa arrested for falling down the stairs

    That’s when things got really bad and really crazy. Alone, distraught, and frightened, Taylor confided in the nurse treating her that she hadn’t always been sure she’d wanted this baby, now that she was single and unemployed. She’d considered both adoption and abortion before ultimately deciding to keep the child. The nurse then summoned a doctor, who questioned her further about her thoughts on ending the pregnancy. Next thing Taylor knew, she was being arrested for attempted feticide. Apparently the nurse and doctor thought that Taylor threw herself down the stairs on purpose.

    http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2010/03/02/woman-in-iowa-arrested-for-falling-down-the-stairs-while-pregnant

    and

    Miscarriage? Face Prison Time For Murder

    In one case, a woman’s unborn baby was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome and she declined the doctor’s suggestion to abort. Her baby died after a premature birth and six months later she was arrested at home and retroactively charged with “chemical endangerment” during pregnancy. She denied taking drugs and there was no evidence, but she faces 10 years behind bars.

    http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/07/02/miscarriage-face-prison-time-for-murder/

    and

    The Next Anti-Choice Target: Miscarriage

    The bill passed Utah’s state legislature last Thursday and still needs final approval by the governor, but it continues to gain attention this week for its unusually restrictive language. It doesn’t address legal abortion, but allows punishment up to life in prison for an “intentional, knowing, or reckless act” that leads to a miscarriage or abortion without a doctor’s supervision. … Women might also make themselves open to prosecution if they failed to wear a seatbelt and got in a car accident, if they stayed with an abusive partner, or even if they fell down the stairs, like a woman in Iowa who found herself jailed on suspicion of “attempted feticide.” This woman eventually got off only because she wasn’t yet in her third trimester — but unlike Iowa’s feticide law, Utah’s new bill would apply throughout pregnancy. Given that 15-20% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, 80% of those in the first trimester, Utah could have a lot of work ahead.

    http://jezebel.com/5479032/the-next-anti+choice-target-miscarriage

    As a woman who has had two miscarriages, and who was told by both doctors in both instances that “we have no way of knowing what caused it” and “it’s not your fault, these things happen”, I think it’s a really, REALLY bad idea to prosecute a woman six months after a miscarriage on the suspicion that she did something to cause it.  After all that time, how could she ever prove that she did not?

  • cc

    Off topic but important. Stanek and her groupies are trashing the late Betty Ford because she supported abortion rights:

    “While I empathize with the loss Betty Ford’s family and friends must be feeling at her death, I do not lament the passing of any unrepentant leader of the pro-abortion movement, bluntly speaking. The world is a safer place for children with one less person facilitating their murders.

    Betty Ford was an unapologetic abortion activist. In her roles as First Lady and world dignitary, Betty Ford was, thus, partially responsible for untold thousands, perhaps millions, of their deaths…”

    These disgusting people claim to love “life” but have no respect for pro-choice dead.

  • lapidarion

    Just remember to turn on your Ad Block or whatever before you visit Jill Stanek’s site. Realizing that she has ads on her site gave me a good reason to finally install some ad-blocking software. I hate to think that by participating in the discussion there or even by just reading the posts I was directly funding anti-choice rhetoric. Now I just keep up with her site via RSS.

  • arekushieru

    Actually, the fact that she’s GONE, makes the world more DANGEROUS for children, since she supported abortion rights.  Meaning she supported the perspective of every child wanted and loved.  Jill Stanek and her ‘ilk’, as inherent opponents of this idea support more abuse and fatal accidents amongst children.  So sad when anti-choice becomes so deliberately blind, isn’t it?

  • crowepps

    Westboro Baptist Church will be thrilled Jill has decided to join them in ignoring the feelings of the sorrowing family while making hay out of people’s deaths for political reasons.  The more the haters imitate each other, the clearer it is just how vile they all are.

  • dolphin

    This woman is running for president. She does not have the right to force her “beliefs” down the countries throat. She crows for all to think she is good for her foster children. She also does not have the right to be wrong about the constitution if she is going to run this country which she never will. Her religious beliefs are full of hate and she has no right to even discuss it in the same sentence as running the government. She got lost on the way to register to run. She must have meant to go to a taliban stronghold since she “believes” that church and state should be intertwined. Beliefs are not facts. We may believe whatever we believe but only facts are allowed for the government and what she claims to be facts are usually wrong. She rants with hate speech about her incorrect facts about homosexuality. Singleing out a group for hate speech and speaking for God has God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, and harry the dirty dogh weeping. she should be arrested the next time she gives a political speech calling anyone an abomination to god. I dont recognize her brand of religion as christianity. Where are the love , mercy and compassion? Her religious beliefs are not our affair. Ours should not be hers. When JFK ran for president he said he was a democrat running for president who was also a catholic. Because of the separation of church and state, when the Pope visited America he did not kiss the Pope’s ring as an American president with a constituency of leery voters who feared exactly what 
    Bachman is doing. If those clinics accept federal money which they have, they have violated the Civil Rights Act and should be shut down.

    dolphin

     

  • dolphin

    This woman is running for president. She does not have the right to force her “beliefs” down the countries throat. She crows for all to think she is good for her foster children. She also does not have the right to be wrong about the constitution if she is going to run this country which she never will. Her religious beliefs are full of hate and she has no right to even discuss it in the same sentence as running the government. She got lost on the way to register to run. She must have meant to go to a taliban stronghold since she “believes” that church and state should be intertwined. Beliefs are not facts. We may believe whatever we believe but only facts are allowed for the government and what she claims to be facts are usually wrong. She rants with hate speech about her incorrect facts about homosexuality. Singleing out a group for hate speech and speaking for God has God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, and harry the dirty dogh weeping. she should be arrested the next time she gives a political speech calling anyone an abomination to god. I dont recognize her brand of religion as christianity. Where are the love , mercy and compassion? Her religious beliefs are not our affair. Ours should not be hers. When JFK ran for president he said he was a democrat running for president who was also a catholic. Because of the separation of church and state, when the Pope visited America he did not kiss the Pope’s ring as an American president with a constituency of leery voters who feared exactly what 
    Bachman is doing. If those clinics accept federal money which they have, they have violated the Civil Rights Act and should be shut down.

    dolphin