The principle at the heart of contemporary efforts to end legal abortion is that fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses are persons or at least have separate rights that must be protected by the state. In each of the cases we identified, this same rationale provided the justification for the deprivation of pregnant women’s physical liberty, as well as of the right to medical decision making, medical privacy, bodily integrity and, in one case, the woman’s right to life.
Many of the pregnant women subjected to this mistreatment are themselves profoundly opposed to abortion. Yet it was precisely the legal arguments for recriminalizing abortion that were used to strip them of their rights to dignity and liberty in the context of labor and delivery. These cases, individually and collectively, highlight what is so often missed when the focus is on attacking or defending abortion, namely that all pregnant women are at risk of losing a wide range of fundamental rights that are at the core of constitutional personhood in the United States.
There is something deeply screwed up about the fact that if anti-abortion extremists had their way, I would be childless. If a personhood law wouldn’t have closed my clinic, it would have thrown me in jail for the times my IVF didn’t work.
I don’t think it’s intentional, the pain these laws cause to women who want to have children, who are having children, who intend with every fiber of their beings to bear a child. I do think it’s profoundly callous, the disregard for actual women and their actual lives, in favor of the abstraction of an embryo and an uneducated, silly idea of how pregnancies generally progress.