Don’t they know abortion is illegal in this country?

Here’s a typical, arbitrarily-selected example of the standard rhetoric from anti-choicers who just happened to be the leading supporters of so-called fetal homicide bills at the state and federal level:

I don’t buy the theory that any fetal homicide laws in existence, nor the one recently vetoed by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, would have the effect of criminalizing abortion. Abortion rights are as safe in California as they are just about anywhere else, and have always been so, but Scott Peterson is still considered a double-murderer. Good.

— Xrlq (2004-12-10), comment on SayUncle 2004-12-09: Healing the divide

You heard this from nearly every conservative legislator and Concerned Woman for America over and over again as these bills moved through the legislature. Problem is that that was all a goddamned lie. All that sentimental law-making was not about protecting pregnant women from domestic violence; it wasn’t about punishing men who attack women and it wasn’t even about protecting fetuses from assaults on their mothers.

It’s about abortion. Specifically, it’s about creating the legal groundwork for enforcing murder statutes against anyone who helps young women obtain an abortion unauthorized by the government. (The second part of the one-two punch, of course, is that anti-choicers are working hard every day to ensure that as many kinds of abortion as possible are unauthorized by the government.)

Pro-choice groups said this over and over again when the debate over manipulative bills like Laci and Connor’s Law came up. For it, they were denounced as paranoiacs and bitter partisans. But guess what? They were right.

A few months ago I mentioned test case #1, in which a Macomb County prosecutor decided to indict a 16 year old boy for manslaughter after he helped his girlfriend in a desparate, home-made abortion by hitting her (with her consent) with a baseball bat until she miscarried (she was about four months pregnant at the time).

Think that was just some rogue prosecutor with an axe to grind? Well, oops—they did it again. In test case #2, a Lufkin, Texas prosecutor has decided to raise the stakes by charging an 18 year old boy with capital murder for helping his 16 year old girlfriend with a desparate, home-made abortion by stepping on her stomach.

(I got the link from Trish Wilson 2005-03-06; she got it from Lindsay at Pandagon 2005-03-04.)

They didn’t go through the extensive bureaucratic paperwork, privacy-invading parental notification measures, artificially inflated expense, traumatic harassment by screeching fundamentalists, or invasive surgery that the states of Michigan and Texas impose on young women seeking an abortion. And for that, the prosecutors are going after them with a charge of murder.

Of course, since the authors and supporters of the bill clearly weren’t trying to do anything like this when they passed it, obviously they are raising howls of protest.

Right?

A co-author of the state law said it was intended to protect women and unborn babies from domestic violence, drunken drivers and other assaults.

We didn’t consider a case as ridiculous as this, said Rep. Ray Allen, a Republican. I feel sad for these immature, stupid people. But the law is what the law is.

— Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2005-03-04

Of course they didn’t mean for any of this to happen; but hey, it’s not like legislators can change the law or anything, right?

Meanwhile, the prosecutors in both Macomb County and Lufkin mainly seem to regret that they can’t haul the poor girl before the magistrate and have her sent to a pro-life prison or perhaps a pro-life lethal injection. They regret that their hands are tied by the laws’ explicit exemption of the mother from legal liability.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said his hands were tied when it came time to decide whom to charge in the baseball bat beating death of a fetus being carried by a teenage girl.

He decided Tuesday to do the only thing one state statute allowed: charge the boyfriend who wielded the bat, hitting his girlfriend in the stomach repeatedly over a two-week period, but let the girl off the hook, uncharged.

Although Smith called the case shocking and reprehensible, he added, we are bound by the law. We don’t have the option of charging (the girl).

Detroit News 2005-01-05

Prosecutor Clyde Herrington said it was startling that they completely leave the female out of the criminal penalty.

It doesn’t seem entirely fair, Herrington said.

— Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2005-03-04

(You might think that the explicit exemption for punishing the mother is evidence that the laws weren’t intended to be applied in cases of unpermitted abortion. Horsefeathers. Even most strident anti-abortionists mainly favor bans that would punish abortion providers but not the woman who has an abortion; and the fact that they would think it’s necessary to exempt the mother from liability shows, if anything, a specific intent to apply it broadly to cases in which the mother consents to inducing the miscarriage. Otherwise there’d be no need for the exemption.)

What were those stupid, immature, shocking, reprehensible kids thinking, anyway? Don’t they know abortion is illegal in this country?

This is no accident. They are coming for the young and desparate first; they are the easiest to go after. They have already created a byzantine system of explicit restrictions and burdensome regulations to create a limited class of authorized abortion providers and make the conditions of obtaining an authorized abortion from them as harrowing as possible. Now they are moving to back up those restrictions with a charge of murder for any provider who steps outside of the ever-narrowing magic circle of what the courts will uphold from Roe. The purpose is to make the equation of abortion with murder a standard and accepted part of legal practice, and to bring closer the day in which there are no protections left at all (because, after all, they would be unfair). Lucinda Cisler warned us that this was a trap back in 1969, just four years before Roe: giving the State the power to limit who is authorized to provide an abortion and under what conditions (whether or not the woman consents to those conditions) is furnishing the ground from which to launch the counterattack against abortion-law repeal, and it means that the most desperate women will be targeted first.

Welcome to 2005. Here we are building a culture of life, one hangman at a time.

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5 replies to Don’t they know abortion is illegal in this country? Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Discussed at rousseau.blogspot.com

    Democracy Vs. The Constitution:

    Of course the democratic government will act out..

    And that’s why Supreme Court decisions are not the way to get abortion rights.

· August 2005 ·

  1. EF

    The test case #2 link (at nwsource.com) results in “This article was not found or it has expired.” I wish there was a news website where there was some guarantee of the news NOT being deleted.

— 2006 —

  1. Shane

    A few months ago I mentioned test case #1, in which a Macomb County prosecutor decided to indict a 16 year old boy for manslaughter after he helped his girlfriend in a desparate, home-made abortion by hitting her (with her consent) with a baseball bat until she miscarried (she was about four months pregnant at the time).

    Think that was just some rogue prosecutor with an axe to grind? Well, oops—they did it again. In test case #2, a Lufkin, Texas prosecutor has decided to raise the stakes by charging an 18 year old boy with capital murder for helping his 16 year old girlfriend with a desparate, home-made abortion by stepping on her stomach

    Yea I’m sure behavior like this should go unpunished. I mean not criminalizing homemade abortions really does protect womens’ freedoms and health.

    Point well made jackass.

  2. Roderick T. Long

    So, Shane, y’think the prosecutors’ motivation is to protect these women? Rather odd, then, that they’re bemoaning the fact that they can’t prosecute the women.

  3. Rad Geek

    On a similar note, you might want to see Lucinda Cisler’s discussion of late-term abortion bans and the protection excuse in Abortion law repeal (sort of): a warning to women

    3: Abortions may not be performed beyond a certain time in pregnancy, unless the woman’s life is at stake. Significantly enough, the magic time limit varies from bill to bill, from court decision to court decision, but this kind of restriction essentially says two things to women: (a) at a certain stage, your body suddenly belongs to the state and it can force you to have a child, whatever your own reasons for wanting an abortion late in pregnancy; (b) because late abortion entails more risk to you than early abortion, the state must protect you even if your considered decision is that you want to run that risk and your doctor is willing to help you. This restriction insults women in the same way the present preservation-of-life laws do: it assumes that we must be in a state of tutelage and cannot assume responsibility for our own acts. Even many women’s liberation writers are guilty of repeating the paternalistic explanation given to excuse the original passage of U.S. laws against abortion: in the nineteenth century abortion was more dangerous than childbirth, and women had to be protected against it. Was it somehow less dangerous in the eighteenth century? Were other kinds of surgery safe then? And, most important, weren’t women wanting and getting abortions, even though they knew how much they were risking? Protection has often turned out to be but another means of control over the protected; labor law offers many examples. When childbirth becomes as safe as it should be, perhaps it will be safer than abortion: will we put back our abortion laws, to protect women?

    … There are many reasons why a woman might seek a late abortion, and she should be able to find one legally if she wants it. She may suddenly discover that she had German measles in early pregnancy and that her fetus is deformed; she may have had a sudden mental breakdown; or some calamity may have changed the circumstances of her life: whatever her reasons, she belongs to herself and not to the state.

    —Lucinda Cisler, Abortion law repeal (sort of): a warning to women

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