Stop Using Attacks On Pregnant Women To Push For Fetal Personhood Laws

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178753234Last month, a Colorado woman named Michelle Wilkins suffered a brutal attack when she showed up to buy the clothes she’d seen advertised in a Craigslist ad. The ad poster, Dynel Lane, attacked the seven-months-pregnant Wilkins, and violently removed her fetus. Wilkins lived, the fetus died, and Lane will hopefully go to prison until the sun burns out in the sky.

But the story, devastating as it is, doesn’t end there. Under the cover of this horrifying attack, a more subtle attack is underway: according to Raw Story, the Colorado Republican party is attempting to use Wilkin’s suffering as cannon fodder for their attempts to push a bill establishing fetal personhood. And this time, it’s not just one women who’s the target: it’s every single Coloradan who has the possibility of becoming pregnant.

The proposed law resurrects language from previous attempts at enshrining fetal personhood into law, by defining a fertilized egg as a ‘person’. This would allow the state to pursue homicide charges against people like Lane, who forcibly terminate a pregnancy, but it would also establish a toehold for anti-abortion activists in Colorado state law. While the bill includes language stating that acts resulting in the death of a fetus that are initiated by that fetus’s mother, or that result from a medical procedure or a dose of medication performed or provided by a licensed medical professional, can’t be prosecuted.

But the bill’s language is (no doubt purposefully) vague. What constitutes a ‘medical procedure’? Does an elective abortion qualify? If a woman induces a miscarriage by taking mifepristone that she asked her partner to order off the Internet for her, could that partner be prosecuted? The bill specifies that medical procedures resulting in fetal loss are only safe from prosecution if performed at the request of a pregnant person (or that person’s legal guardian); could a reproductive health provider be charged if someone changes their mind about the procedure after the fact? I don’t know if any of these legal challenges could be sustained, but the reality is that the bill leaves ample room in its language for ambitious anti-choicers to give it a go.

The case of Purvi Patel in Indiana shows that we can’t really be too suspicious of the intent behind feticide bills. Making a fetus a full person under the law means a pregnant individual becomes slightly less of a person. It’s disingenuous to suggest that this bill is being pushed in the name of pregnant people in the state, and worse yet, it’s beyond callous to try to use the face of a woman who’s already suffered horribly to sell this proposition to the public. Fetal personhood has no place in the law–especially not when we have so much trouble remembering to treat living women as human in the first place.

(Image: michaeljung / Getty)