Since I don’t really feel like typing any significant fresh content today, I’m going to repost this blog entry from the original Blogspot OH. This post appeared April 19, 2015. It’s been retitled and edited somewhat, because there was dated and irrelevant content in the original post.
Last night, I shared this photo, which randomly popped up on my Facebook feed. A woman I knew in school had posted it with the comment “You’ve been warned. No excuses.” I knew the photo would generate discussion, and it did. Most of my friends were horrified by the photo, although “Papa Smurf” was a notable and predictable outlier. [Papa Smurf is a former friend now… he was a mansplaining pain in my ass one too many times, and I finally advised him to fuck off. I call him Papa Smurf because he was very sanctimonious and enjoyed trying to act like everybody’s daddy.]
I understand the idea behind this sign and I comprehend why a lot of people are behind its sentiment. However, while I get why people agree with it, I think it’s counterproductive to threaten patients before they’ve even been seen. All a sign like this does is tell the pregnant mom who might be using drugs that the doctor would prefer them to go somewhere else for their prenatal care. Indeed, that could be why the sign was posted. OB-GYNs typically pay a lot in malpractice insurance, and a pregnant person with drug issues could potentially have a riskier pregnancy. Of course, a drug abusing mom who is really bad off probably wouldn’t bother with prenatal care anyway.
Those who use drugs recreationally might see a doctor, but if the doctor flat out tells them they will call the law on them, they will very likely avoid medical care. That may be fine and dandy for the doctor who doesn’t have to deal with them, but what about the unborn child? The sign seems to be advocating for the welfare of the unborn baby, but if the doctor scares off the mother, what good does that do? And doesn’t that sort of conflict with what doctors are supposed to be doing, which is providing healthcare to people who need it?
I happen to be pro-choice, but I couldn’t help but notice. As long as abortion is legal in the United States [remember, this was written in 2015], it seems kind of ridiculous to take this sort of attitude, anyway. I mean, the mother to be can terminate her pregnancy if she chooses. Using illegal drugs is against the law, anyway. Why turn it into a crime against the unborn? Why does the fact that the mom to be is pregnant even come into it? She’s breaking the law, so deal with her.
At this point, we don’t force people to see their doctors. People have a hard enough time accessing appropriate medical care for reasons other than being threatened and alienated. This attitude of needing to police private citizens is creepy to me [I really had no idea what was coming, eight years ago, did I?], and in the long run, I don’t think it makes things better for anybody. Of course a pregnant woman shouldn’t be using drugs, and something should be done if she comes up positive on a drug screen. I think the attitude toward her should be more supportive and helpful, not threatening.
Besides… a woman whose newborn baby comes up positive on a drug screen at the hospital is going to be referred to CPS anyway. All that sign does is encourage the mother to avoid seeing doctors and give birth outside of a medical setting.
Here’s another thought. For most medical procedures, physicians must get informed consent before they go ahead with it. I suppose a sign like this informs patients that the doctor(s) at this practice will do random drug screens, and gives them the option of going elsewhere for their prenatal care. But what about health care professionals that do screenings without the patient’s knowledge or consent? Isn’t that a violation of their rights?
I know there have been cases in which mothers have been arrested for having positive drug screens and have gone to court. In South Carolina, there was a big case involving pregnant women, Ferguson v. City of Charleston, who were tested for drugs without their knowledge or consent. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the search in question was unreasonable, especially since the searches had the potential to land someone in jail.
In any case, while I certainly wouldn’t condone a pregnant woman using drugs, and I agree something should be done to help or dissuade drug abuse in pregnant women, I don’t think taking an adversarial, threatening attitude is in the best interest of patients. The goal shouldn’t be to sell mom down the river; it should be to get her appropriate help so she can successfully raise her child. I think it would be hard to do that by threatening patients with getting the police and child protective services involved before they’ve even been seen.
Edited to add in 2023: I don’t know if the photo is real or fake. I just thought the discussion it generated was interesting. You can see the original post here.
You know how some people in certain states think that developing fetuses should have all of the rights to personhood that already born people get? I’ve noticed that some people have been doing their best to get over, based on that line of thinking. Personally, I have no qualms with it, since it offends me that some people value the unborn over the already born.
When this situation first occurred, Bottone reportedly wasn’t trying to make a political statement. But then the question of what constitutes actual personhood really did make her wonder. When Roe v. Wade was overturned and Texas adopted very strict laws against abortion, some unintended consequences arose. One of them has to do with crime and punishment. Whether it’s a woman trying to get out of a moving violation citation, or a woman who has been accused of murder trying to get out of jail, denying pregnant people the right to bodily autonomy and acting like a developing fetus has rights means that there will be some new wrinkles in the laws.
Last night, I read another story addressing this phenomenon, when I stumbled across a Huffington Post article about Natalia Harrell, a pregnant woman in Florida who has been jailed since last July. Attorney William Norris filed an emergency petition last week on behalf of his client, Ms. Harrell’s fetus, currently at eight months gestation. Mr. Norris claims the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has not provided Ms. Harrell with adequate prenatal care.
Mr. Norris told NBC Miami:
“An unborn child is a person. A person has constitutional rights and one of them is the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”
“I am asserting the right of someone who is a person who has not been considered in the decision to incarcerate his mother.”
According to the Huff Post article I read, Ms. Harrell has not seen an OB-GYN since October. Norris asserts that the corrections department has not provided sufficient prenatal vitamins or nutritious food. Ms. Harrell has not been taken to scheduled doctor’s appointments, and at one point, the pregnant woman was forced to sit in a 100-degree transport van that lacked air conditioning. Norris filed the petition when he was contacted by the baby’s father, who was concerned about his unborn child’s well-being.
Ms. Harrell has been incarcerated without bond since last summer. She’s accused of “fatally shooting fellow Uber passenger Gladys Yvette Borcela amid an argument after a night out in Miami.” Harrell’s trial is set to begin in April; she has pleaded not guilty.
It should come as no surprise that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has argued for the petition’s dismissal on the grounds that there is no evidence that Ms. Harrell has been mistreated. Officials at the jail have also “disputed the allegations about its care for the inmate, saying in a statement that it’s ‘committed to ensuring all inmates receive professional, timely medical care and all appropriate treatment.'”
However, Mr. Norris reminds us that Ms. Harrell has not yet been convicted of a crime; she has only been accused. He also adds, “she has a stand-your-ground immunity defense that her criminal attorney is going to assert. So her conviction is by no means certain.”
I am not familiar with the incident that put Ms. Harrell behind bars, however, I do think that if states are going to declare the unborn as persons with personhood, Norris’s petition ought to be examined. I know that on the surface of this case, some people will laugh. They want to grant rights to the unborn, as long as it suits their highly controlling and anti-woman agenda. But both the ticket situation and the more serious murder accusation highlight the unintended consequences that have come up since abortion has been pretty much outlawed in some places. An astute attorney is going to challenge the new laws, and rightfully so.
A few years ago, I blogged about Marshae Jones, a pregnant woman who was jailed because she got in a fight that resulted in her being shot in the stomach. Her baby did not survive. Police reasoned that since the woman hadn’t kept herself out of harm’s way, she was responsible for the unborn fetus’s death. The woman who actually did the shooting, Ebony Jemison, was not indicted; therefore, she remained free, while Jones was jailed and later released on a $50,000 bond. The charges against Jones were eventually dropped, but still, it’s pretty scary how easy it is for pregnant people to wind up incarcerated. And there have been other disturbing cases of women who have been incarcerated because of miscarriage after they’d allegedly done something that put the unborn fetus at risk.
So… what concerns me about Ms. Harrell’s case is that besides the murder charge, she might also be charged with endangering the welfare of a minor, child abuse, or something of that nature. Judging by the comments by MEN on the Facebook post about this story, I can see that a lot of MEN think that Ms. Harrell shouldn’t have any rights because she’s an irresponsible woman who put her unborn baby in danger. But if she’s been jailed since last July, that means she might not have even realized that she was pregnant! Moreover– I must reiterate– she has not yet been convicted. She has only been accused.
I think it’s unsettling to see how gleeful some people are to see others put behind bars. There are so many Americans who seem to rejoice in watching certain people lose their liberties. Personally, I don’t like to think of people rotting in prison, especially when they’re pregnant. Jails and prisons are not good places for anyone to be– especially those who are gestating a baby.
Jessica Kent, a popular YouTube v-logger, has heartbreakingly spelled out what it was like for her to be pregnant when she was in an Arkansas prison. She didn’t know she was pregnant when she got arrested. If you are interested in that subject, I highly recommend watching these two videos…
And again… lots of pro-life MEN, who seem to be very misogynistic and lacking in understanding about why a woman might want or need to have an abortion, are commenting on Ms. Harrell’s story. They’re fine with declaring the unborn a “person with rights” when it comes to putting pregnant women behind bars, but they don’t like to see the same logic used to get women out of legal trouble or released from incarceration. And I’d wager that the VAST MAJORITY of them want and expect the right to privacy when it comes to making their own medical decisions, right?
One particularly prolific Facebook commenter– a man named Nicholas– clearly thinks that late term abortions are very commonly done on a whim. That simply isn’t true; late term abortions are actually very rare. There aren’t very many doctors who will do late term abortions, and the ones who will do them are typically doing them in situations involving tragic medical complications that are no one else’s business. They are very expensive and traumatic, and they involve actually giving birth. So no, they aren’t done for “convenience”.
Moreover, if legislators want to grant rights to the unborn, then they should also make sure that pregnant people have all they need to give birth to healthy babies and be able to raise healthy children. That means access to nutritious food, competent medical care, and adequate rest and exercise for ALL pregnant people– including those who are behind bars. It sounds like Mr. Norris is arguing that his client, by virtue of still being in utero, is being denied his rights as a person– albeit an unborn one at eight months gestation. So yes, it’s good that someone is having a look at this dilemma.
While I don’t know the specifics of Ms. Harrell’s case or whether or not she’s guilty, and I do worry that this case could backfire, I also think that double standards are bullshit. If you want to incarcerate people for crimes against the unborn because they have personhood, you must also consider that the innocent unborn should not be incarcerated for crimes committed by their mothers. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this case.
I meant to write about today’s topic yesterday. It was inspired by a New York Times opinion piece I read the other day that pointed out some unintended consequences of our new post Roe v. Wade reality. But I got mired in a contentious Twitter conversation that led me astray and got me so pissed off that I donated money to the pro choice cause. Yesterday, I decided to write about that decision, instead of the new insight I gleaned from that very wise opinion piece, written by Tressie McMillam Cottom, a Black woman who is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the author of “Thick: And Other Essays” and a 2020 MacArthur fellow. The piece she wrote, titled “Citizens No More”, really drove home some of the ways life for women in the United States could change if we don’t nip this anti-abortion nonsense in the bud.
For a long time, I have been writing about the potential negative health consequences that could arise in the wake of making abortion illegal. What I hadn’t considered, though, is that criminalizing abortion will likely also affect women in the workplace. Tressie McMillam Cottom spelled it all out in her opinion piece. She writes:
I grew up choosing where and how I work because Roe v. Wade gave me many of the same basic rights of personhood as men, for example. Millions of women have, to different degrees, been able to do the same.
I agree. It was the same for me, my entire life. I was born months before abortion became available to all women in the United States. My whole existence, I’ve known that if I ever needed or wanted to have an abortion, I could get one. In fact, I grew up in southeastern Virginia, and I distinctly remember that Hillcrest Clinic, an abortion clinic that opened in Norfolk, Virginia the year after I was born, used to run radio ads on the station I listened to before school every day. I remember hearing the commercials about how a woman could access safe, compassionate care if she wanted to terminate a pregnancy. It was not a big deal to me, because I heard those ads all the time. I never thought twice about them.
Then came the 1990s, and I remember reading in the news that abortion clinics were being bombed and doctors who performed abortions were being targeted, harassed, and in at least a couple of instances, murdered. Dr. Barnett Slepian was one abortion provider who was executed in 1998 by a gun toting anti abortion zealot. Another was Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in both arms years before he was finally murdered in 2009. On December 31, 1994, 22 year old John Salvi came into Hillcrest Clinic and opened fire, shattering the doors, but not injuring or killing anyone. The day prior, Salvi had stormed into two abortion clinics in Massachusetts and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding multiple clinic employees and volunteers. In many of the violent cases involving abortion providers being assassinated, pro-life zealots justified the killings, claiming they were “saving the unborn babies”. It seems ridiculous to me that highly trained physicians who simply wanted to help women were killed by people claiming to be “pro-life”. But life in the United States is often kind of confusing and odd, isn’t it?
I was a young woman in the 90s. Fortunately, I was not sexually active at the time, and I never had any gynecological issues, so I never needed to consider taking birth control, let alone having an abortion. But I knew that if I ever did need abortion services, and I was still living in Virginia, I could go to the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk.
The years went on, and lawmakers did more and more to restrict abortion access and discourage women from ending their pregnancies. They passed new laws, forcing clinics to upgrade their facilities to the point at which they were almost like hospitals. Hillcrest Clinic finally got to a point at which they could no longer operate. Ironically, it was because fewer women needed or wanted to have abortions, probably because they were getting educated about sex and had access to effective contraception. Hillcrest Clinic closed its doors in 2012, after serving the community for about 40 years.
Along came 2002. I finished graduate school and got married. Getting pregnant at a bad time was never an issue for me. But the same could not be said for my peers. I do know some women who did seek abortion care, and none of them have regretted their decision. I know they are living productive lives now, with families they formed when they were ready to be parents.
Now, with this new reality of conservatives trying desperately to force women to give birth, those choices are in jeopardy, even for women who never get pregnant. Tressie McMillam Cottom explains:
With Roe v. Wade toppled, we do not have the same rights in all labor markets. In a global market, an empowered worker is one who can migrate. With Dobbs, women cannot assume that we can safely work in Idaho the same way that we can in Oregon or Washington. I cannot negotiate wages or time off with an employer with the same risk profile as those who cannot become pregnant. An employer who offers lower pay in a state with abortion care indirectly benefits from women’s inability to take our labor on the open market across the nation. Thanks to a rogue court, women’s lives are now more determined by the accidents of our birth than they were a week ago.
Those accidents of birth include circumscribing women’s lives by making them dependent upon corporate beneficence. Some companies, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, immediately issued statements that they would offer reimbursements to employees for traveling for abortion services. The largess of Dick’s and other companies is noteworthy. But it requires women to disclose their health status to a boss they have to hope is well meaning. That says nothing of also hoping that corporate management or leadership does not change. Well-meaning employers can come and go. They also vary in how well meaning they are in terms of pledges of their employee support.
Those two paragraphs made me stop in my tracks. All along, I’d been focusing on health and happiness. It never occurred to me to consider how not being able to access abortion could affect women in the workplace, even in states where abortion access is guaranteed (for now). I also hadn’t considered that the companies who offer women help in getting abortions would also be requiring those women to discuss their private healthcare decisions with their employers. And, as the article also points out, some companies, such as Starbucks, have placed conditions on their offers of assistance. From the article:
[Starbucks noted that] it cannot guarantee that benefit to workers in unionized stores. Union drives at Starbucks have increased worker power. Many of those workers are women and people who can become pregnant. Potentially attaching support for abortion care to non-unionized labor is a perfect example of why corporations should not be arbiters of human rights.
So basically, people who can get pregnant will have to decide what’s more important to them– access to abortion services, or worker’s rights.
I noticed in the comment section that most people were arguing about the morality of abortions. It seemed that very few had bothered to read Tressie McMillam Cottom’s opinion piece, which I thought was very sobering and kind of scary. I decided to leave a comment that people really should read her piece. If you click the link in this post, you should have free access to the link, as I am a New York Times subscriber and allowed to gift ten articles per month. If you are a person of childbearing age and can get pregnant, you might want to consider what is at stake. It will affect all women who work, unless it’s obvious that you’re beyond childbearing. Then, you’ll just experience age discrimination. 😉
I want to also bring up another alarming news article I read yesterday that complements Tressie McMillam Cottom’s piece. According to the Washington Post, some Republican lawmakers are trying to draft legislation that could block pregnant people from crossing state lines. Again, I’m gifting the link to this article, since I am also a Washington Post subscriber. From the article:
The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, an anti abortion organization led by Republican state legislators, has begun working with the authors of the Texas abortion ban to explore model legislation that would restrict people from crossing state lines for abortions, said Texas state representative Tom Oliverson (R), the charter chair of the group’s national legislative council.
“Just because you jump across a state line doesn’t mean your home state doesn’t have jurisdiction,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society. “It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line.” (Figures it’s a MAN who said this. I hope he goes straight to Hell.)
I read about this development yesterday, after having yet another fruitless discussion with two older pro-life people on Twitter– a man and a woman, both of whom were conservative, and both of whom clearly never really stopped and thought about what eliminating abortion will mean to women, and American society as a whole. The first person who took me on was an obviously conservative man, who basically said that people who get pregnant by accident should be forced to gestate. He was kind enough to allow abortion for rape and incest cases. For everyone else it was, “she made her bed and now she needs to lie in it.”
I noted that he seemed to think pregnancy should be a punishment. He disagreed, arguing that birth control can prevent pregnancies, and “personal responsibility” should trump a gestating person’s right to make healthcare decisions about their own body. I tweeted to him that I didn’t think he’d really thought very long or hard about the abortion issue at all. I could have come up with a laundry list of my concerns, to include healthcare privacy and the fact that women in many states will have to prove their need for certain obstetrical procedures. Instead, I wrote that it doesn’t seem wise to me to force people to be pregnant when they don’t want to be, because it could mean that they won’t take care of their prenatal health. And fetuses would be developing in someone who might be very depressed and unwilling to seek medical care. That could then lead to babies being born with medical conditions that might have been prevented if the pregnant person had simply been more “responsible”.
I won’t even go into the huge list of reasons why this mindset isn’t fair to women. Men seem to forget that their health is never affected by pregnancy. It’s just their livelihoods that are potentially affected. What I was really thinking of, though, is that pregnant folks might soon find themselves in a different class of people, with fewer civil rights. This guy on Twitter was insisting that he didn’t think pregnancy should be a punishment, as he was also clearly pointing out that people should be forced to gestate. And, I’ll bet if I pressed him, asking him what he thought should happen to pregnant women who don’t seek appropriate medical care (which, of course, they would have to pay for), he would say the women should go to jail. Sounds pretty punishing to me. Now, granted, he didn’t actually say that during our discussion– which went on for much too long– but I’ll bet money that he would get there. Americans seem to LOVE to see people go to prison.
This isn’t an empty threat. I looked up forced prenatal care yesterday. It has happened. The link leads to one case from 2000, but there are others, and that Washington Post link I provided is about how some extremists would like to make it illegal for pregnant people to cross state lines. That sounds very punitive to me, and it would likely discourage people from seeking medical care. Another unintended consequence is that there will be some women who will stop having sex with people– particularly men– who can get them pregnant. I’ve already seen at least one Reddit thread from a man who is upset that his girlfriend is on a sex strike because of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
In an earlier blog post, I shared Jessica Kent’s very distressing video about her experience giving birth while she was incarcerated in Arkansas. If we don’t do something about these wackos who are trying to criminalize abortion, there will be more women who experience the hell of being pregnant behind bars. It won’t be good for women OR those precious babies. And, things are already getting shitty in Texas. Yesterday, I watched this woman’s heartbreaking video about the horrible trauma she experienced, trying to take care of her miscarriage in Texas last year.
The other person who engaged me yesterday was an older woman who had many of the same arguments the man did. She was very condescending to me, and kept preaching about personal responsibility. I didn’t tell her that I was SUPER responsible when I was younger. I was a virgin until two weeks after my wedding day, and was 30 years old when I finally had sex for the first time… with a man who’d had a vasectomy. I also didn’t tell her about my background.
But toward the end of our chat, she wrote that she has a four year old granddaughter who was conceived accidentally. Her granddaughter is the light of her life. And you know, that’s really lovely. I’m happy for her. I wrote that I hoped her granddaughter never needed to have an abortion, which is sometimes necessary for health reasons. And I hoped that her granddaughter wouldn’t lose some of her healthcare privacy rights, due to her sex. The woman wrote back that my concerns about healthcare privacy were “ridiculous”. All I can do is shake my head… as Randy Newman sings, “I’m dead, but I don’t know it…” I think that observation would apply to this woman’s brain.
But instead of sharing the link to Randy Newman’s song, I wrote that my concerns about privacy are NOT ridiculous, and a lot of us are very concerned about it, and with good reason. Then I bid her a good night, because I was tired of tweeting in circles and felt my time would be more productively spent cleaning the lint out of my belly button or something.
Well… I could go on. I am kind of rueing exploring Twitter, because now I get exposed to some real twits besides Bill’s ex wife. But at least it gives me another source for my blog, right? And since I mentioned Ex… here are a couple of her most recent comments. I could start a blog that focuses on the inanity of Ex’s Twitter feed. For your amusement…
My daughter is 19, a HUGE fan of yours(read your book), along with TMNT; she wants to be a voice actress more that ANYTHING! Rob, how can I encourage her? I can’t afford acting school in NY, though she was accepted! Please, any advice for a mom who just wants to support a dream?!
Omg … my eyes…. My ears… make it stop! It’s like reliving the day I sang “If” by Bread in 1981 at a school talent show with, literally, the sweetest and kindest guy in the world! Except, alas, it was never to be… still love him with all my heart!!
She once sang “The Sweetest Thing” by Juice Newton to Bill. To this day, he can’t abide that song.
So ends today’s rantings. Hope it provides food for thought.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.