Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No abortion left behind

This may be one of the most offensive legislative proposals I have ever read.  I first saw blog posts about it, then a news article.  But I thought those sources must be exaggerating the proposal because no one could ever write legislation so outrageous.  So I found the text of the bill itself.  And boy howdy, they were not exaggerating.

Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin wants to protect all "prenatal citizens."  He really, really wants to protect them.  So he has written a bill that stops just short of putting god himself on the hot seat.  I'm not sure I would have believed it if I hadn't read the proposal for myself.  Franklin wants to make it clear that no abortions of any kind will be tolerated in his state.  And he's none too happy with those spontaneous abortions, either.  Otherwise known as miscarriages.

So Rep. Franklin's radical anti-abortion bill targets spontaneous abortions.  He wants a cause of death to be determined.  He wants a fetal death certificate.  And if a "cause of death" can't be determined easily, well there will have to be an investigation pursuant to the Georgia Death Investigation Act.

As a side note, the bill also includes lots of language about how the U.S. Supreme Court didn't have jurisdiction to decide Roe v. Wade, the part declaring abortion to be legal was all dicta, the federal government has no authority to tell the state of Georgia how to define its crimes, etc.  And then at the end it declares, "No portion of this Act may be found to be unconstitutional by the federal courts as they lack the subject matter jurisdiction to instruct this state how or whether to prosecute certain crimes."  I could write an entire post about this lawmaker's misunderstanding of basic concepts of law, but I'm resisting.  (A state can't tell federal courts what they can and can't review!)  Ok, I'm mostly resisting.

I'd rather focus on the substance of this proposal.  Because I don't think this man has any idea about miscarriages.  Some of them happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before the woman even knows she's pregnant.  Women can expel fertilized eggs without having any clue.  Miscarriages can occur at home, at work, or anywhere else a woman happens to be.  They don't always happen in hospitals or doctors' offices.  And it's not like we can expect autopsies to be done.  So how is a doctor supposed to determine a cause of a miscarriage?  And if a doctor can't determine a cause, as they probably won't be able to, does Rep. Franklin really want detectives to open a death investigation?  Does he want police questioning devastated women, trying to suss out whether they did anything to cause their miscarriages?  As if women who've lost pregnancies aren't feeling responsible enough already.

In his zeal to protect "prenatal citizens" and make sure that no one is intentionally "murdering" them, he wants to treat every end of a pregnancy like any other unattended death.  But a fetus isn't like a physical person (especially in the earliest stages of pregnancy when many miscarriages occur) and a spontaneous abortion isn't like other deaths.  Trying to treat miscarriages like a death is misguided at best.  It's insensitive.  At odds with the medical realities of miscarriage. It's downright cruel.  And demonstrating that, to Rep. Franklin at least, "prenatal citizens" matter a whole lot more than actual flesh and blood human beings.  Because he would rather make sure that women aren't faking miscarriages to avoid unwanted pregnancies than treat women who've suffered miscarriages with compassion.  Heaven forbid we should allow them to maintain their privacy.

Something like 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Most of them, we just can't know why they happened.  So if Rep. Franklin had his way, how many women would be subjected to an investigation just because a lot of pregnancies end naturally without explanation?  My own grandmother had numerous miscarriages.  She had given up trying to have a child when my mother finally showed up.  I would hate to think what it would have done to her to have to discuss each of those personal tragedies with a death investigator.  Women shouldn't be treated like suspects when something as natural and frequent as a spontaneous abortion occurs.

I'm sure this proposal won't be taken seriously by the majority of the Georgia legislature, but the mere fact that a lawmaker thinks this is a viable, even reasonable, proposal can't be ignored.  Rep. Franklin, you should be ashamed of yourself.  And I sincerely hope all of your constituents who have had experience with miscarriages let you hear it.


BellsforStacy said...

That guy sounds like a grand stander and somebody looking to get his name in the paper. What ridiculous legislation, and I say that as a person who does not like abortions. (What's there to like?)

Your miscarriage statistic, 1 in 5, sounds high to me. But, it may be right. I now after the 8 week mark (it may be week 6), if a heart beat has been heard, 80% of women go on to have live births. So maybe that is right. Wow, 1 in 5 sounds awful though. But that is nearly 20%, isn't it? makes me grateful for all the healthy babies born.

I would say though, that a miscarriage is very much a death. Not one that can or should be investigated though, for reason you already talked about.

S said...

The 1 in 5 stat is the one I have seen most frequently cited. I swear when I was a kid, though, I remember my mom telling me it was 1 in 3.

I don't at all disagree that a miscarriage is a death, except with the caveat that I would leave it up to the woman who has suffered the miscarriage to use that word or not use that word as she sees fit. But it's simply not one that should be investigated.

Morning Quickie said...

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