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Stand up for Marshae Jones

Marshae Jones was shot in the stomach and her baby died. Now she’s being prosecuted for the child’s death. This is madness. Everyone who believes that the humanity of the unborn and the rights of their mothers are NOT mutually exclusive needs to stand up here.

Should she have gotten involved in a fight? Probably not. But a) the person responsible for the child’s death is the person who shot her and b) there are many things in life that might conceivably, if things go very wrong, harm an unborn child. Having to avoid them all cannot possibly be the standard a pregnant person is held to. Blame the person with the gun, not the person with the womb.

And to say that the baby is “the only real victim here”? That’s just inhuman. Jones was shot. She lost her child. By any reasonable measure she is a victim. But to see her as a victim, you’d have to see her as a person, not just a vessel.

The worst thing you could possibly do for the unborn is make people choose between seeing their humanity and being compassionate toward the people who bear them. And increasingly, that’s what’s been happening.

One wonders whether the state of Alabama is as zealous about protecting unborn children from the dangers of, say, pollution or inadequate health care (or indeed, gun violence) as it is about blaming pregnant people for any harm that befalls them.

You can call the Bessemer District Attorney’s office, who is prosecuting the case, and let them know that you don’t think this is a helpful way to defend life: 205-497-8610.

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Update on SB 1391 in Tennessee

According to Healthy and Free Tennessee, today is the last day to call Governor Bill Haslam’s office to ask him to veto SB 1391 , the bill that would allow criminal prosecution of women whose use of illegal drugs during pregnancy is believed to have harmed their babies. We wrote before about how this law, which is meant to protect life before and after birth, will instead make matters worse for women who struggle with substance abuse and their children. Please contact the governor’s office at (615) 741-2001 and let him know that as pro-life advocates, we believe SB 1391 is the wrong approach to protecting life.

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Criminalizing Women Is Not Prolife, and Never Was

Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant living in Indiana, was shamed and abandoned by her boyfriend when she told him she was pregnant. She became so despondent that she attempted suicide by eating rat poison. Because friends and medical personnel intervened, she survived, and tried to make sure that her daughter, whom she named Angel, did too. Unfortunately Angel died in her arms a few days after birth. Bei Bei Shuai was then charged and imprisoned for feticide and murder. She recently lost her appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court to have the charges dropped.

Today Shots, the health blog of National Public Radio, reports that Bei Bei Shuai’s bail has been set at $50,000, a daunting amount, especially for someone without money. According to Shots:

Meanwhile, the groups now fighting to have women spared from prosecution under fetal homicide laws are turning to those who advocated for them in the first place — anti-abortion groups. Those groups, however, have been uncharacteristically quiet. Neither of two of the more outspoken groups; the National Right to Life Committee nor the Susan B. Anthony List, would comment on the issue.

My feedback to Shots:

I serve on the board of a prolife group, All Our Lives (http://www.allourlives.org), that *is* taking a stand for women like Bei Bei Shuai and Christine Taylor. We have sent a letter of support to Bei Bei Shuai and signed onto National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s amicus brief in the Alabama Kimbrough/Ankrom case, which is about prosecuting pregnant women who use substances.

We do not believe that prosecuting and scapegoating women for substance use/abuse or fetal homicide is the way to bring about respect and support for both of the inestimably valuable lives, the mother’s and the baby’s, in each and every pregnancy. In fact, such criminalization can pressure women into having abortions.

How about instead guaranteeing that every woman-with-child can access, and promptly,  all the health and social services, such as substance abuse treatment and mental health care, necessary to give life and health to *both*?

I also wonder why the Susan B. Anthony List, if it wants to genuinely follow in Anthony’s footsteps, would stay quiet about these criminalization cases. After all, during the late 1860s, Susan B. Anthony advocated strongly for Hester Vaughan, a penniless immigrant woman impregnated and then brutally abandoned and turned into the streets by her employer. Vaughan was then imprisoned and sentenced to death when her baby died shortly after she gave birth in an unheated garret in wintertime. Because Anthony and other feminists–including Dr. Charlotte Denman Lozier, for whom the SBA LIST has named its new public policy wing–rallied to Vaughan’s aid, Vaughan was pardoned and helped back to her home in England.

Anthony and her compatriots opposed abortion and infanticide, yes–they even used the terms interchangeably–and they worked vigorously to alleviate the root causes of these practices, through legislation and other means, such as calling men to sexual and reproductive accountability and promoting voluntary motherhood. But they did not want pregnant and postpartum women to be criminalized. Their stance was of its time, and yet it still has something to teach ours.

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All Our Lives Joins Amicus Brief in Alabama Substance Abuse Cases

Joining over 40 other organizations concerned about maternal and child health and welfare, All Our Lives has signed onto an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief documenting the many evidence-based reasons why the State of Alabama should not criminalize substance using pregnant women.

One reason is that women will feel pressure to have abortions because substance abuse treatment is so difficult for them to access during pregnancy and they fear prosecution. Yet this criminalization is pushed in the name of establishing rights for unborn children! Punishing women and driving up the abortion rate doesn’t accomplish that in the real world.

We signed onto the brief after reaching out to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, in response to an RH Reality Check article by their attorneys Lynn Paltrow and Emma Ketteringham, Now It’s Clear: Pro-Life Means Pro-Imprisonment.

It doesn’t have to. And it won’t, if we can at all help it!

Thanks especially to Emma Ketteringham for her help.

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Take action to end shackling of prisoners in labor

If you live in California, please contact Governor Jerry Brown's office to urge him to sign AB568.

Assembly Bill 568 (Skinner) would limit the use of shackles on incarcerated pregnant women to the least restrictive restraints possible.

Translation: It would end the use of belly chains, leg irons, ankle restraints and other barbaric shackling devices that are used on pregnant women in jails and prisons across our state. Yes, shackles reminiscent of slavery are still being used on pregnant women as far long as 8 ½ months.

Medical professionals agree that it’s time for a change. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) was so moved by this issue that they became co-sponsors of the bill. ACOG opposes the use of any restraints on pregnant women because it increases the risk of falling and leaving the pregnant woman, whose balance is already compromised, unable to break those falls.

When I tell my friends about the bill, their response is usually a quiet gasp followed by a confused expression because they are in disbelief. “We actually do that?” Yes, “we” do. We shackle pregnant women.

 

via California sheriffs organize against pregnant women