We’re barreling toward the Fourth of July and it promises to be a weird year as freedom celebrations go. The president, a man who can’t sing the national anthem without a bouncy ball prompt, is calling for military tanks on the National Mall, we’ve got kids sitting in their own filth at the border, and state legislatures seem to be working overtime to restrict freedoms.
Alabama might pull a muscle if it doesn’t slow its efforts to make women second class citizens and it’s not alone. The case of Marshae Jones, though, should terrify any woman of child-bearing age. Ms. Jones was charged with manslaughter after she got into an argument with another woman who shot her and caused Jones to miscarry. Let’s break that down. Ms. Jones was shot and yet she was charged with manslaughter.
This is more than a slippery slope. This is an epic landslide of idiotic reasoning.
Alabama says Ms. Jones is at fault because she started the argument that led to the shooting. But that’s a standard of responsibility and foresight that no one can meet. There is no way that Ms. Jones could have predicted that an argument in front of a convenience store would escalate to a shooting, even in Alabama where handguns are as common as lipstick in a woman’s purse. And if that’s the sort of thing we’re asking women to guard against, then no pregnant woman is safe from prosecution. What about the pregnant woman with the abusive husband? Will she be charged with murder when her husband throws her down the stairs and causes a miscarriage? Or what about if she leaves him and he hunts her down and beats her half to death? Both are foreseeable and far more common than the shooting at issue.
How about the pregnant woman who rides a bike and takes a bad tumble? Are pregnant women not allowed to ride bikes? And how about the woman who miscarries after an ordinary rush hour traffic accident? Those happen all the time. Should we treat her like a criminal because she didn’t calculate the odds, change her route, or, better yet, just stay home? Let’s not even get started on the potential for charging women who take a sip of wine or have a beer while pregnant, though many medical studies and doctors allow for it.
Living is risky. Every time you leave the house, you assume some risks. And you don’t have to leave your home to face real dangers. You can die from mixing the wrong cleaning fluids. You can die from improperly prepared food. You can have a life-threatening allergic reaction to a plant or get bit by a poisonous spider in your backyard. No one is ever completely safe. Pregnant women are no exception. And, in fact, pregnancy is a dangerous condition, especially in America. We have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. But, of course, no one really cares if women die; they only care if women miscarry or have abortions.
And that’s the problem. These women are not being treated like people. They are only useful as incubators for the babies they can deliver. And in a state like Alabama and many others, it’s only the delivery that matters. Once a baby is born, the legislators lose interest. God forbid they should spend any of their budget money on early education programs, medical interventions, affordable childcare programs, family leave legislation, or any of the myriad of programs that might actually improve the child’s life.
Pro-life is code for anti-woman. The proof is in the case of Marshae Jones and all the women like her who are being prosecuted for things beyond their control. We should never forget it.
To the women of Alabama and every other state that criminalizes your existence the minute some man implants sperm in one of your eggs, I urge you to get out. I know it’s not easy. I know that moving costs money and it’s emotionally taxing. I know that it’s hard to imagine leaving behind your job, your family, your friends. But let’s find a way. And to women in freer states, let’s extend our help. Let’s help these imperiled women relocate to safer places. Come one, come all. Bring your daughters. Bring your mothers. Because to stay in a place like Alabama is a foreseeable risk to your health and well being, and it’s not a risk you ought to assume. Perhaps when there are no women left in these states, the lawmakers will find something else to legislate. Until then, it’s not a safe place for any woman to live.
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