Immediate Action, Women's Rights

SB 66 fetal personhood – More ammo for your calls and emails! We need calls today…

I promised myself I wouldn’t blow up your in-boxes with requests.  However this SB 66 – fetal personhood bill, looks like it is going to pass the house, it has already cleared the senate.

Mindi Messmer just called and asked for any help we could provide.   There is a house vote tomorrow at 10:00am.  We need to call or email every house republican – let’s blow up their in-boxes.

The house republicans have been told, to tell you, that this bill is only to give an avenue to prosecute reckless drivers who kill unborn children.  There are amendments that say this doesn’t apply to pregnant women or their doctors.  They will tell you it only applies to a fetus that is beyond 20 weeks in gestation.  Bull Sugar.  This is how states have been limiting women’s reproductive rights.

If you are skeptical,  or feel like I may have gone off the deep end on this,  Rep Messmer sent this research to us from states who have already passed this type of law.  We are not Texas.  We are not South Carolina.  We are not Missouri.  FYI  Dan Innis sponsored this bill.

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Fetal Personhood Laws & the Targeting of Pregnant Women

A 2013 study identified 413 cases of criminal and civil cases involving the arrests, detentions and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s physical liberty where pregnancy was a necessary element and the consequences included:  arrests; incarceration; increases in prison or jail sentences; detentions in hospitals and mental institutions; and forced medical interventions, including surgery. [i]

 The study lays out how state authorities used fetal homicide laws recognizing separate rights for fetuses as the basis for depriving pregnant women – whether they were seeking to end a pregnancy or go to term – of their physical liberty. Prosecutors, judges, and hospital counsel argued that the legal authority for their actions came directly or indirectly from feticide statutes that treat the unborn as legally separate from pregnant women. These cases include women in states where the law had an explicit exception for the actions of the woman. 

Below are excerpts from that study that layout the details in specific cases of in states’ with fetal personhood / fetal homicide laws where the woman were targeted for their actions during pregnancy.

“[W]omen in California, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Utah who suffered stillbirths or delivered babies who died shortly after birth have been charged directly under state feticide laws. In Utah a feticide law was used as the basis for arresting and charging Melissa Rowland. Rowland gave birth to twins, one of whom was stillborn. Rowland was arrested on charges of criminal homicide, a first-degree felony, based on the claim that she had caused the stillbirth by refusing to have cesarean surgery two weeks earlier. A spokesman for the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office explained the homicide charge this way: “The decision came down to whether the dead child — a viable, if unborn, being as defined by Utah law — died as a result of another person’s action or failure to take action. That judgment . . . is required by Utah’s feticide law, which was amended in 2002 to protect the fetus from the moment of conception” (Johnson 2004).”[ii] (Emphasis added.)


“Even when women are not charged directly under feticide laws, such laws are used to support the argument that generally worded murder statutes, child endangerment laws, drug delivery laws, and other laws should be interpreted to permit the arrest and prosecution of pregnant women in relationship to the embryos or fetuses they carry.

Texas’s feticide law (SB 319), enacted as the Prenatal Protection Act, was used in precisely this way. As the Austin Chronicle reported, “The bill passed, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, and took effect on Sept. 1, 2003. Sept. 1, 2003. A mere three weeks later, 47th District Attorney Rebecca King (prosecuting in Potter and Armstrong counties) penned a letter to ‘All Physicians Practicing in Potter County’ — Amarillo — informing them that under SB 319 ‘it is now a legal requirement for anyone to report a pregnant woman who is using or has used illegal narcotics during her pregnancy’ ”

As a result, more than fifty Potter County women were reported, charged with crimes, and in many cases incarcerated (Thomas 2006). Some of these arrests were challenged. In 2006, a Texas Court of Appeals finally held that the Prenatal Protection Act did not authorize the arrests. In spite of this decision, however, some of the women were incarcerated for years while their cases worked their way through the court system.”[iii]

Antiabortion statutes that include statements of separate rights for the unborn, similar to those asserted by personhood measures, are also routinely used to justify arrests, detentions, and forced surgeries on women who had no intention of ending a pregnancy. For example, the 1986 Missouri

Abortion Act includes a preamble stating that life begins at conception and that “the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.” [iv] Although the statute contains an explicit provision protecting pregnant women from punishment, Missouri prosecutors have used the law to justify the arrests of scores of pregnant women,[v] including one who admitted to using marijuana once while she was pregnant[vi] and another who drank alcohol.[vii] An Illinois abortion law stating that “an unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person for the purposes of the unborn child’s right to life” was cited as authority for forcibly restraining, overpowering, and sedating a pregnant woman in order to carry out a blood transfusion she had refused.”[viii] (Emphasis added.)

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