Daily WTF: Indiana’s Recent Criminalization of Pregnant Women

Eugenics is the belief that we can improve the human race by discouraging reproduction of “undesirables.” This varies according to the prevailing social norm, but eugenic movements have primarily targeted the poor, people of color, and neuro-atypical people such as those with cognitive or behavioral disabilities, people with mental illnesses, and people on the autism spectrum.

Most people know that eugenics are “bad” and that the movement has forcibly sterilized, medically experimented on, and even killed people. Most people also know that it is wrong to discriminate against neuro-atypical people and that we must help protect our most vulnerable population.

This fear – that we would eugenically weed out “undesirables” – is how the Indiana legislature passed House Bill 1337, one of our country’s strictest abortion bills. HB 1337, which you can read in its entirety here, covers quite a bit, including prohibiting a person from knowingly getting an abortion if the fetus has a lethal fetal anomaly, forcing the woman to pay for a fetus funeral if they abort or miscarry, forcing the woman to hearing the fetus’ heartbeat at least 18 hours before the abortion, and outlawing the sale of fetal tissue among many, many other provisions. Tucked into all of these rules is the prohibition of a physician performing an abortion if they know the mother is having one because of the fetus’ race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or disability. Which is probably how it was passed.

While it seems like a good idea to prevent an abortion on the basis on race, sex, or disability, what this bill will actually do is create an undue burden for the people getting and performing an abortion. Women will have to give birth to stillborns or children who will only survive a few painful, expensive weeks in the NICU before dying. Women will have to jump through incredible hoops to abort fetuses that could kill them, and abortion providers will face lawsuits if they choose to help these women. Women and clinics will face undue financial burdens in providing fetus funerals. Women will have to hear the heartbeat of a child they either don’t want or desperately do but cannot have. Indiana will see fewer and fewer safe abortions and more and more at-home ones – and, as we saw in this post, they will face legal consequences.

I believe that we should protect people with disabilities. I believe that we should fight systematic racism and make sure that every American has equal opportunities. I do not believe in taking away someone’s choices away because of their brain chemistry, and I do not believe in forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.

But where is the evidence that Indiana abortions have been motivated by discrimination? Where is the study showing that 5 out of 6 women get an abortion because the child will be female? Where is the study showing that 73% of aborted fetuses show markers for Down syndrome? What doctor has ever said it’s better for a woman to carry an unviable fetus than have an abortion? What made this draconian law so necessary?

Nothing. There is no evidence that aborted fetuses are disproportionately one type. There is no evidence that doctors are encouraging women to abort a certain type. There is no need for a woman to carry to term an unviable fetus. There is no reason for this law to exist.

What lawmakers and this bill’s supporters did was play on people’s fears. They conjured a boogeyman that will go into the homes of parents with an autistic child and murder that child. They spoke to parents of special needs children and asked, “Doesn’t your child deserve to live?” They twisted a safe, legal medical practice into some grotesque, and in the process they endangered thousands of women.

This bill will not improve women’s health. It will not add millions of much-needed funds to special needs education. It will not make it easier to go on disability or access therapy. It will not strengthen the family unit. All it will do is hurt women and those who love them.

* Image taken from http://www.nuvo.net/indianapolis/after-pence-signed-hea-1337-womens-rights-in-indiana-are-dead/Content?oid=3880183

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