Nearly 1,400 People Were Arrested For How They Acted During Pregnancy Before Roe Fell

Girls have lengthy been vulnerable to being arrested for his or her conduct whereas pregnant ― and advocates fear that state legal guidelines handed because the fall of Roe v. Wade will make such punishments extra frequent.

A brand new report from Being pregnant Justice, a authorized advocacy group for pregnant folks, reveals that tons of of pregnant Individuals had been criminalized for his or her being pregnant outcomes, together with miscarriage, even when Roe was in impact. The American School of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines the criminalization of being pregnant as penalizing folks for actions that might be seen as dangerous to their fetuses, even when these behaviors wouldn’t in any other case be thought of legal.

Practically 1,400 legal arrests occurred between 2006 and June 2022, based on Being pregnant Justice’s report, for issues like utilizing illicit substances or ingesting alcohol whereas pregnant. Different instances embody pregnant girls being criminalized for not sporting a seatbelt, refusing a C-section, not getting prenatal care whereas pregnant and having HIV.

“We should all be incredibly concerned about the fact that pregnant people are getting arrested, prosecuted, separated from their children and incarcerated for actions that should not be illegal,” Lourdes Rivera, the president of Being pregnant Justice, mentioned throughout a press name on Tuesday.

Lots of the tales included in Being pregnant Justice’s report made nationwide headlines. In 2014, for instance, a Tennessee lady who was 9 months pregnant was arrested for driving with no seatbelt. She had engaged “in conduct which placed her baby in imminent danger or death or serious bodily injury,” based on the warrant for her arrest.

“The Dobbs decision basically flung open the gates for these types of criminalizations to continue and increase.”

– Lourdes Rivera, Being pregnant Justice

Geography and earnings degree are the best components in terms of being pregnant criminalization, based on the report. White pregnant people who find themselves low-income are essentially the most criminalized group, whereas Black pregnant people who find themselves low-income are additionally overrepresented within the knowledge.

Round 80% of those arrests occurred in 5 Southern states: Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Three of these states ― Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma ― acknowledge fetuses as folks of their legal codes, an more and more frequent kind of laws referred to as fetal personhood legal guidelines.

“We can tie this increase in criminalization directly to the expansion of the increased ideology of fetal personhood. The idea that a fetus or a fertilized egg has the same, if not more rights, than the actual person carrying the pregnancy,” Rivera mentioned. “During the period that we’re looking at 2006 to June 2022, fetal personhood gained influence and has increasingly become embedded in laws in judicial decisions.”

Fifteen states had some type of legal fetal personhood legal guidelines in impact earlier than Roe fell final summer season. Many, like South Carolina and Alabama, heart on drug use throughout being pregnant and have traditionally been weaponized towards essentially the most marginalized, together with poor girls and folks of colour.

Over 95% of the almost 1,400 instances of being pregnant criminalization handled substance use throughout being pregnant, Being pregnant Justice discovered. The three commonest substances present in these instances had been methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana; the latter is authorized in lots of states. One-quarter of the instances concerned the alleged use of authorized substances, similar to prescription opiates, nicotine and alcohol.

One case included in Being pregnant Justice’s report was a 19-year-old lady from Oklahoma who, in 2020 went to the hospital after experiencing a miscarriage, however she was arrested and charged with manslaughter after she informed hospital employees she had used marijuana and methamphetamine whereas pregnant. The younger lady couldn’t afford her $20,000 bail and remained in jail for a 12 months and a half earlier than she was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in jail.

And these instances don’t simply occur in crimson states. A pregnant lady in California gave beginning to a stillborn child in 2018. She was later charged with homicide, and the prosecutor in her case argued that her meth use induced the stillbirth, and she or he spent 4 years in jail earlier than the cost was dropped.

Fetal personhood legal guidelines that centered on pregnant folks and drug use, like these in impact earlier than Roe fell, allowed prosecutors to cost pregnant girls with “chemical endangerment of a child.” For instance, Alabama handed its chemical endangerment regulation in 2006 to guard kids from harmful fumes and chemical compounds present in home-based meth labs.

Not lengthy after, district attorneys began making use of the regulation to drug-using pregnant girls, regardless of the regulation together with nothing about fetuses. Prosecutors stretched the interpretation of the regulation, reasoning {that a} fetus is a toddler, and by ingesting medicine, the pregnant individual is bringing chemical hurt to the so-called little one. Consequently, Alabama’s regulation has been used to criminalize dozens of pregnant folks within the state after they check constructive for an unlawful drug or authorized medicine.

Being pregnant Justice’s report additionally contextualizes the historical past of substance use for pregnant folks within the U.S., pointing to the racist and politically motivated “war on drugs” marketing campaign of the Nineteen Eighties.

“Pregnancy criminalization first became widespread in the 1980s, amid the sensationalized, racialized, and resoundingly debunked ‘crack baby epidemic,’” the report reads. “This armed the anti-abortion movement with a perfect narrative to move their agenda forward: it played on racist and sexist tropes about Black women and their right to reproduce… and it created a new category of crime victim: the innocent fetus, fertilized egg, or embryo. Black women were overwhelmingly the targets of pregnancy criminalization in the first several decades after Roe.”

Chemical endangerment legal guidelines and different fetal personhood legal guidelines are nonetheless in impact in these 15 states and can possible goal much more pregnant folks with out the protections of Roe. Final 12 months, Georgia grew to become the primary state to move a fetal personhood regulation after the Supreme Courtroom’s choice in Dobbs, which overturned Roe.

“The Dobbs decision basically flung open the gates for these types of criminalizations to continue and increase,” Rivera mentioned. “Unless we do something about it, this is unfortunately going to be the trend.”

Head right here to learn the Being pregnant Justice report in full.

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