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Do Fetuses Have More Rights Than Women?

Do Fetuses Have More Rights Than Women?

By Dennis Loo (11/9/14)

The following excerpt is from a NYT Op-Ed entitled "Pregnant, and No Civil Rights" by Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin, published on November 7, 2014. The examples they cite, of which these are just a part, are shocking. The authors further point out that these examples are not rare or isolated cases:

Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”

In Utah, a woman gave birth to twins; one was stillborn. Health care providers believed that the stillbirth was the result of the woman’s decision to delay having a cesarean. She was arrested on charges of fetal homicide.

In Louisiana, a woman who went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding was locked up for over a year on charges of second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Florida has had a number of such cases. In one, a woman was held prisoner at a hospital to prevent her from going home while she appeared to be experiencing a miscarriage. She was forced to undergo a cesarean. Neither the detention nor the surgery prevented the pregnancy loss, but they did keep this mother from caring for her two small children at home. While a state court later found the detention unlawful, the opinion suggested that if the hospital had taken her prisoner later in her pregnancy, its actions might have been permissible.

In another case, a woman who had been in labor at home was picked up by a sheriff, strapped down in the back of an ambulance, taken to a hospital, and forced to have a cesarean she did not want. When this mother later protested what had happened, a court concluded that the woman’s personal constitutional rights “clearly did not outweigh the interests of the State of Florida in preserving the life of the unborn child.”

Anti-abortion reasoning has also provided the justification for arresting pregnant women who experience depression and have attempted suicide. A 22-year-old in South Carolina who was eight months pregnant attempted suicide by jumping out a window. She survived despite suffering severe injuries. Because she lost the pregnancy, she was arrested and jailed for the crime of homicide by child abuse.

Women are now involuntary incubators under the law in many states. This is their primary role under the law. Their civil liberties as a person are secondary to their servitude as incubators. The real agenda in this attack on women is not to protect fetuses but to make sure that women are kept in humiliating second-class status. A system that is based in significant part on patriarchy - the dominance of men and boys over females - cannot continue if females have rights that males and the system are expected to honor. Consider what this says about contemporary America. These are not anomolies but a sign of the times.

There is a severe disconnect between what the majority of people think their rights are and what the actual state of affairs is. This account of what has been happening to women in the US is only a part of a larger picture of how malignant US governmental policies towards civil liberties have become. If you are female and/or a minority and/or gay and/or in personal financial trouble and/or homeless and/or act in ways that could by an absurd stretch of reasoning be construed as "terroristic" - such as making a joke or being a whistleblower - watch out because you are subject to arrest, beating, incarceration, judicial or police homicide. That is not hyperbole.

Republican leaders, who are the most overt advocates for this, have crowed that they are going to hold their opponents under water until they drown:

“This is our time, we need to crush it,” [New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer] Horn continued. “We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore, until the elections are over on Tuesday night and we’ve won it all!”

Lest you think this is just an isolated case of extreme language and/or plans, it is not. (The fact that she chose to invoke drowning Democrats is consistent with the GOP's love for waterboarding in which victims are suffocated with water so that they cannot breathe.)

Consider these other examples:

If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!  GOP Rep. Steve King at a 2010 Tea Party Rally opposing the Affordable Healthcare Act in front of Congress

Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion” over our neighborhoods, our schools, our governments, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.  D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries Pastor, at a “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference in February 2005

We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. – A Manifesto from Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation

Treating your political rivals as worthy of being beaten to a pulp and held "over and over again" under water until they drown is the language of people who want their followers whipped into an irrational frenzy. They do not want people thinking. They want people in a furious lather.

As I wrote a year ago ("Reaping What You Sow: the Radical Right, Fascist Norms and the Future"):

A majoritarian white, Christian America that has no (open) homosexuals is in trouble and is being replaced by a more polyglot society. The privileges of this previously majoritarian white culture are being challenged both by more diversity and by neoliberal globalization that is systematically dismantling the historic large middle/working class, Main Street, and small town values. They see their world as they have known it and to some extent romanticized as sliding down the tubes and they are shocked and ready to fight to the end to preserve it. They wrongly see Obama because of his color as their enemy, even though the threat that he poses is independent of the fact of his skin color. Obama is part of the capitalist/imperialist class that the Koch Brothers that fund the extreme right wing are also part of. But for them to see the distinction here would take a genuinely revolutionary force to emerge and contend in the mix here and that revolutionary force is not yet big enough or influential enough to do that.

In the present moment then the Koch Brothers et al are calling the shots and the GOP’s fascist core — its leaders such as Rep. King, Boehner, and its aroused base — are determined to set new terms by which they, no matter how unpopular they are in the country as a whole, call the shots and the Democrats accede to their demands.

It says something very profound about the real character of this country historically as well as at the present moment that a significant minority of its people are so inured to their privileges and entitlements by their skin color especially, that they are prepared to wage another civil war with weapons to defend that. This is a major and core part of what America truly is and has been: it has always been, since the slave trade and the genocide of Native Americans, a racist country. There is no way that real change from that legacy and present day reality can occur without a clash between those who want to defend and preserve that (who celebrate and engage in shooting down hoodie wearing or non-hoodie wearing black people, etc.) and those who want to see a genuinely open, just, and diverse society of equality. This is because the side that wants to defend male white chauvinist privilege has whipped up its followers into such a lather that they can only think in categorical terms of black and white (both literally in terms of skin color and metaphorically in terms of either/or thinking).

The larger context for this is that the imperialist class — which is made up of different races, ethnicities, and both genders although the disproportionate numbers are of course more homogeneous — is in fierce debate among themselves over how best to keep the Empire together. The GOP and the Democrats are in very intense struggle with each other. They both agree that capitalism and Imperialist Empire must continue. Their differences are over whether that should be through open xenophobic racist fascist norms of brute force or a subtler version that includes some people of color and some more superficial diversity and tipping of the hat rhetorically to inclusion, equal opportunity, and sensitivity to diversity.

Obama is trying to both placate these openly fascist forces and he works and colludes with them to further destroy the social safety net and the rule of law. The GOP’s insistence to get their way and bring the economic house crashing down if necessary is fascist in character because they are no longer playing by the rules where a majority gets to have its way and the minority must abide by that. The next step beyond that fascist behavior is clear in the quotes that started this article. Obama and the Democrats refuse to call the GOP out for what is so deadly seriously wrong and fascist about what they’re doing. Obama and the Democrats will never call upon the people to rise up to defend due process and the rule of law and to fight openly against these fascists, because they have more in common with these lunatics than they do with the people as a whole.

The cauldron of contradictions is boiling. The pot is erupting over. The worst is near and burying your head in the ground will only get you annihilated in the storms that are brewing.

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12