Scott Lemieux, among many many other bloggers, has written reams about the inconsistent way in which pro-lifers equate fetuses with babies. Another example jumped out at me from this pandagon thread about the trend towards equating “fetal abuse,” the mistreatment of your pregnant body, with child abuse, the mistreatment of a child.
The reasoning behind the idea of fetal abuse is chilling, since the pregnant woman is reduced to a pregnant body. Worse than that, really, since a pregnant body can still be said to exist for its own sake and to deserve protection of its own health. This new construction of pregnancy turns it into something that happens only to the fetus. A woman’s body is nothing but a means to influence the fetus, and her life on every level is subsumed. If the medical needs of the pregnant body conflict with the medical needs of the fetus, she loses.
The analogy was repeated in various forms throughout the thread. Ingesting controlled or harmful substances during pregnancy is compared to feeding your child drugs:
OK. Then step up to the responsibility, and when one of your sisters fries her baby with smack, treat her the same way you’d treat a man who fries a baby with smack.
That being said, you are just dead wrong on this issue. If a woman endangers the life of her baby (yes, I think it’s a baby before it’s born) and it dies (pre or post birth) as a result of her actions such as excessive drinking, drug use, etc. she should be prosecuted for manslaughter.
This does nothing to diminish a woman’s right to anything. If you choose to have a baby, you are obligated to protect that baby to the best of your ability. Look at the way everyone ranted and raved when Steve Irwin held his baby while feeding a crocodile. Hey, it’s his baby but he can do what he wants right? Similarly Michael Jackson was castigated for holding his child over the balcony of a hotel. Lots of people are prosecuted all the time for child endangerment. Killing your child even if it was through actions done before it actually passed through the birth canal should be punishable by law just as if you killed it through neglect after it was born.
If you fail to feed your child adequately, you are guilty of child abuse. If you fail to seek medical treatment for your child when your child is sick, you are guilty of child abuse. If you hurt your child, you are guilty of child abuse. If you do not supervise your child such that your child’s life is in danger, you are guilty of child abuse. When the crime is not child abuse but “fetal abuse,” however, none of the criminalized acts are things done to the fetus. They are things that the woman does to herself. If you feed yourself drugs, you are feeding drugs to a child. If you drink, you are forcing alcohol on a child.
So a pregnant woman who leaned out too far over a balcony would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. A pregnant woman who exposed herself to injury–say by working with wild animals–would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. A pregnant woman who didn’t eat well or ate too little or failed to take care of her body in any number of other ways would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. A pregnant woman who failed to seek pre-natal care would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. A pregnant woman who did not seek medical treatment for any health problem would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. A pregnant woman who refused any medical treatment or advice that might save her health or maintain her healthy pregnancy would be guilty of endangering her child’s life. She would be a criminal if she failed to safeguard her own body, and liable for any harm that might translate to her child, because there’s no difference between her body and the body belonging to her child.
And yet, the commenters on the pandagon thread continually resisted any claim that they were in fact interested in treating pregnant women as criminals if they failed to take adequate care of their fetuses. It makes perfect sense to see a pregnant woman with a drug habit as no different from a woman who feeds drugs to a child, but it’s ridiculous to say that a pregnant woman who fails to take care of herself is similar to a woman who neglects her child’s basic needs. No one–no one!–wants to curtail the liberties of pregnant women! No one is arguing that they should bear a burden for abuse and neglect of the future child comparable to the one parents bear for the sake of their current children. Apparently, so long as you aren’t a heroin addict, you’re a good mommy. This is obviously not a discussion of child abuse.