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Local News

Abortion Bans Threaten Jail Time for Pregnant People

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Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, pregnant people could now be sent to prison if they experience a miscarriage or stillbirth. Advocates for abortion access, like the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), have been tracking cases where pregnant people were charged with a crime because of a miscarriage or stillbirth. NAPW found that between 1973 and 2020, there were over 1,700 cases where pregnant women were arrested and prosecuted because of a miscarriage or abortion, with 1,331 of those cases happening after 2006. Defenders of abortion bans note that nearly all of the laws say that a parent cannot be charged for getting an abortion. However, NAPW has shown that police and prosecutors are using related laws to put parents who experience a miscarriage in prison anyways. Recently, an Alabama woman was charged with manslaughter after being shot in the stomach and losing her pregnancy. Another woman in Iowa was charged with feticide after she fainted and fell down the stairs. Women have also been jailed for “abusing a corpse” and “hiding a birth” when they didn’t follow the correct reporting procedure after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

In Georgia, the 2019 abortion ban, often referred to by the medically inaccurate name “heartbeat bill,” is set to go into effect now that Roe has been overturned The bill allows “for the jailing of women who seek abortion after this time period” and also “would allow for women deemed responsible for their own miscarriages to be sentenced for second-degree murder.” Medical professionals say that the bill “defies science, since it’s impossible to determine the cause of an early miscarriage.” Between 10 and 25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, but medical professionals are not able to tell the cause of first trimester miscarriages, and often cannot pinpoint a cause even in later term miscarriages or stillbirths.