The state of Oklahoma is set to pass a law that would protect pregnant women against murder charges if they kill to protect their unborn child(ren). Legislators pushing for the bill (which passed the state’s house this week and soon will hit the senate, where it is expected to pass) cite a case in which a Michigan woman, pregnant with quadruplets, killed her boyfriend after he punched her in the belly. The woman was charged with manslaughter; she lost the pregnancy as well.
Now, I don’t know about you but I would have no problem using maximum force if someone threatened me while pregnant, or if they threatened one of my children. That said, I’m not sure a new law is needed — I would use force to defend myself or my kids whether I was currently pregnant or not. The only purpose such a law could serve would be to make the Oklahoma legislature appear to care deeply about women facing domestic abuse while pregnant (which is a real problem), and to create a back-door justification for future legislation targeting women who do anything while pregnant that could be perceived as harmful to a fetus. So if you’re comfortable with the idea of fining or jailing women for failing to take their prenatals, then you should support this law. Otherwise, it’s really just a waste of lawmakers’ time at best, a cynical and sneaky anti-choice move at worst.
Sadly, many women are beaten when pregnant (though it’s not always or even often because they “refuse to abort their child,” as argued by Representative Mike Thompson). I’m all in favor of toughening laws and procedures to help protect women from domestic violence. As for mistreatment that happens specifically to pregnant women, heck, let’s see if we can rectify some of the worst abuses they face now, like expensive or nonexistent medical care, the inability to find a private health insurer who will cover them, or the lack of a federallly mandated paid maternity leave? Advocacy for those goals would help moms and babies more than this silly bill ever could.
So yeah, I’d probably kill to protect my unborn baby. But I’d fight any law — like this one — whose actual goal isn’t to help pregnant women, but to hurt them.
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