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Are We Living in a Pregnancy Police State?

If you’re pregnant (or you ever have been) you know them well: The Pregnancy Police. They’re not an official group, of course, but they’re a big one, with big mouths and agendas they’re unable to keep to themselves. They’ll tell you what to eat and what (not) to drink.  They’ll warn you about what might cause your baby irreparable harm, while you’re gestating and after he’s born.

While butting into the pregnancies of strangers is a long held tradition, a few incidents lately have taken this behavior to a new level.  Take the ousting of a pregnant woman from a Chicago bar last week. She wasn’t drinking, she was there for pizza and company. But the bouncer said she couldn’t stay because a pregnant woman might get hurt just by being there.

This is an example of what some say is a new trend: the “citizen’s arrest” of pregnant women, in which a regular old person—not a pregnancy expert, and certainly not a medical professional with experience or authority to advise pregnant women about their safety—tries to control a pregnant woman’s behavior.

Has it ever happened to you?

It’s happening more and more, according to Jodi Jacobson at Truthout. Some of the most major offenders, Jacobson says, are pharmacists, who refuse to fill prescriptions for women they suspect may be terminating pregnancies. Or to fill prescriptions for medications they decide might not be safe during pregnancy, despite the fact that the pregnant woman’s doctor has prescribed said medications. The Citizen’s Arrest and Pregnancy Police are a huge issue from a women’s rights’ perspective. Jacobson explains why:

“It may not land you in jail, but it handcuffs you in various ways, circumscribing your actions, limiting the public space in which you can participate, sometimes affecting your livelihood. It takes away the right to move about in the world just like everyone else (read: men). And it goes beyond pregnancy to include breastfeeding, medical care, and any and all other actions the male half of the population takes for granted as their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In recent weeks, a series of seemingly unrelated actions taken by private citizens, business, and corporations has shown just how emboldened private actors have become in deputizing themselves in policing women.”

I see this interference into the lives of pregnant women as an extension of the fetal rights campaign. Once pregnant, women become vessels carrying the next generation, and their rights become secondary to the safety of the fetus.This is problematic in itself, and becomes more so when you consider the number of perceived risks and the possibilities for interpreting these as cause for policing. When can we trust pregnant women to make the best choices for their babies—and themselves?

Read the rest of Jacobson’s fascinating (if somewhat terrifying) piece here.

photo: Incognito2020/flickr

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