Posts Tagged reproductive rights
This story is making the rounds of the leftosphere:
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.
St. Thomas More is a Catholic hospital and member of Catholic Health Initiatives, which is the lead defendant in the wrongful-death suit. The framing of the story is about CHI’s defense:
But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.
That’s where all the attention is going on this story: it’s so hypocritical of CHI to claim “fetuses are not persons” when the Church’s usual position is to twist women’s health into pretzel shapes in honor of their embryos. In an abstract moral sense, this is a valid point and it’s worthy of discussion, but in a legal sense, this is hardly news. When you’re getting sued for a large amount of money, your defense has nothing to do with your own principles and everything to do with how the fact pattern relates to the law. As far as the law is concerned, CHI’s lawyers are simply doing their jobs. It is not the legal defense team’s responsibility to uphold the Catholic Church’s stance on unborn life. We could say that it’s hypocritical of CHI to let their defense team make the argument that fetuses are not persons, but this is the sort of thing that goes on in lawsuits. They do what it takes to win.
What I think is much more significant to the case, and in much more pressing need of discussion, is the fact that the hospital had to page an obstetrician and wait for him to arrive at the hospital when a pregnant woman was having a lethal health crisis. If Dr. Staples had come to the hospital quick as he could, then, sure, they might have saved Lori Stodghill and/or her twins. However, if there had been an OB and anesthesiologist already on-deck, they might have also saved Lori and/or her 7-months-gestation twin boys. If we’re going to make this case a matter of fetus-worshipping hypocrisy, we should be asking why St. Thomas More Hospital didn’t step up their game by having a surgical team available on the OB floor at all times. Surely, the cost of having those professionals on hand would be a bargain if it sent a few more healthy babies home with their parents.
Once we get started down that road, we see that St. Thomas More is far from alone in making pregnant women with emergent crises wait for a doctor to arrive from home. ACOG’s position on VBAC, for example, recommends (but does not require) that expectant parents and their providers seek hospitals with immediately available staff to perform an emergency c-section if they’re pursuing a TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean). The fact that many hospitals do not have that immediately available staff means that many post-cesarean mothers are unable to find care for vaginal births in later pregnancies. Even putting aside the question of birthing options for healthy mothers, the fact remains that many hospitals do not have surgical staff available at all times to handle obstetrical emergencies. Surely, a 7-months-pregnant woman having a heart attack qualifies as an emergency that warrants having a surgical team immediately available.
This, in my opinion, is a much more significant issue than the way CHI is handling a lawsuit. The larger issue is that our healthcare system is inconsistent about handling obstetrical emergencies. If a hospital does not have a surgical team immediately available at all hours, that hospital does not provide emergency obstetrical care. If there are no hospitals in a given area that meet ACOG’s recommendation of “surgical staff immediately available in the maternity ward at all times,” then the childbearing women of that area do not have access to emergency obstetrical care. Life-threatening emergencies happen to pregnant women at all hours of the day and night.
The latest faux pas comes from Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, who, I am not joking, has defended Todd Akin, of all people. Here’s the thing: if you defend Todd Akin, you deserve to be kicked out of office and run out of town on a rail. There’s no ambiguity about this. There is nothing defensible about Todd Akin, and Gingrey has just marked himself as more of the same, because he seems to think that we didn’t hear Akin the first time:
and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that.
This shit keeps happening. First we had Todd Akin saying a “legitimate rape” can’t establish a pregnancy, so there’s no such thing as a rape exception for abortion law. Then we had Roger Rivard telling us how “some girls rape easy,” and we can’t trust a young woman who reports a rape. Now we have Richard Mourdock explaining very earnestly how there can be no rape exception because pregnancy by rape is God’s intention. We have all these Republican Congressional candidates saying these horrifying things about rape, pregnancy and women’s reproductive freedom, and they all think that if they just explain themselves a little harder, then we’ll see they’re decent guys who don’t hate women at all.
They are mistaken. Their further explanations merely dig them deeper into that hole.
Indiana candidate Mourdock has put himself in the national spotlight with this business:
Mourdock was asked during the final minutes of a debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
He replied: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.”
“I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”
You may have heard some buzzing about how Mitt Romney’s oldest son Tagg and his wife Jennifer got their twin boys from a surrogacy agreement that included an abortion clause:
“If in the opinion of the treating physician or her independent obstetrician there is potential physical harm to the surrogate, the decision to abort or not abort is to be made by the surrogate.”
“In the event the child is determined to be physiologically, genetically or chromosomally abnormal, the decision to abort or not to abort is to be made by the intended parents. In such a case the surrogate agrees to abort, or not to abort, in accordance with the intended parents’ decision.”
And since Grampa Mitt is running on a pro-forced-birth campaign, everyone is making an issue of this, like this Means Something for the anti-choice movement. It is arguably relevant that Mitt helped pay for the surrogacy arrangement, but let’s put that aside for a moment.
The problem is, according to the attorney who drafted the agreement, the abortion clause wasn’t supposed to be there:
We’ve learned Tagg chose the same surrogate in 2009, who gave birth to a boy. Attorney Bill Handel — a nationally-known expert in surrogacy law who put the deal together between Tagg and the surrogate — tells TMZ when the 2009 contract was drafted there was no Paragraph 13 providing for abortion because Tagg and his wife didn’t want it.
Handel says in 2011, when the second contract was being drafted, everyone involved “just forgot” to remove Paragraph 13. Handel says, “No one noticed. What can I say?”
To be honest—we all know I’m a rabid baby-eating pro-choicer around here, right?—I find it more disturbing that they didn’t have the abortion clause in their surrogacy agreement in 2009. What would’ve happened if the surrogate had developed dangerous pregnancy complications? They couldn’t have stopped her from getting an abortion, but they probably would’ve had grounds to penalize her for it. I’m not coming to this story from the point of view of a lawyer or ethicist, or any expert in gestational surrogacy, just as someone with a generalized awareness of the ugly shit that can happen in a pregnancy and the potential for exploitation in any reproduction-related arrangement. I don’t think gestational surrogacy is inherently unethical or exploitative*, but it has a wide range of potential for unethical and exploitative practices, and there’s a delicate balancing act in an ethical surrogacy agreement.
While the “every sperm is sacred” amendment is clever, I would like to propose something that can actually be enforced, and which would give the legislators in question a chance to put their love of children into practice. It would be an answer to this question here:
Between the years of 1907 and 2008, only 77 women have been elected to the Oklahoma state legislature, and currently less than 20 is serving out of a total 149. But who better to pass laws about women’s bodies than a group of men who will never have to worry about the consequences of their religious zealotry?
Who says they won’t have to worry about the consequences of their religious zealotry?
The next time a state legislature is frothing up one of these “defeat the scourge of women who are not perennially pregnant” bills, let’s attach an amendment that creates the following conditions:
1. The state will allow for Safe Haven dropoffs of infants up to 30 days. The state will similarly provide special shelters for homeless pregnant women and girls.
2. The state will release to the public the home addresses of all the state lawmakers who voted Yes on the bill.
3. All of those lawmakers’ homes will be considered Safe Haven zones for unwanted newborns AND special shelters for pregnant women and girls facing parental rejection, domestic violence and extreme poverty. Those homes will be held legally responsible for the safe placement of all newborns left at their doors and for the provision of shelter, food, clothing, medical care and protection from violent partners for all pregnant females seeking assistance.
You think babies are so awesome that women should be legally forced to gestate and birth indefinitely? They’ll be coming (both the women and the babies) to your doorstep. Have plenty of beds ready.
The Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011
restricts sex-selection abortion and race-selection abortion, and the coercion of a woman to obtain either. The woman seeking an abortion is exempted from prosecution, while abortion providers are held to account.
Right. There’s a real epidemic of abortion providers rounding up pregnant women and coercing them into aborting their female and/or black fetuses. Sure.
The use of Frederick Douglass’s name in the bill’s title, however, is especially hilarious. From what I recall of his writing, the rape and forced breeding of enslaved women was one of the horrors of slavery that he set out to expose. I don’t think he would have been on-board with this legislative hand-wringing over black women having too much abortion access.
I’ll say it again: Trent Franks does not care about black people!
Anna North at Jezebel shares with us this charming quote from Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of Personhood USA:
Increasingly, the American people are being treated paternalistically by a government, media and public sector elite that stands in direct opposition to our traditional American values.
Using the courts as its instrument, this American elite has emasculated a once independent America.
The “American people” here apparently does not include women who are or may become pregnant, or pro-choicers of any description. “Traditional American values” means women must live and die at the mercy of sperm-meets-egg. The distinction between “the American people,” meaning those who oppose reproductive freedom, and the “American elite,” referring to those who trust women to plan their own families, is useful in parsing the “emasculated” bit.
If masculinity is defined as having a certain relationship to women, specifically as being in control of them, them it makes perfect sense to view reproductive rights as emasculation. The right to effective contraceptives and safe abortion gives women a degree of control over their lives that allows them to approach their relationships with men on their own terms. It helps women finish their education, travel, work as many hours as they need, advance their careers, and put money in savings. It gives women the autonomy to make plans for the future, which may or may not include any particular partner. It means a woman can date, or not, sleep around, or not, and enter a committed relationship, or not. While leaving an abusive relationship tends to be complicated no matter what, it is far more feasible for a woman who isn’t pregnant or caring for a small child. It won’t protect her from rape, but it prevents a rapist from forcing her into motherhood.
Ergo, yes, contraceptives and abortion do reduce men’s ability to keep women under control. If “manhood” means the females are at your mercy and “independence” means you can force them to bear your children, then, yes, birth control is emasculation.
What a harsh, joyless view of life that is, to say a man isn’t really a man unless he gets to push a woman around.
I’m hearing on Twitter right now that the Personhood Initiative is losing in Mississippi. I guess a whole lot of MS men are more secure in their masculinity than the dudes at Personhood USA.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Hutchinson had been dating the woman for several months in 2006, and she had made it clear she did not want to get pregnant. The couple used condoms almost all the time.
In the summer of that year, the woman was thinking of ending the relationship.
Hutchinson thought if she got pregnant, their relationship would be saved, the court heard, so he poked a pin in all the condoms she had.
The woman, whose identity is protected by court order, did become pregnant.
But when Hutchinson confessed what he had done in a series of text messages, she called the RCMP and had him charged.
Let’s go over this again: he thought that if she became pregnant, their relationship would be saved.
I don’t need to tell you all why that’s wrong, right? I don’t need to explain why deliberately making a woman pregnant when she has clearly communicated that she is uninterested in becoming pregnant is a really shitty thing to do to her, do I?
I just can’t get over how stupid this guy is.
He not only tried to “save” their relationship by committing birth control sabotage on her, but then he told her what he’d done, which suggests that he thought that she would not call the police on him. It may even imply that he believed there would still be a relationship after she found out.
I suppose that sexism causes otherwise smart people to believe stupid things, like, that effectively forcing a woman to become pregnant isn’t such a horrible thing to do to her, because pregnancy is just like carrying someone’s keys in your purse for nine months and giving birth is something that all women are supposed to do anyway.
But…when she’s already said she didn’t want to get pregnant, do you really think she’ll be okay with it if you confess to having sabotaged her birth control? Furthermore, do you do it over text message? Those things can be saved, forwarded and used as evidence, dumbass.
The article says she terminated the pregnancy after she called the RMCP, so…did she intend to keep the baby until she realized she was gestating the progeny of an industrial-strength asshat? I’m trying to picture the scenario in which it seems like a good idea to make this confession via text message. Is she not seeing you face to face? Is she not picking up your calls? And since she won’t allow real-time communication, do you think she’ll suddenly start talking to you again if she finds out she was so important to you that you forced her into a risky, life-altering, potentially disabling condition to make her more dependent on you? Or could you see her IRL any time you want, but you just had a whim to tell her about your reproductive coercion scheme because it seemed like no big deal?
Gee, I can’t imagine why any woman wouldn’t want to have this genius’s babies.