From The Grio — If you’re wondering why Republicans have been unable to work with Democrats to arrive at a political deal to prevent the American government from going into default, it might be because they’re too busy criminalizing 15-year-old girls for having miscarriages.
You read that correctly. Rennie Gibbs currently faces life in prison in Mississippi over a miscarriage she endured in 2006 when she was 15 years old, and she is not the first to face attempted criminalization of this kind (though she is the first to be charged in Mississippi). Prosecutors are allegedly targeting Gibbs because she has reportedly abused cocaine, but there is no evidence that her drug use contributed to the miscarriage.
Unfortunately, her case is by no means isolated, and in fact marks the continuation of a nationwide trend towards criminalization of pregnant women. Increasingly in the United States and around the world, laws are being created and prosecutions are being brought that would make pregnant women into criminals, many of these women of color like Rennie Gibbs.
Often created by conservative lawmakers, these laws attempt to assign fetuses “personhood” status, devalue pregnant women by reducing their identities to fetus carriers, and punish women for engaging in various behaviors.
Despite their dramatic posturing and elaborate rationalizations, the people driving these prosecutions are not actually concerned with keeping mothers or babies safe. If they were, they wouldn’t ignore the consensus of doctors and leading medical organizations, who have publicly opposed laws like these for years on the grounds that they scare women away from seeking the medical treatment they need and sometimes force doctors to turn in their own patients.
These seeming attempts to promote women’s and children’s health are actually thinly veiled attempts to chip away at abortion rights in this country by reinforcing the idea that unborn fetuses have “rights” and women’s legal identity should be akin to that of a fetus-carrying vessel.
Pregnant women need health care, not jail time. No matter your opinion about abortion, you can probably agree that sending young teenagers to jail for life because they weren’t able to successfully carry a pregnancy to term is a gross distortion of American justice and a terrible idea on its face.
While these laws may be crafted with a strategic intent, the implications are quite practical. Gibbs is really facing the prospect of life in prison. Already a mother, she now awaits a ruling on her appeal. “They say I’m a criminal, how do I answer that? I’m a good mother,” she said in a recent interview.
Surely the irony of threatening to leave three real-life children motherless by putting a young woman behind bars for allegedly endangering an unborn fetus does not escape you.