Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why Bill Was Right to Oppose Birth Certificates for Stillbirths

If Richardson wants the vote of the majority of Americans, who are pro-choice, then he needs to be consistent in his support of reproductive rights. That's why his decision on this seemingly-uncontroversial bill was particularly astute.

If it makes grieving women feel better, then why not just issue the certificates? Well, because we have to weigh the comfort some women may receive from the certificate against the rights of all women. Requiring state-issued birth certificates for stillborn fetuses is a vital part of the anti-choice movement’s strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade by slowly and systematically assigning to fetuses rights that supercede the rights of women.

In the Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is not a “person,” unlike the grown person whose body is hosting the fetus. It should make perfect sense that a woman is entitled to protection under the 14th Amendment, whereas a fertilized egg is not, and that we cannot take rights away from women simply because they have the fortune (or misfortune) of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, all that information is just blah blah blah when mainstream media focus on the heartbreak of stillbirth, quoting grieving women who want birth certificates to acknowlege their loss.

Yes, it is miserably heartbreaking to lose a child, but it’s also a misery to be forced to have a child against your will. And that’s where this whole birth-certificates-for-stillborns thing is going.

According to National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy, “…If they can convince the Supreme Court that ‘times have changed’ since Roe was decided and that a fetus should now be recognized as a "person" under the Constitution, then abortion would immediately become an act of murder in every state across the country. …And once a fetus is considered a "person" under the U.S. Constitution, no legislation, no ballot measure, no court case, no vote will be able to keep abortion legal in this country."

In the effort to overturn Roe by establishing the fetus as a person, anti-choice activists have been pushing all kinds of laws, on state and federal levels, that attempt to give rights to fetuses, while infringing on the rights of women. Gandy cites several examples:

1) The Bush administration added new regulations to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) in 2002 that classified a fertilized egg as an "unborn child" eligible for health insurance. They said the change was needed to cover prenatal care — but it was really just "cover" for another fetal personhood initiative. (In fact, the Clinton administration had covered prenatal care under S-CHIP without regulations establishing that an embryo is a child.) The same year, Bush told the Advisory Commission on Human Research Protections (under the Department of Health and Human Services) in 2002 to consider embryos as "human subjects."

2) In 2004, Bush signed into law the so-called "Unborn Victims Of Violence Act," which amended federal criminal laws to create a second, separate offense for killing or injuring a "child in utero," thus transforming even a fertilized egg or zygote into a child — a person — under that federal law. Although the stated purpose was to protect pregnant women from violence, conservatives in Congress quickly killed a substitute that would have doubled the penalty for any crime against a pregnant woman. This law covers only crimes committed on federal land, so it has limited actual application — it's just another step in the march toward fetal personhood.

3) Prosecutors across the country are using child abuse and neglect statutes to criminally charge women for actions that potentially harm the fetus, claiming for example that pregnant women were "delivering" drugs to "minor children" through their umbilical cords.

4) In 2005 and 2006, three bills were introduced in Congress that would severely punish doctors unless they tell women seeking abortions (contrary to medical knowledge) that "your unborn child" will feel pain in "the process of being killed in an abortion," offer her anesthesia for the fetus, and get a signed statement that she received the information. This so-called "fetal pain" bill was narrowly defeated in the closing days of the 109th Congress, but is already on tap for the 110th.

“Taken together with the appointments of two anti-woman Supreme Court Justices and several anti-woman chiefs and advisors to key entities such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA Advisory Panel on Women's Health,” Gandy says, “these affronts to women's rights comprise a substantial undertaking—an organized effort to supply the Supreme Court with an abundance of references for an argument that fetal personhood should be legally recognized. Every state and federal measure that calls embryos and fetuses ‘children,’ unborn or otherwise, is a resource in the right-wing's ‘Roe-Be-Gone’ reservoir, waiting to be tapped. I'll say it again: Don't be chastened by those who say ‘it's just semantics.’ Words matter in the law, and in the case of fetal personhood, they may matter a lot more than you think.”

For a complete analysis of fetal personhood, check out the writings of Joyce Allen, a Canadian pro-choice writer and publisher.
(posted by Gwyneth Doland)


Julia said...

Thanks for clearing that up!

Joanne said...

Bill is not only out of touch with reality, but so are you...feminists are SUPPORTING this. In what world are you living?

For immediate release May 17, 2007

Feminists Groups Finally Hear the Cries of Women Experiencing Stillbirth

Pro-choice groups dropping opposition to the MISSing Angels Bill

Since 2001, MISS Foundation's volunteers in various states have faced opposition

to the MISSing Angels Bill from various pro-choice groups concerned by the

proposed legislation. It has taken years and years of education, tenacity, and

outcry: finally, the united voices of mothers of stillborn babies is being

heard. Stateline, one of the internet's most esteemed sources of political news, has

published an article on the MISS Foundation's efforts with the MISSing Angels

Bill. In the article, representatives from both state and national pro-choice

groups are cited stating they would support or at the least remain neutral on

these legislative efforts:

""We are not opposing these bills. We are an organization that seeks to protect

women's ability to make their own choices throughout their pregnancy. If they

want to have a certificate of stillbirth, we support them," said Sondra

Goldschein of the ACLU in the Stateline article. The reporter continues

"Representatives of national abortion-rights organizations, including the

Guttmacher Institute, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood

Federation of America, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and NARAL

Pro-Choice America told they take a neutral position on the

stillborn birth-certificate issue."

"We are hopeful that the remaining 31 states will pass with relative ease now

that the opposition has changed their positions," said Joanne Cacciatore, CEO of

the MISS Foundation and a social scientist who studies the effects of stillbirth

on women. "It is important for many, many women from an emotional,

psychological, and epidemiological perspective...and this is about advocating

for these mothers."

Cacciatore notes that this paradigm shift in attitudes toward stillborn babies

comes, in large part, as a result of a cooperative social movement between the

MISS Foundation and other grassroots groups that provide support and resources

to families experiencing infant and child death. "We are not going away,"

Cacciatore continues. "We are prepared to take our stand. It is the least we

can do for these children and their families." You can read the entire article here:

You can also watch the MISS Foundation's provocative, public service

announcement intended to raise awareness and educate opposition on this

legislative effort:

For more information you can visit or for support after a

child's death visit


caz said...

The Editorial Staff do not understand the issue, nor do they understand the definition of stillbirth (fetal death).
"Fetal death means death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy and which is not an induced termination of pregnancy. The death is indicated by the fact that after such expulsion or extraction, the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles."
The issuance of a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth in no way takes away a woman's right to choose as stillbirth is an unintended death.
Perhaps the Editorial Staff can be better educated if they were to sit down with the parents of stillborn children and listen to their stories.