In March, Fox network’s news anchor Bill O’Reilly reported on Utah’s Melissa Ann Rowland.
In January, a doctor at a Salt Lake City hospital told Rowland she should have an emergency C-section if she wanted to save the life of one of the twins she was carrying. Rowland delayed, but eleven days later had the C-section and one of the babies was born dead. An autopsy showed the baby would probably have lived had the C-section been performed when the doctor ordered it. Prosecutors in Utah charged Rowland with first-degree murder, citing "depraved indifference to human life." Police immediately imprisoned Rowland and held her on $300,000 bail.
National Organization for Women President
Kim Gandy stated, "Rowland's incarceration was inhumane treatment, our
legal system recognizes every person's ‘bodily integrity’ and the right
to make your own medical decisions."
O’Reilly clearly states the Pro-Life perspective. The Roman Catholic/Christian fundamentalist fixed-in-cement theology demands that the only morally correct view is life begins at conception, thus the fertilized egg/zygote/fetus is a human baby. Abortion or any damage to that potential human life is murder.
Effectively, the pregnant woman is a human incubator and has no rights. The only rights are the rights of the innocent fetus who is presumed to be a baby.
But step back and consider the broadening implications of this fixed-in-concrete theology. The Boston Globe’s Ellen Goodman asks us to consider Amber Marlowe, for example. “In January, this mother also refused to have a C-section. A Pennsylvania hospital got a court order to perform the operation. But after she and her husband fled to another hospital, she delivered the baby normally.”
Or consider Angela Carder. “In 1987, when Carder was pregnant and critically ill with cancer, the doctors in her Washington hospital got a court order to try to save her fetus. Mother and fetus died in surgery.”
Today, pregnancy comes with an expanding list of dos and don'ts. No, to liquor and smoking. Yes, to vitamins and folic acid. Yes, to good cheese, no, to bad cheese. The mother is effectively “put on notice” of her liability if she makes a mistake and baby just happens to have an unhealthy birth or is stillborn. What atmosphere does this create for women desirous of becoming mothers?
In a country where one in four births are by C-section, is a doctor’s opinion to carry the force of law? What if a doctor decided on fetal heart surgery? Would it be murder if a pregnant woman said no?
The real conflict has become between the pregnant woman’s choice and the raw power of the state acting on Pro-Life inspired legislation to force a pregnant woman to go under the knife. Indeed, Rowland didn't refuse a C-section; she delayed it. She had the C-section 11 days later in another hospital. One twin was born alive and one was stillborn. Rowland may have made a bad decision. But to the theologically driven Pro-Life legislation, a bad decision or accidental slip equals murder.
No court has ever ruled that one person can be forcibly operated on for the benefit of another. The law cannot demand that you give up your kidney or bone marrow or even blood to save another life. Nor does it charge you with murder if you refuse.
Yet, only a pregnant woman loses the right to question doctor’s recommendation. Pro-Life legislation refuses the pregnant woman’s right to make medical decisions for herself and her fetus?
Melissa Ann Rowland is no poster child for maternity. But if she could be charged with murder, then every pregnant woman is put on notice that she will be watched, monitored, and doctored by the Pro-Life police state. Who will decide if a miscarriage is natural or the fault of a negligent mother?
Will the Pro-Life GOP make every pregnancy a crime waiting to happen? Or will someone stand up and charge the GOP Pro-Lifers with “depraved indifference” to the pregnant woman’s life and right to choose?
GOP candidates say they favor limited government, but the Pro-Life legislation they propose is anything but limited. It is invasive in the extreme, a modern day Inquisition where any misstep has the potential of justifying an accusation of murder and jail time. Is this the atmosphere America wants for its mothers to be?
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