Jennie Linn McCormack, an Idaho woman who terminated her pregnancy using the FDA-approved drug RU486, was criminally prosecuted under an archaic 1972 Idaho law prohibiting women from terminating their own pregnancies. The judge dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence and granted an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of law. The woman tried to stay enforcement of the state’s new law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, but as she was no longer pregnant, the judge found that she did not have standing – basically the right – to bring the case as it no longer affected her.
While it would appear that the Idaho law was superseded by the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, it seems the court did not address that issue.
This case sets a scary precedent and an even scarier future for women and their health. Imagine a country where prosecutors and police examine every pregnancy that does not go to term, interviewing the people around the pregnant woman to determine whether, perhaps, she ended her own pregnancy. With 15 percent to 20 percent of known pregnancies ending in miscarriage, the number of women who would fall under legal scrutiny is staggering.
What, exactly, does a woman terminating her own pregnancy mean? If a pregnant woman lifts a heavy object, and then suffers a miscarriage, is that termination? What if she eats tainted cantaloupe, contracts listeria, and that ends her pregnancy? She ate the cantaloupe, the pregnancy ended.
Will every woman with any pregnancy issues be subject to close scrutiny of what she eats, how much she sleeps, whether she drinks caffeine or is around paint fumes? And why is the law so willing to endow a fetus with more rights and stronger rights than a whole, living, complete woman?
We have not reached the realm of “Brave New World” yet. Fetuses are not grown by mechanical means; in order to develop, they must have a womb. As of this writing, the only place wombs are to be found is inside women’s bodies.
Inside women who are people under the law. Inside women who have constitutional rights to privacy and due process. Women whose bodies belong to them and only to them, and do not belong to society as a whole.
The day is coming when we have a trial for a woman who miscarries, accused of purposefully terminating her pregnancy. And then the day will come when a woman is prosecuted for not making healthy choices during her pregnancy, like not seeking prenatal care or taking vitamins. Such prosecutions, and their subsequent convictions, are already underway for women who use illegal substances during pregnancy.
Women are not mere vessels for the next generation. A woman is a whole human being, regardless of the occupancy status of her uterus. The state of Idaho prosecuted McCormack simply for exercising her constitutional rights, and that should frighten everyone, whether or not you own a uterus.