Mar. 4th, 2007

lurkitty: (Pogo)
Amber Abreu is waiting for a coroner's report. The medical examiner in Lawrence, MA, has been asked to determine if the fetus she aborted on January 6 was more than 24 weeks old. If so, the 18 year old will be charged with homicide.

Ms. Abreu is already facing charges under an arcane Massachusetts law for "unlawfully procuring a miscarriage. The text of the law is under the cut. )

This is a nineteenth century law that was never stricken from the books when abortion became legal, and has rarely been used in recent years. Nonetheless, prosecutors have used it to confine Ms. Abreu for three days while her impoverished family came up with some $15,000 bail.

Ms. Abreu's story is a familiar one. She is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, pregnant by a boyfriend who deserted her to return there. She says she has irregular periods and used a home pregnancy test that gave a false negative reading, so did not know she was pregnant until she felt something moving. Her family is poor, and she did not want to ask her mother for the $200 it would cost to have a clinic abortion. So she used Cytotec, and anti-ulcer medication freely available in the Dominican Republic, to self-induce a miscarriage. The fetus, at 1 1/4 pounds was not viable, and lived for four days.

It's not a question of whether Ms. Abreu will be charged with a crime, it's a question of adding manslaughter or homicide charges to the charge she is already facing.

The notable injustice of such anti-abortion laws is that they are, ultimately, sexist. The woman carries the entire burden of the risk of pregnancy. Her sexual partner, who shared in creating the fetus, suffers no such risk. It is a certainty that Ms. Abreu's partner will not be charged, but his departure left Ms. Abreu without the resources to raise a child and contributed to the her need to abort the fetus. Even more fundamentally, had he not participated in the initial sex act, Ms. Abreu would not have been pregnant. There is no provision for the men who impregnate women who have abortions to fall prey to laws against abortion. The woman assumes all the risk, all the blame and all the punishment for a sex act that originally involved two people.

A second problem is that the decision on charges rests on time rather than viability of the infant in question. The fetus was proven not viable. How can it be called homicide, manslaughter or whatever if the fetus is so completely dependent on the mother it cannot survive outside the womb? During pregnancy, the fetus survives at the pleasure of the host. In no other instance do we require, under penalty of felony criminal conviction, that a person allow another organism to feed off of their very life essence. Given that abortion is still safer than full-term pregnancy, when women ask for control of reproductive rights, they are asking for no less than the right to say yes or no to dying so that another person can live. Given appropriate medical, social and financial support, it has been found that most women will take the risk. The drop in abortion rates experienced during the Clinton Administration was due not to lack of access but lack of perceived need. Women felt they have a strong network of support and could raise a potential child.

Finally, it is appalling that, while abortion is still legal, it is not fully accessible to poor women. Amber Abrue stated that she did not have the $200 for a legal abortion, and she was afraid to go to her family for the money. This is a medical procedure, and unless deemed illegal, should be treated as such. There is no justification for withholding federal funding for clinics that provide abortion services. Since that service is available to women who are not poor, it is discrimination, plain and simple, and women are suffering because of it. It is fundamentally unjust to restrict access to abortions for poor women on the one hand, and then arrest them for trying to obtain them by other means.

Every woman deserves the right to decide for herself what happens to her body. Even if you would not choose abortion yourself, please allow others the right to make that choice for themselves.

A great analysis of the case by irishwitch is available at DailyKOS.

See if your state supports a woman's right to choose.


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