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How the "Pro-Life" Movement Puts Women Behind Bars

In Alabama, the claim that eggs, embryos and fetuses have separate legal rights has led to the jailing of 60 women.

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They also agree that using the criminal law to address issues of drug use during pregnancy undermines maternal and fetal health by deterring pregnant women from drug treatment, prenatal care, healthcare, and labor and delivery services during pregnancy, which are beneficial to maternal, fetal and child health. Furthermore, these experts maintain that if the lower court opinion is upheld, pregnant women who cannot overcome an addiction in the short term of pregnancy will be encouraged to have unwanted abortions to avoid criminal penalties.

It seems odd then that Marshall County Alabama prosecutor Mitch Floyd, who brings these prosecutions, which are bad for babies and pressure women to have abortions, describes himself on his Facebook campaign page as “a voice for the children, born and unborn.” It is also odd that not a single “pro-life” organization has spoken out against these arrests.

Kathlyn Jean Lopez, author of The Fictional Post-Roe Prison Rush asserts that “[p]rolife legislators and pro-life leaders do not support the prosecution of women.” According to Marjorie Dannenfelser in One Untrue Thing, the goal of laws designed to protect the unborn is the “protection” of women, “not punishment.” And Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has said that the “pro-life movement is not out to punish women.”  

Yet, as new mothers in Alabama are hauled off to jail and their babies denied a mother’s care, there has been no objection from any of these so called pro-life organizations or individuals. 

If it is true that those who support the re-criminalization of abortion and the rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses want to protect pregnant women, rather than prosecute them, now would be a good time to join National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the 47 health and human rights organizations that are speaking out against the prosecution and imprisonment of women in Alabama. 

Emma S. Ketteringham is Director of Legal Advocacy at National Advocates for Pregnant Women .

Lynn Paltrow is Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women .

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