Arrested for Having a Miscarriage? 7 Appalling Instances Where Pregnant Women Were Criminalized

It does not really matter whether a woman is pro- or anti-abortion. In states like Tennessee, with its freshly passed anti-abortion amendment, you can be arrested for having a miscarriage.


An alarming number of women are being arrested, prosecuted and jailed just for losing their pregnancies. In addition to anti-abortion measures, you can thank the advance of “personhood” fights for embryos, fetuses and even fertilized eggs for that.

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Lynn M. Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women offer up some of the most egregious cases of the criminalization of pregnant women. "Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week,” they write. “This significant increase coincides with what the Guttmacher Institute describes as a 'seismic shift' in the number of states with laws hostile to abortion rights.”

Here are their six most horrifying examples, with lots more to come.

1. A critically ill, 27-year-old Washington D.C. woman was 26 weeks pregnant when a judge ordered her to have a Cesarean section. He did so with the understanding that the procedure would very likely kill her. It did. The baby died as well.

2. A pregnant woman in Iowa fell down a flight of stairs and went to the hospital. The hospital reported her to the police who arrested her for “attempted fetal homicide.”

3. A Utah woman gave birth to twins, one of which was stillborn. Her doctors blamed the death on her decision to delay a C-section. She was arrested for fetal homicide.

4. A Louisiana woman checked in to a hospital due to vaginal bleeding. She was locked up for a year on charges of “second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.”

5. A Florida woman “was held prisoner at a hospital to prevent her from going home while she appeared to be experiencing a miscarriage. She was forced to undergo a Cesarean.” She still lost the baby, and her two small children at home were left without her while she was held. A state court ruled that this detention was wrong, although it would have been fine if she was further along in her pregnancy.

6. Another Florida woman who went into labor at home was picked up by a sheriff, driven to the hospital and forced to have a Cesarean against her will. She filed suit, and the court concluded that the woman’s personal constitutional rights “clearly did not outweigh the interests of the State of Florida in preserving the life of the unborn child.”

7. A severely depressed, pregnant 22-year-old woman in South Carolina tried to commit suicide. She was jailed for child abuse.

This does not count all the women who have been arrested for drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs.

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