Home / Dave Brockington / Criminalizing Gender: Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama Editions

Criminalizing Gender: Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama Editions


While yesterday provided a significant victory for progressive politics (and general ‘right thing to do’-ness), the forces of moral fascism reactionary citizenry continue unabated.

In Kansas, a new licensing law for abortion providers has passed, under the ruse of establishing “safety standards” in a state described by the head of Operation Rescue as “the Wild West for abortionists for as long as anyone can remember.”

There are precisely three providers in the entire state.

For now.  It’s absurd to imply that providers do not conduct business in line with professional standards of care, and this isn’t about that, obviously.

“These requirements range from the impossible to the absurd,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re not designed to protect patient safety; they’re designed to shut down abortion providers.”

And of course, safety standards will be somewhat difficult to enforce when reproductive freedom is criminalized.

Moving south, The Guardian has a good piece describing “the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception.”

In Mississippi, this takes the guise of a law that makes miscarriages suspect under “depraved-heart murder” of the unborn foetus, which carries a mandatory life sentence.  In one Mississippi case, the defense

have argued before Mississippi’s highest court that her prosecution makes no sense. Under Mississippi law it is a crime for any person except the mother to try to cause an abortion.  “If it’s not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is,” Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer asked the state supreme court.

In Alabama, the “criminal endangerment law”, originally passed with the goal of protecting the children of hobbyists running meth labs, has been employed in prosecutions not consistent with the original intent of the state legislature.  The most grotesque case discussed in the article is that of Amanda Kimbrough, who

is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down’s syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

So here we have a woman, faced with a probable Down’s baby, who rejected termination as she doesn’t believe in abortion.  Not exactly the archtype target of such legislation, yet her case is before a higher Alabama court on appeal.

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