Monday, October 18, 2021
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women is drawing attention to an Oklahoma prosecution of a pregnant person last week.
On Tuesday, October 5, Brittney Poolaw, a 20-year-old Oklahoma woman, was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree for experiencing a miscarriage at 17 weeks and sentenced to 4 years in state prison.
Last year, Ms. Poolaw experienced a miscarriage and went to Comanche County Hospital for medical help. On March 17, 2020, she was charged with Manslaughter in the First Degree, arrested and incarcerated. The court set a $20,000 bond, an amount she could not afford. Ms. Poolaw has been incarcerated since her arrest over 18 months ago.
Oklahoma’s murder and manslaughter laws do not apply to miscarriages, which are pregnancy losses that occur before 20 weeks, a point in pregnancy before a fetus is viable (able to survive outside of the womb). And, even when applied to later losses, Oklahoma law prohibits prosecution of the “mother of the unborn child” unless she committed “a crime that caused the death of the unborn child.”
Contrary to all medical science, the prosecutor blamed the miscarriage on Ms. Poolaw’s alleged use of controlled substances. Not even the medical examiner’s report identifies use of controlled substances as the cause of the miscarriage. Even with this lack of evidence, the prosecutor moved forward with the charge. On October 5, after just a one-day trial, Ms. Poolaw was convicted and sentenced to a four year prison term.
Ms. Poolaw’s case is a tragedy. She has suffered the trauma of pregnancy loss, has been jailed for a year and half during a pandemic, and was charged and convicted of a crime without basis in law or science. We are supporting Ms. Poolaw as she explores her legal options, and we are working to ensure that this type of injustice does not happen again. * * *
Ms. Poolaw’s case is just one example of the troubling trend we are documenting in Oklahoma that replaces compassion and respect with criminal prosecution. In recent years, Oklahoma prosecutors, especially in Comanche and Kay Counties but also in Craig, Garfield, Jackson, Pontotoc, Payne, Rogers, and Tulsa counties have been using the State’s felony child neglect law to police pregnant women and to seek severe penalties for those who experience pregnancy losses. This use of prosecutorial discretion directly conflicts with the recommendations of every major medical organization, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which know that such prosecutions actually increase risks of harm to maternal and child health.
Melissa Hemphill wrote a powerful Washington Post Op-Ed on Friday detailing issues with parental rights in military academies. She explains the impossible choices that she and her partner had to make as cadets:
Because we were students at a military academy, Anthony and I were subject to a harsh, antiquated policy that does not allow cadets to have dependents. This meant, and still means, that cadets in our position either must terminate the pregnancy or permanently sever their parental rights to graduate and commission as officers. If Anthony and I wanted to keep our child and our parental rights, we had to resign or face expulsion.
We were determined to honor our commitments to both our future family and the Air Force Academy. But to do so, we had to negotiate a costly and circuitous legal maze.I left the academy for a year and gave birth to Oliver while Anthony remained a cadet and severed his parental rights so that he could graduate. Once he commissioned, he adopted Oliver and I severed my parental rights. Anthony and Oliver moved to Florida for Anthony’s first assignment, and I returned to the academy.
After I commissioned and graduated, I finally adopted the baby to whom I had given birth the previous year. In all, we spent nearly $20,000 on legal fees — while being repeatedly warned that there was no guarantee we would be able to get back our parental rights.
The “no dependents” policy understandably reflects the difficulty of reconciling parenthood with the intense demands of a military academy. But requiring cadets to fully relinquish their children is cruel and unnecessary. While this terminated our legal relationship, it did not terminate our emotional connection and love for Oliver. I sobbed through my relinquishment hearing, having to verbally affirm that I willingly was giving up my rights as a mother with no intention of getting them back.
The Op. Ed describes relevant pending legislation to fix this issue with bipartisan support.
The broader military community already has a solution to the dilemma of service members confronted with conflicting military and family responsibilities. It is the Family Care Plan, which establishes temporary guardianship for dependents in the rare cases that a single parent — or, in a dual-military family, both parents — have duties that would not permit them to care for the day-to-day needs of their children. The Defense Department could simply alter its policy to permit such family care plans at service academies.
Recently, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Candidates Afforded Dignity, Equality and Training (CADET) Act, which would prohibit the forced termination of parental rights by military academies and instead offer more practical alternatives, including the family care plans. Nothing about academy life would change; it would simply make a really hard situation more humane.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
In a June hearing, Spears said that her conservatorship was “abusive,” and that her father forced her to work and to keep a birth-control device in her body so that she could not become pregnant. The claims shocked the public, including many celebrities, who have increasingly voiced their support for her.
But to historians of eugenics, Spears’s ordeal sounds very familiar. It’s a story of control — control of a woman’s labor, civil rights, parental custody, legal representation and even her reproductive system.***
In the early 20th century, a lot of states were “chasing the white whale” of a eugenics law that would pass constitutional scrutiny, said Elizabeth Catte, a public historian and author of the scorching book “Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia.” Indiana passed a eugenics-based law allowing forced sterilization in 1907, but it was overturned in court, as was California’s in 1909.
Then Virginia gave it a try with its own law in 1924, and went looking for a test case to legitimize it.
Carrie Buck was born into poverty in Charlottesville in 1906. Her father abandoned the family, and her mother was soon accused of “immorality” and committed to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded — essentially a work camp for White people the state didn’t like. Buck was separated from her siblings and sent to live with a wealthy foster family, who forced her to leave school during sixth grade and serve as a housekeeper in their home.
When Buck was 17, she was raped by the nephew of her foster mother and became pregnant. Probably to save face, the family accused her of promiscuity and feeblemindedness, and in 1924, she was committed to the same colony as her mother. Her infant daughter was given to her foster mother.
In an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declaring, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (Many words now used as mild insults, such as “moron,” “imbecile,” and “idiot,” have a long history of being used as clinical diagnoses.)
Buck, along with her mother and her sister, was subsequently sterilized by having her fallopian tubes cut and cauterized. Buck’s daughter died when she was 8.
All told, Virginia robbed 8,000 people of their ability to have children.
Spears’s situation has made Catte “think a lot about women that I write about, even though they are incredibly poor women,” and Spears is not.“The choice to deprive them of their reproductive freedom through sterilization was only one half of the state’s control over their lives,” she said. “The second half is control over their labor.”
Monday, October 4, 2021
Pennsylvania has introduced a bill seeking dignity for incarcerated women. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on September 21. An accompanying memo from bill sponsors explains to the members of the house that:
Over the past three decades Pennsylvania has seen a significant increase in the number of incarcerated women. While we believe in supporting a system that serves justice, women who are incarcerated face a number of unique issues regarding their heath and the health of their children. Despite being incarcerated, these women are still our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, and it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure we treat them with dignity.
Through extensive consultation and collaboration with our state Department of Corrections, county wardens, corrections officers, various interest groups, and subject matter experts, we have identified a number of best practices, many of which are already in place, that we believe will not only benefit incarcerated women, but their children, families, and society as a whole. Specifically, our bill will provide for the following well vetted provisions at both the state and county level, with necessary oversight from children and youth services, and limited exceptions where extenuating circumstances and/or capacity constraints prevent safe practice and enforcement. With common sense exceptions in all cases, the bill:
1. Prohibits the shackling of pregnant women.
2. Prohibits solitary confinement of pregnant women.
3. Provides for trauma informed care training of corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women.
4. Provides for up to three days of post-delivery bonding time between mother and new born child.
5. Provides for accommodation of adequate visitation time between minor children and incarcerated individuals (male or female) who were the sole legal guardian of those minor children at the time of their arrest.
6. Prohibits full body searches of incarcerated females by male guards.
7. Provides for appropriate amount of feminine hygiene products at no cost to incarcerated women.
8. Provides for limited coverage of cost to transport individuals to a safe location upon release.
The full text of the bill is available here.
Monday, September 13, 2021
Jennifer M. Miller and Susan Rensing have published Integrating National Violent Death Reporting System Data into Maternal Mortality Review Committees in the Journal of Women's Health. The abstract explains that:
With the Maternal Mortality Review Information Application (MMRIA) data system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alongside Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs), are developing comprehensive and uniform data collection to eradicate preventable maternal deaths. However, MMRIA is primarily focused on pregnancy-related deaths, and not pregnancy-associated deaths. Currently, the National Violent Death Reporting System Restricted Access Data (NVDRS-RAD) on pregnancy-associated homicides and suicides are not included in MMRIA and by extension the work of most MMRCs. This study examined the NVDRS-RAD data from 2014 to 2017 and argues that the data for pregnancy-associated maternal deaths should be integrated into the work of MMRCs. * * *
Their findings indicate that:
pregnancy and the postpartum period show increased risk for homicide and suicide. Pregnant women were found to be five times more likely to die by homicide than their nonpregnant peers who died by violent means. The relationships between periods of pregnancy and manner of death were all found to be significantly associated although the association was weak.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
By: Greer Donley and Jill Wieber Lens
Forthcoming in: Boston College Law Review, Vol. 62, Forthcoming
Abortion rights are more vulnerable now than they have been in decades. This Article focuses specifically on the most assailable subset of those rights: the right to a pre-viability, second-trimester abortion. Building on Carhart v. Gonzales, where the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on a safe and effective second-trimester abortion procedure, states have passed new second-trimester abortion restrictions that rely heavily on the woman-protective rationale — the idea that the restrictions will benefit women. These newer second-trimester abortion restrictions include bans on the Dilation & Evacuation (D&E) procedure, bans on disability-selective abortions, and mandatory perinatal hospice and palliative care counseling in cases of life-limiting fetal conditions. This Article discusses the paternalism and traditional gender stereotypes underlying these newer abortion restrictions and uses empirical studies to discredit the woman-protective rationale justifying them. The Article also suggests a radical, new response to claims that women need protection from second-trimester abortion: the embrace of second-trimester abortion “danger-talk.” First introduced in medical literature by abortion providers, danger-talk refers to the uncomfortable truths about abortion that supporters often avoid. These topics include the nature of second-trimester abortion procedures and the emotional complexity that can especially accompany second-trimester abortion. This Article advocates for greater openness about these topics, arguing that silence only capitulates the narrative of second-trimester abortion to those opposing abortion rights. The Article envisions second-trimester abortion care that better recognizes these realities and provides women with more choices that might make second-trimester abortion easier, including alternative procedures and the option of memory-making to process difficult emotions, like grief. Finally, this Article argues that more transparency about these difficult subjects will help rebut the woman-protective rationale used to justify second-trimester abortion restrictions.
By: Alexandra Holmstrom-Smith
Published in: University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, Volume 24, Number 3 (2021)
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the global surrogacy industry into chaos, stranding surrogates,infants, and their caretakers across the world from the intended parents. As surrogates and staff are left caring for infants that are strangers to them by law, the emotional toll of commercial surrogacy is more visible than ever before. In this article, I argue that this moment is ripe for reconsidering our laissez faire approach to for-profit reproduction. When the Baby M case hit the news in 1988, it set off a chorus of alarm among feminists (and others). Many states subsequently passed laws banning commercial surrogacy. Yet in the years since then, the dominant feminist position has quietly shifted. Surrogacy is now seen as a choice, one that expands women’s possibilities both as workers and as mothers. Surrogacy is also seen as an LGBT rights issue, as it provides a way for gay men to have children that are genetically related to them. However, the issues of gender, race, and exploitation that inflamed feminists in the1980s and 1990s are no less relevant today. As renewed concern with economic justice has made a resurgence on the national stage, I argue that it is time for socialist-feminist perspectives on surrogacy to reemerge. Eschewing freedom of contract as an illusory freedom that serves the ruling class, such a politics would demand social policy that limits commodification and promotes reproductive justice and freedom for all, not just the wealthy few.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Proposed Ohio Bill Expanding Doula Services Would Improve Maternal Health and Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes
Op ed from a former fellow at the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron and research assistant to our Gender & Law Prof Blog.
Morgan Foster, Expansion of Doula Services Would Help Ohio Improve Maternal Health, Address Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes, cleveland.com
Sponsors drafted House Bill 142 with women of color in mind. In joint sponsor testimony, former State Rep. Erica C. Crawley and Rep. Thomas Brinkman reported that, “Black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women, accounting for 34% of pregnancy-related deaths while only making up 17% of women giving birth in Ohio.
According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, only five states have a higher Black infant mortality rate than Ohio. Over the last decade, Ohio’s infant mortality disparity between Black and white infants increased by 26%. For Black women in Ohio, the preterm birth rate is 49% higher than the rate among all other women.
House Bill 142 would require Medicaid to cover doula services, which have proven to reduce racial disparities in birth outcomes. A doula is a trained, nonmedical professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman shortly before, during, and after her pregnancy, regardless of whether the woman’s pregnancy results in a live birth.
The benefits are clear. That is why New York, Oregon, and Minnesota have implemented legislation in which Medicaid will provide reimbursement for doula services. California may be the next state to take this step, and Ohio has an opportunity to join as a leader on this issue.
One reason more states do not cover doula services is because there is not a standard certification or registration process.
Ohio’s proposed bill would address this concern by creating this process with the Ohio Board of Nursing, establishing standards and procedures for issuing certificates to doulas. Once implemented, only certified doulas could call themselves such, or face penalty by the Board.
Monday, August 16, 2021
A new podcast by Kimberly Seals Allers seeks to debunk problematic narratives about Black childbirth. The California Health Care Foundation featured an interview with Allers here.
To counter the negative stories, Seals Allers is hosting a new podcast, Birthright. With support from CHCF, the inaugural season of Birthright lifts up 10 joyful stories that more accurately represent the Black birthing experience. In one episode, Morine Cebert Gators, who learned that she was pregnant shortly after defending her doctoral dissertation, had to obtain prenatal care in a new city. Her determination to find a Black ob/gyn with whom she felt comfortable paid off during a pregnancy that had some complications and a birth experience that she felt was positive and empowering.
Kimberly Seals Allers has created Irth an app that stands for Birth without the "B" for bias. It is described as:
The only app where you can find prenatal, birthing, postpartum and pediatric reviews of care from other Black and brown women. The #1 “Yelp-like” platform for the pregnancy and new motherhood journey, made by and for people of color. Search doctor and hospital reviews from your community! Leave a review today to help inform and protect others!
These are exciting and responsive new resources that I will be sharing with advocates and allies in my community.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Micaela Simpson, The Marshall Factor: How Forced Sterilization of Native American Women Birthed Generational Reproductive Injustice, Southern University L. Rev.
Native American women have suffered years of systematic injustice; the most tyrannical act in modern times may arguably be eugenics' practice through forced sterilization. Despite recent feminist movements and reproductive health reform, Native American women are missing from the conversation. The Marshall Trilogy's longstanding effects, comprised of three foundational Supreme Court decisions, has served as jurisprudence in federal Indian law and a catalyst to irreparable harm suffered by Native American women. Without proper redress, Native Americans will continue to be afflicted by perpetual generational injustice.
This Comment examines the direct correlation between Indian women's reproductive injustice and the Marshall Trilogy. The author examines precedence established in the Marshall Trilogoy and the Plenary Power Trilogy, in parallel with the Indian Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Studies provide that the government-funded and performed forced sterilization on Native American women through the Indian Health Services. The constitution, treaties, and jurisprudence define the standard of care and protection the federal government must provide to Indian Nations. Readers can interconnect the government's delivery of care and protection or lack thereof to the current state of poor Indian and the federal government relations, high occurrence of poor health outcomes, lack of resources and funding, the improper exertion of power executed federally over Indians, and generational reproductive injustices suffered by Native American women.
The author concludes that the forced sterilization of Native American women and continued reproductive injustice result from the broken treaties and abuse of power founded in the Marshall Trilogy, and redress is warranted. The author offers federal reform, autonomy empowerment, and a grassroots approach to redress and eradicate reproductive injustice and the domino effects suffered by Native Americans
Legal and Historical Examination of Obstetric Racism and the Limits of Informed Consent for Black Women
Colleen Campbell, Medical Violence, Obstetric Racism, and the Limits of Informed Consent for Black Women, 26 Mich. J. Race & L. 47 (2021)
This Essay critically examines how medicine actively engages in the reproductive subordination of Black women. In obstetrics, particularly, Black women must contend with both gender and race subordination. Early American gynecology treated Black women as expendable clinical material for its institutional needs. This medical violence was animated by biological racism and the legal and economic exigencies of the antebellum era. Medical racism continues to animate Black women’s navigation of and their dehumanization within obstetrics. Today, the racial disparities in cesarean sections illustrate that Black women are simultaneously overmedicalized and medically neglected—an extension of historical medical practices rooted in the logic of biological race. Though the principle of informed consent traditionally protects the rights of autonomy, bodily integrity, and well-being, medicine nevertheless routinely subjects Black women to medically unnecessary procedures. This Essay adopts the framework of obstetric racism to analyze Black women’s overmedicalization as a site of reproductive subordination. It thus offers a critical interdisciplinary and intersectional lens to broader conversations on race in reproduction and maternal health.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
A new law in Utah makes biological fathers responsible for half of the out-of-pocket costs a woman incurs during pregnancy and childbirth, a policy that some experts say falls short in addressing the burden of such expenses.
Experts and women’s health advocates say the new law highlights the high cost of prenatal care, but may leave the burden on women to seek financial support. They point to broader resources such as expanded health coverage they say would better help pregnant women. The bill has also been praised by antiabortion groups who argue that it could reduce the number of women seeking the procedure.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that pregnancy related costs are significant and that the burden of those costs should be shared,” said Alina Salganicoff, senior vice president and director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But I think there are other ways that legislators can develop policies that protect women from out of pocket costs.”...
The bill would require a biological father to pay 50 percent of a woman’s out-of-pocket medical costs during pregnancy, including insurance premiums and other pregnancy-related costs such as a hospital birth. The bill notes that if the paternity of a child is disputed, a biological father would only be responsible for a share of the costs after paternity is confirmed. The bill also adds that the biological father would not be responsible for sharing the financial cost if the woman receives an abortion, unless the abortion is necessary to avoid death, or if the pregnancy was a result of rape or of incest.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Jennifer Hendricks, Disputed Conceptions of Motherhood, forthcoming, Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the U.S. (Deborah Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, eds.)
This chapter, which will appear in the Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the U.S. (Deborah Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, eds.), examines feminist efforts to disentangle womanhood, biological motherhood, and social motherhood in order to promote equality in the law. It argues that this approach has produced important feminist influence and results in some areas of law but has led to a lack of feminist influence in areas where biological and social motherhood overlap, such as parental rights, reproductive technology, and surrogacy. Just as the law needed a theoretical boost that went beyond gender neutrality to see the gendered harm of sexual harassment at work, it needs a feminist account of pregnancy and birth that recognizes that these biological processes have social, relational dimensions.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
This short essay, prepared for a symposium on menstruation, is an initial effort to catalogue various legal approaches to menopause and to set out areas for further analysis. It argues for consideration of menopause in the movement for menstrual and gender justice. It briefly explores cultural images of menopause and post-menopausal women, including the ubiquitous hot flashes and a sexuality, analyzes potential legal claims based on age, sex, and disability for menopausal justice, and suggests the interrelationship between such approaches and social attitudes towards menopause, menstruation, and gender. It suggests that “normalizing” menopause, acknowledging its realities, is one means for removing the associated stigma and disabilities and might result in reinterpreting existing laws and future legal reforms.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
How Pregnant Employees Fare When Denied Workplace Accommodations, Some Improvement 5 Years After Young v. UPS
Nicole B. Porter, Accommodating Pregnancy Five Years After Young v. UPS: Where We Are & Where We Should Go, 14 St. Louis U. J. Health L. & Pol'y, Forthcoming
This Article will explore how pregnant employees fare when they are denied accommodations in the workplace that would have allowed them to work safely through their pregnancies. The two most commonly used legal avenues for pregnant plaintiffs are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Successful cases under the ADA were very rare until Congress expanded the ADA’s definition of disability in 2008. And PDA claims became easier after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.1 Five years after that decision, this Article will analyze the body of PDA cases decided since Young, and all of the ADA cases where pregnancy is the claimed disability since the ADA was amended in 2008. Although the picture is not quite rosy for pregnant plaintiffs, it is perhaps more positive than many scholars predicted it would be. Nevertheless, there remain many gaps in protection — some caused by the statutes’ limitations — but many caused by litigants’ and judges’ inability (or unwillingness) to properly interpret these two statutes. This Article will explain where we are and explore options for where we should go in the future.
Friday, October 2, 2020
New Book Podcast: Michele Goodwin's Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood
Michelle Goodwin, Podcast, New Books in Law: Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood (Cambridge Press 2020)
Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood (Cambridge University Press, 2020) a brilliant but shocking account of the criminalization of all aspects of reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, birth, and motherhood in the United States. In her extensively researched monograph, Michele Goodwin recounts the horrific contemporary situation, which includes, for example, mothers giving birth shackled in leg irons, in solitary confinement, even in prison toilets, and in some states, women being coerced by the State into sterilization, in exchange for reduced sentences. She contextualises the modern day situation in America’s history of slavery and oppression, and also in relation to its place in the world. Goodwin shows how prosecutors abuse laws, and medical professionals are complicit in a system that disproportionally impacts the poor and women of color. However, Goodwin warns that these women are just the canaries in the coalmine. In the context of both the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election, her book could not be more timely; Not only is the United States the deadliest country in the developed world for pregnant women, but the severe lack of protections for reproductive rights and motherhood is compounding racial and indigent disparities.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Deborah Brake & Joanna Grossman, Reproducing Inequality Under Title IX, 43 Harvard J. Law & Gender 171 (2020)
This article elaborates on and critiques the law’s separation of pregnancy, with rights grounded in sex equality under Title IX, from reproductive control, which the law treats as a matter of privacy, a species of liberty under the due process clause. While pregnancy is the subject of Title IX protection, reproductive control is parceled off into a separate legal framework grounded in privacy, rather than recognized as a matter that directly implicates educational equality. The law’s division between educational equality and liberty in two non-intersecting sets of legal rights has done no favors to the reproductive rights movement either. By giving a formal “right” to stay in school and the right to equal treatment with temporarily disabled students, Title IX may be strategically deployed by proponents of restricting abortion rights to minimize the educational consequences of involuntary motherhood. The hard realities of how pregnancy and parenting impact schooling are obscured.
The article explores the legal divide between pregnancy discrimination and reproductive rights in relation to education in three parts. Part I discusses the rights included in, and omitted from, Title IX relating to pregnancy and reproduction. Part II surveys the liberty-based reproductive rights framework for pregnancy prevention and termination and discusses its limits in protecting young women from the educational effects of unwanted pregnancy and motherhood. Part III concludes by discussing the implications of separating out pregnancy discrimination from the broader set of reproductive rights and elaborating on the harms that flow from the law’s failure to recognize the educational equality dimensions of the denial of reproductive rights.
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Over the past several years, findings from the Turnaway Study have come out in scholarly journals and, on a few occasions, gotten splashy media coverage. Now Foster has published a patiently expository precis of all the findings in a new book, “The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion.” The over-all impression it leaves is that abortion, far from harming most women, helps them in measurable ways. Moreover, when people assess what will happen in their lives if they have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, they are quite often proven right. That might seem like an obvious point, but much of contemporary anti-abortion legislation is predicated on the idea that competent adults can’t really know what’s at stake in deciding whether to bear a child or not. Instead, they must be subjected to waiting periods to think it over (as though they can’t be trusted to have done so already), presented with (often misleading) information about the supposed medical risks and emotional fallout of the procedure, and obliged to look at ultrasounds of the embryo or fetus. And such scans are often framed, with breathtaking disingenuousness, as a right extended to people—what the legal scholar Carol Sanger calls “the right to be persuaded against exercising the right you came in with.
Maybe the first and most fundamental question for a study like this to consider is how women feel afterward about their decisions to have an abortion. In the Turnaway Study, over ninety-five per cent of the women who received an abortion and did an interview five years out said that it had been the right choice for them.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
How Courts Have Responded to Equal Protection Claims of Pregnant Citizens Since the Nineteenth Amendment
Reva Siegel, The Pregnant Citizen, from Suffrage to the Present, Georgetown L. J. (forthcoming)
This Article examines how courts have responded to the equal protection claims of pregnant citizens over the century women were enfranchised. The lost history it recovers shows how equal protection changed—initially allowing government to enforce traditional family roles by exempting laws regulating pregnancy from close review, then over time subjecting laws regulating pregnancy to heightened equal protection scrutiny.
It is generally assumed that the Supreme Court’s 1974 decision in Geduldig v. Aiello insulates the regulation of pregnancy from equal protection scrutiny. The Article documents the traditional sex-role understandings Geduldig preserved and then demonstrates how the Supreme Court itself has limited the decision’s authority.
In particular, I show that the Rehnquist Court integrated laws regulating pregnancy into the equal protection sex-discrimination framework. In United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court analyzed a law mandating the accommodation of pregnancy as classifying on the basis of sex and subject to heightened scrutiny; Virginia directs judges to look to history in enforcing the Equal Protection Clause to ensure that laws regulating pregnancy are not “used, as they once were . . . to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.” In Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Court then applied the antistereotyping principle to laws regulating pregnancy, as a growing number of commentators and courts have observed.
I conclude the Article by considering how courts and Congress might enforce the rights in Virginia and Hibbs in cases involving pregnancy under both the Fourteenth and the Nineteenth Amendments. To remedy law-driven sex-role stereotyping that has shaped the workplace, the household, and politics, the Article proposes that Congress adopt legislation mandating the reasonable accommodation of pregnant employees, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These sex-role stereotypes affect all workers, but exact the greatest toll on low-wage workers and workers of color who are subject to rigid managerial supervision.
When we locate equal protection cases in history, we can see how an appeal to biology can enforce traditional sex roles as it did in Geduldig—and see why a court invoking Geduldig today to insulate the regulation of pregnancy from scrutiny under Virginia and Hibbs would not respect stare decisis, but instead retreat from core principles of the equal protection sex-discrimination case law.
Monday, June 1, 2020
Rachel Rebouche, Contracting Pregnancy, 105 Iowa L. Rev. (2020)
Several states recently have passed laws that permit and regulate gestational surrogacy, changing course from the prohibitions that characterized an earlier era. These statutes require mental health counseling before pregnancy and legal representation for all parties to the contract. Scholars and practitioners alike herald this legislation as the way forward in protecting the interests of both intended parents and surrogates. State law, however, may not resolve a recurrent tension over who controls prenatal decision making in gestational surrogacy agreements. Intended parents want authority to make decisions regarding the pregnancy. Contract provisions cater to that desire and support the broader assumption that parents should seek as much prenatal information as possible. Yet surrogates have the right, by statute and as patients, to manage their prenatal care.
Analyzing the most controversial terms of surrogacy contracts—those governing prenatal testing, prenatal behavior, and abortion—this Article demonstrates that neither statutory rights nor contractual remedies adequately address disputes over prenatal care. Rather, mental health professionals who provide pre-pregnancy counseling and lawyers who draft surrogacy contracts have greater effect on parties’ expectations and conduct. Lawyers, in implementing surrogacy contracts, help build trust between parties that induces compliance with otherwise unenforceable terms. When there is a conflict between the parties, lawyers diffuse it.
This Article identifies the consequences of relational contracting for surrogacy, including shielding parties’ behavior from view and entrenching the power of fertility agencies and brokers. It concludes by suggesting how law might challenge the dominance of professionals and agencies by opening the fertility market to a broader population of participants.