The Slavery of Motherhood

Carl Brooks

Much to her own surprise, I’m sure, Melissa Ann Rowland has come to occupy the unfortunate pedestal of symbolic argument. In the course of her life, this woman gave birth to one stillborn baby boy and one healthy baby girl. In doing so, she allegedly refused to agree to have a caesarean section, which might have saved the life of her son. Miss Rowland now finds herself, a new mother, in jail awaiting trial on charges of murder.

Her passage into criminal restraint parallels the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. UVVA codifies into federal law the status of a fetus as a human being with all the rights, protection, and, one assumes, the duties that designation carries.

While Rowland is not charged under the new statute, and, in fact, the statute was lobbied under the aegis of adding legal penalties for harming a fetus by an act of violence, she can claim the dubious honor of exactly typifying the issue at the heart of this legislation.

Leaving aside the nitpicking and tabling of ethical and moral questions inherent in addressing the life of a child in utero for the moment, the fundamental question, the contention the war is being fought over, is this: whether or not a human being can be forced to submit their own right to self-determination to the welfare of a being that may become a human being at some point.

This bill, of course, is eventually about abortion. It seeks to destroy the fundamental argument of pro-choice advocates: that the mother has a right to make desicions about her own body, even when it involves the life of her baby.

All other rhetoric about this bill is sophistry or error. The logical conclusion of assuming that a fetus is a separate being from its mother and enjoys the protections of personhood will lead to the re-criminalization of abortion.

On the other hand, granting a fetus the status of equal worth to its mother necessarily diminishes the individuality and worth of the mother; there can be no argument on this point.

If a fetus has the legal protection of personhood, the state is obligated to carry its protection to the extent that statute decrees, i.e., protection from harm, application to services, and legal redress (by proxy, one would assume, for a being incapable of breathing on its own), and it must do this at the expense of the mother.

The fetus will enjoy protection from its own mother, from evildoers, presumably from bad practices, etc. The mother will be, as Rowland is, responsible to the state for the welfare of her own child, presumed an enemy to it by the state, and punished for her actions towards her own body.

This is, in so many words, a slavery of motherhood. Women will be prosecuted at the federal level for harming their fetus and injuring its welfare, even at the expense of their own, and there will be no middle ground. If this bill stands, and if case law is built upon it, the re-criminalization of abortion will be the least of the penalties suffered by human beings who once enjoyed freedom. Women will be slaves to the state, responsible for their unborn children.

Enshrined in our constitution is the inalienable right of the person to determine for themselves, before and above the state, their own destiny. Roe v. Wade, rightly criticized for being clumsy and garbled with tenuous jurisprudence, contains one hard, bright kernel of irresissitable fact. Women have the right to privacy; they have the right to decide for themselves what to do with what nature has endowed them with.

Roe v. Wade gave women a liberty they had never enjoyed before in their history-the legal right to be masters of their own fate, removing them from their traditional burden of propagation at their own expense.

This bill will change all of that, and the brief generation of real freedom that women have enjoyed, unique in the history of mankind, will shrivel away as women are once more diminished in the law, held to a legal standard that makes them slaves to the state until their child has left their body.

This debate is liberty for all, or liberty for men only. This bill will make women the enemies of their children, slaves to the state as long as they are pregnant, and must be stopped. Although human life does begin at conception, it is not equivalent to, or the responsibility of, anyone but the mother of that life, and the responsibility for that life, as it grows towards personhood, must lie with the mother, even if it is to make the terrible choice to abort that life. To involve the state is to guarantee the absence of liberty for women like Melissa Ann Rowland, and to turn back the clock of civil liberties and equality between the sexes.