An Open Letter to Gov. Palin on Women’s Rights

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An Open Letter to Gov. Palin on Women’s Rights

Lynn Paltrow

Gov. Palin, have you thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position -- that fetuses have a right to life -- established as the law of the land?

Dear Governor Sarah Palin:

Many Americans agree with your
position regarding abortion — they do this as a matter of faith,
ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering
though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in
getting your position — that fetuses have a right to life —
established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only
threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need
someday to end their pregnancies, it would also give the government the
power to control the lives of women — like you — who go to term?

last pregnancy, the one that has become the topic of widespread
discussion and speculation, provides an important opportunity to
demonstrate how this could be true.

According to press reports,
your water broke while you were giving a keynote speech in Texas at the
Republican Governors’ Energy Conference. You did not immediately go to
the hospital — instead you gave your speech and then waited at least
11 hours to get to a hospital. You evaluated the risks, made a choice,
and were able to carry on your life without state interference. Texas
Governor Rick Perry worried about your pregnancy but didn’t stop you
from speaking or take you into custody to protect the rights of the

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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After Ayesha Madyun’s water broke, she went to the
hospital where she hoped and planned to have a vaginal birth. When she
didn’t give birth in a time-frame comfortable to her doctors, they
argued that she should have a C-section. The doctors asserted that the
fetus faced a 50-75 percent chance of infection if not delivered
surgically. (Risks of infection are believed by some health care
providers to increase with each hour after a woman’s water has broken
and she hasn’t delivered.)

The court, believing like you that
fetuses have a right to life, said, "[a]ll that stood between the
Madyun fetus and its independent existence, separate from its mother,
was put simply, a doctor’s scalpel." With that, the court granted the
order and the scalpel sliced through Ms. Madyun’s flesh, the muscles of
her abdominal wall, and her uterus. The core principle justifying an
end to legal abortion in the U.S. provided the same grounds used to
deprive this pregnant and laboring woman of her rights to due process,
bodily integrity, and physical liberty. When the procedure was done,
there was no evidence of infection.

According to the press
reports, instead of going straight to a hospital you chose to get on a
long airplane flight back to Alaska.

When Pamela Rae Stewart,
allegedly, didn’t get to the hospital quickly enough on the day of her
delivery, she was arrested in California on the theory that she had
violated the rights of her fetus.

When Laura Pemberton chose to
give birth at home in Florida, a Sheriff came to her house. Doctors
believed that she was posing a risk to the life of her unborn child by
having a vaginal birth after having had a previous c-section and were
in the process of getting a court order to force her to have a
c-section. The sheriff took her into custody during active labor,
strapped her legs together and forced her to go to a hospital where an
emergency hearing was taking place to determine the rights of her
fetus. She was "allowed" to represent herself. A lawyer was appointed
for the fetus. This woman, who vehemently opposes abortion,
nevertheless believed in her right to evaluate medical risks and
benefits to herself and her unborn child. She was forced to have the
unnecessary surgery and when she later sued for violations of her civil
rights, was told fetal rights outweighed hers.

You chose to
continue working throughout your pregnancy — even during your labor.
Until 1991 women who worked in high paying blue color jobs that
provided health benefits were being fired based on "fetal rights"
policies that claimed if the woman became pregnant she would expose the
unborn child to workplace health risks. Eventually, the Supreme Court
said employers covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the PDA)
could not do this. But, millions of American women work part time or
for small employers who are not covered by the PDA. If your political
position on abortion is accepted — all of these women could be forced
to give up their jobs because an employer, family member, or state
agent believed it necessary to ensure the health and rights of their
unborn child.

Governor Palin, you have led an extraordinary life,
balancing work and family, public service and private family
obligations. We hope you know though that your freedom relies on
exactly the same legal principals that guarantee that American women
can choose to have an abortion when they need and want one.

one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers.
Eighty-four percent of these will be mothers by the time they are in
their forties. We hope
that, as a proud mother of five beautiful children, you will recognize that the issue isn’t abortion — it is ensuring the
lives, dignity and freedom of all pregnant women and their families.

Lynn Paltrow

Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women

This letter first appeared on Alternet.