In the wake of the new National Advocates for Pregnant Women study showing how feticide and personhood-style laws have been warped into legal statutes that can be used against a pregnant woman, the announcement that Montana will be proposing a new “fetal homicide” bill is an ominous sign.
Included in H.B. 104 is an explanation that homicide will include the death of an “unborn child,” with unborn child being defined as “a human who is conceived but is not yet born.“
Like previous fetal homicide bills, it specifically exempts abortion, at least for as long as abortion is considered a legal medical procedure. Also like other bills of its kind, it does not provide an exception for the pregnant woman as the accused.
Lawmakers are easily able to write exceptions, as they did for legal abortion, so why are they deliberately not adding a clause to state that the woman carrying the fetus cannot be subject to a crime unless they do in fact want to open her up to potential charges? The conclusion is simple. Fetal homicide bills are no longer—if they ever were—about anything more than putting triggers into state statutes that say if Roe is overturned and states can once more make abortion illegal, women can be jailed for obtaining one.
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Despite claiming that abortions have “two victims—the mother and the child,” anti-choice activists are eager to open up an avenue for jailing women who seek an unlawful abortion. If Roe is overturned and a state makes termination illegal, anti-choice prosecutors can use the threat of jail time to try to force women to testify against whomever performed the abortion, or attempt to dissuade her from obtaining medications or other means to self-abort.
Jennie McCormack’s case proved that some prosecutors have no issues with jailing women for unlawful abortion. As more “fetal homicide” bills pass, if Roe is overturned more states may have the chance.