We all know that abortion is a headline maker. It’s a rallying point for churches. It’s a pawn in the political power struggle. But what if instead of just restricting the right to choose, lawmakers criminalized women who failed to carry their fetuses to term? Sadly, you don’t exactly need an imagination for this one, but you might want to take a deep breath.
According to a 2011 report by The Guardian, women and girls across the United States are being thrown in prison for having miscarriages. In Alabama alone, more than 40 cases have been filed against women who have lost their fetuses, thanks to a 2006 state “chemical endangerment” law. That same year, a then 15-year-old in Mississippi named Rennie Gibbs was tried for murder after she miscarried. Though she was addicted to cocaine at the time of her pregnancy, no proven link could be made between the miscarriage and Gibbs’ drug use.
Her story, in part, served as inspiration for a new short film that’s making waves around campuses and online. Titled Fetus Envy, the satirical piece explores what can happen when bureaucrats control our lives and our bodies. The result? A dystopian society where pregnant women are voiceless, powerless vessels.
“In person, I have actually only had one woman say to me ‘I'm vehemently opposed to abortion!’” Melissa Maxwell, the film’s writer and director, explained to us. “I told her that she should watch the film because it's neither pro-choice nor pro-life. It's about how a small segment of our society is using the abortion issue for their own political gain, and the fallout and consequences for the average female citizen who is being used as a pawn in their game. It's about where our culture is headed when critical decisions affecting women's healthcare are commandeered by ambitious politicians and faceless bureaucrats. And any woman --pro-life or otherwise-- who isn’t worried about losing her basic human rights should have her head examined.”
But don’t think men are the only ones to fault for trampling upon our freedoms. In the world of Fetus Envy, women are active participants in their own oppression. Take the female Defense Attorney, who “defends” a client who had miscarried with a not guilty by reason of insanity plea.
“Many of the deeply disturbing and even farcical facets of this film are materializing today,” Jessica Arinella, who plays the DA, said. “I think people need to see the film as it will spark a conversation and it is a conversation that we all need to have.”
Despite serving as her on-screen opposition, Jonathan Tindle echoes her sentiments. “I’m at a loss as to why their stories wouldn’t be the number one scandal story for any news organization,” he said. “Women being prosecuted for their miscarriages is --quite literally-- a miscarriage of justice.”
At just under 15 minutes in length, even the busiest among us would only have to sacrifice a coffee break to watch –and you’ll be glad you did. “The War on Women is real and dangerous,” Maxwell said. “My goal is to bring light to just one of the many ways that war is being played out.”
Image courtesy of Fetus Envy