Today in stories about complete violations of a woman’s bodily autonomy: a pregnant Alabama woman in prison was seeking an abortion, and Alabama tried to take away her parental rights.
According to ThinkProgress, an adult woman identified as Jane Doe sought an abortion before she was taken into prison and requested furlough to leave long enough for the procedure to be conducted. The story reached peak media attention on Wednesday, July 29, but by Wednesday afternoon, she reportedly changed her mind about the decision. “After much consideration and counsel, I … have decided that I no longer desire to pursue an abortion procedure and intend to carry the unborn child to full term and birth,” she said in the statement, adding that her decision was unrelated to any pressure she had received.
But a whole lot of craziness happened in the middle, most poignantly that the state of Alabama (specifically the DA of the county) attempted to strip her of her parental rights so that they could have control of the fetus, something they do not think belongs to her. In fact, the fetus already has its own court-ordered attorney.
“The woman, who is in her first trimester of pregnancy, had at the time urged a federal judge to order the county to let her leave jail to have an abortion that she planned to pay for privately,” wrote the Associated Press. After the county sheriff denied her request, she sued him for violating her rights.
One judge deciding that a woman could lose autonomy of her body by handing over the rights of the fetus—stripping her of her parental rights while that fetus is literally still in her body—could have been a terrifying decision affecting pregnant people around the country. “If this were to happen you’ve got one judge and one lawyer making all the decisions for a woman,” Heather Fann, head of the Alabama State Bar Association’s family law section, told the Associated Press. Lawyers, feminists, and human rights activists alike were enraged by Jane Doe’s case, deeming it a violation of her civil liberties.
The fact that this woman’s mind was changed after “counseling” sounds fishy to me, considering the sort of advisory often offered to individuals seeking abortions, and the fact that the woman stated that she was “distraught” about her lack of access to an abortion the day before. Hopefully, the outrage over this woman’s case will help protect future fetuses from being seized by the state.
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