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Invasion of the babby-snatchers

Looks like we have a trend story here! A few days ago we brought you the story of Alabama Supreme Court Judge Tom Parker, who’s working to end ‘bortion forever by building a whole bunch of cases that treat fetuses as persons — often in criminal prosecutions of pregnant women who are caught using drugs, even though laws they’re prosecuted under don’t specify that they apply to zygotes.

Turns out that the good pro-life prosecutors of Texas are just as zealous in bringing child-abuse charges against pregnant ladies, especially drug users, even though the crimes those women are charged with don’t actually exist. Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check explains how that works: Texas is one of the 38 states that has a “fetal homicide” law that increases penalties in assaults or murders against pregnant women if a fetus is harmed:

Texas’ law, signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2003, is one of the broadest in the country. It defines an individual as “a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth,” meaning that, for example, a drunk driver who kills a pregnant person can be charged with a crime against two separate people.

Ah, but there’s a catch, an exception that is very frustrating for prosecutors who want to go after pregnant women who harm their babbies, which are separate people after all:

A pregnant person cannot be charged with injury to their own fetus, and neither can a doctor performing legal abortion care with “requisite consent.” This exception, nestled into the 2003 modification of the Texas Penal Code, ensures that a crime “does not apply to conduct charged as having been committed against an individual who is an unborn child” if said conduct is “committed by the mother of the unborn child.”

This provision should shield pregnant people from accusations of child endangerment toward their own embryos or fetuses. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott effectively confirmed in a 2005 ruling that the law does provide this shield; the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also issued an opinion on the matter in 2006, overturning the conviction of two Texas women who had been sentenced to jail for taking drugs during their pregnancies.

So that’s the actual status of the law: women should not be charged with “child endangerment” if they take drugs. Problem is, prosecutors all over Texas blithely ignore that part of the law and charge pregnant women anyway, because the public loves a story about a Bad Mom-To-Be getting slapped in jail for doing drugs and harming her poor innocent baby, the actual content of the law be damned. Everybody wants to Git Tuff on drugs, and on crimes against children, even if the children aren’t borned yet.

In some instances, babies test positive for drugs soon after they’re born, and doctors and hospitals, in an attempt to comply with another Texas law about reporting babies “born addicted,” pass on their findings to Child Protective Services or local law enforcement officials. In others, ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends file reports with police, CPS, or even directly with prosecutors—sometimes from hundreds of miles away—alleging that their partners have endangered their children while pregnant.

Everybody wins! Anti-choicers get to say they’re protecting pre-born babbies, prosecutors get to be tough, and “the public gets to sneer and jeer at ‘bad mommy’ mugshots.” Of course, if a woman is lucky enough to get even a half-awake public defender (this being Texas, you don’t want to bet too heavily on that), those illegal charges usually don’t stick.

But lots of women get persuaded to plead to other charges, like possession or other drug offenses, and then once they go to prison, the kiddo ends up with a relative or in The System. It’s the best catch there is.

Not that the women who go to jail will get treatment for their addiction so they can straighten up and become better mommies. That liberal criminal coddling bullshit doesn’t fly in the great state of Texas. Instead, they get punished, and when they get out, chances are that they’ll start feeding their untreated addiction again, and end up in prison again, right where God wants them. If they had any character or loved their kids, they’d straighten up, but they don’t, so it’s back to the pokey for them, and back to foster care for the kids, who then get all the TLC that Texas foster care can offer. ‘Merica!

It’s not all bleak. There are a lot of pissed off public defenders and an advocacy organization, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), working to intervene in such cases and get charges dropped, and to get addicted women into treatment, not incarceration. But nationally, there are plenty of fetusphiles like Utah state legislator Carl Wimmer, who wanted to weaken the exceptions that protect women from fetal harm laws, so that these terrible women can get the punishment they so richly deserve. Gotta ride herd on those women and shovel as many of them into jail, because drugs are bad, fetuses are good, and women who use drugs while pregnant are easy to demonize. Only fuzzy-headed liberals would say they deserve compassion and treatment, after all.

[RH Reality Check]

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