Even those who are opposed to abortion often say that the woman and the fetus (who they usually call the mother and the baby) both need to be considered.  When it come to action, however, the fetus is almost always the one who is privileged, while the woman may be treated as an enemy of the fetus or as merely a container that must be controlled and protected by others for the benefit of the fetus.

Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of National Advocates for Pregnant Women have a piece on RH Reality Check discussing post-20 week abortion bans, “Are Pregnant Women Persons After 20 Weeks’ Gestation?”  I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are some points for discussion:

All [women who experience pregnancy] are at risk when legislators attempt to establish a point in pregnancy when women may be deprived of their civil and human rights.

The problem is not just establishing personhood for a fertilized ovum, which cannot live outside of a woman’s body:

[F]ar more than abortion is at stake; these measures establish legal principles that will be—and, indeed, already have been—used to justify arrests of and forced medical interventions on pregnant women.

Note that they are referring to ALL pregnant women, including those with wanted pregnancies who have every intention of carrying the pregnancy to term and birthing a live baby.  One example:

[A Florida woman’s] doctor had emailed her, threatening her with arrest if she did not report to the hospital immediately for cesarean surgery. The doctor’s letter read, in part, “I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in but you are leaving the providers … no choice. If I do not hear that by this afternoon you have presented to [the hospital] prepared for delivery, this pathway may be chosen.”

While NAPW successfully intervened on this woman’s behalf,  Paltrow and Flavin point out,

These are not idle threats. In fact, some women who have refused cesarean surgery or rejected advice to be hospitalized late in pregnancy have been taken prisoner and forced to submit to highly invasive medical and surgical procedures.

They document these “prisoner” situations in and article in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (full text of article available).  A blanket 20 week abortion ban establishes rights for a fetus that trump those of the pregnant woman, establishing her as a vessel for the fetus rather than a human in her own right:

[P]rosecutors, hospital lawyers, and arresting officers…claim that if the state may protect the unborn by depriving pregnant women of their rights in the abortion context, consistency requires that pregnant women be deprived of their rights in all contexts, including birth and pregnancy loss.

I have written on my perspective on abortion and the rights of pregnant women here.  I absolutely agree with Paltrow and Flavin’s conclusion:

[A] woman is a person with civil and human rights throughout her pregnancy. Before and after 20 weeks. Always.

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