Sophie Hatten

In America, 1,200 Women Have Been Jailed for Miscarriage

(Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash)

While Brittney Poolaw made headlines after she was arrested for suffering a miscarriage, there are 1,199 just like her.

 

It has been a harrowing year for women in America.

The misleading “Heartbeat Act” introduced many abortion restrictions in Texas by making it illegal for physicians to perform or induce an abortion after six weeks. The realities of detecting pregnancy make the window of time in which a person can legally have an abortion far slimmer than that, with some physicians claiming this is essentially outlawing abortion entirely.

Now, news of convictions has brought fresh outrage as people are being jailed after experiencing miscarriages. In October, Brittney Poolaw, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter by a jury after miscarrying at four months pregnant in January 2020. She has been sentenced to four years in prison. With one in four pregnancies estimated to end in miscarriage, the brutal punishment has been met with fierce opposition.

While no cause of the miscarriage was determined, a report from the BBC states that “genetic anomaly, placenta abruption or maternal methamphetamine” were all noted as possible contributing factors in Poolaw’s case. Now, pro-choice advocacy groups are supporting Poolaw’s appeal and more cases like hers have been found.

According to the National Advocates of Pregnant Women (NAPW), 1,200 cases similar to Poolaw’s have occurred in the last 15 years. Details given for their arrests included homebirths, falling over, and drug use.

 

 

The tragic irony that Poolaw’s conviction took place during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month wasn’t missed by those following the case online, and many have spoken out about the seemingly dystopian measures being practiced in certain parts of the US.

“October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and Brittney Poolaw is facing 4 years in prison for something that happens in 1 in 4 pregnancies,” wrote a Twitter user.

OBGYN and associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Jennifer Kerns, spoke out about the Heartbeat Act, stating: “It’s clearly trying to move the needle back to almost the point of detection of pregnancy with the goal of outlawing nearly all abortions.”

Considering the new Texas law doesn’t consider rape an exemption for women seeking an abortion after this narrow window, and other states are pursuing similar legislation, that such harsh punishments are being brought perhaps shouldn’t be so surprising as it is contentious.

 

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