The GOP's Newest Attack on Abortion Rights: Seizing Custody of Fetuses

It's difficult to think of a better example of the government getting between a woman and her doctor than by attempting to gain custody of a clump of cells growing inside her body.
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It's difficult to think of a better example of the government getting between a woman and her doctor than by attempting to gain custody of a clump of cells growing inside her body.
Abortion-protest-via-AFP

As we've reported numerous times here, in the absence of actually being able to repeal Roe v Wade, the Republicans have been systematically attempting to make it as difficult as possible to have a safe and legal abortion.

Rather than banning it, state legislatures have decided that clinics can only exist within a certain distance of a hospital; they've decided that women should be forced to have what's known as a transvaginal ultrasound in order to intimidate them against having an abortion; they've decided in some cases to redefine what constitutes a "legitimate" rape; and they've peddled "fetal personhood," "fetal heartbeat" and "fetal pain" laws that are de facto bans on abortion.

The endgame here, whether intended or not, is the oppression of women as second-class citizens if not outright criminals committing a so-called "genocide" against the unborn. Regarding that last point, it's obviously that women are the real targets given how this alleged "genocide" specifically involves women making the decision to have abortions -- not Planned Parenthood or the Democratic Party going around forcibly aborting pregnancies. In other words, pregnant women are the Hitlers in the whole genocide metaphor, while abortion clinics are merely footsoldiers.

So now, in addition to the laundry list of ways to make sure women can't have the procedure, there's an all new and strikingly sinister plot to stop abortions from occurring. Bear in mind, before we get into it, this is an idea that sprang forth from the small government party. Simply put, the Republicans are now attempting to seize custody of fetuses to prevent women from having an abortion.

In Alabama, Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly attempted to gain custody over the fetus of "Jane Doe," who is currently incarcerated in the county for a drug offense. Doe attempted go through standard channels, including a court order, so as to undergo the procedure, but Connolly stepped in to have Doe's parental rights rescinded, making her fetus a ward of the state. The most bizarre twist in the story is that per a 2004 law, the fetus was assigned legal counsel -- a "guardian ad litem" to argue for its rights.

Then, on Friday, Doe mysteriously dropped her suit and announced that she'd like to carry the fetus to term. Her ACLU lawyer representing her in the matter said, "It's all very convenient and suspicious how this all came about." It'd be fair to assume that Connolly's office perhaps offered to cut her a deal on her drug charge or, worse, threatened a much longer sentence. Or she might've just given up. Anything's possible. But the fact is that the counter-efforts by the DA's office delayed the proceedings enough for Doe to have changed her mind.

Mission accomplished.

The case of Jane Doe takes the debate to an entirely different level. Beyond transvaginal ultrasounds or de facto abortion bans, the anti-choice movement has opted to literally control the contents of human internal organs. It's difficult to think of a better example of the government getting between a woman and her doctor than by attempting to gain custody of a clump of cells growing inside her body. As if the transvaginal ultrasounds weren't rapey enough, Connelly and the DA's office basically attempted to construct a border fence around Doe's reproductive system, stripping her of sovereignty over her own body.

It's not necessarily on this particular track, but given the ideological slant of today's Supreme Court, it's easy to see a path to this practice being upheld -- in spite of its obvious unconstitutional issues. More than anything else, fetal custody is, in fact, an abortion ban that's in direct violation of Roe v Wade and the 14th Amendment upon which it's based.

Prior to this, there have been instances in which a father has tried to gain custody of a fetus he helped to conceive. Even these kinds of cases rest on extremely shaky, dubious ground. It becomes far more sinister when the state exercises this kind of power. Again, the same guys who think this is a fantastic shortcut around Roe v Wade are the same guys who go totally bonkers when anyone merely tries to pass expanded background checks or, heaven forbid, another assault weapons ban. The crowd that refuses to allow their guns to be pried from their hands are confiscating a woman's right to her own body and preventing her from having a legal medical procedure.