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Friday, March 05, 2010

Taking things a bit far.

Given recent news about efforts to restrict a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices, comes this unfortunate story of overzealous enforcement of badly written laws:

A pregnant Burlington woman said this week she was falsely accused by police of trying to kill her fetus after she confided under duress to hospital emergency workers that she wanted to end her pregnancy.

Christine Taylor, 22, a mother of two, says she believes the personal views of medical workers and police played a part in a decision to accuse her last month of attempted feticide after a Jan. 19 incident in which she fell down the stairs at her home.

Feticide — the illegal death of a fetus — is a rare crime that has never been prosecuted in Iowa.

After reviewing facts of the case for three weeks, Des Moines County prosecutors have decided not to formally charge Taylor with a crime.

But Taylor said the damage has already been done: Newspapers across the nation picked up a news account headlined, "Iowa woman accused of trying to kill unborn baby in fall down stairs," after she was arrested and jailed.


The news article triggered a debate over a growing fetal rights movement nationally and Taylor's fitness as a mother. Police said in a report she fell intentionally because she did not want any more children with her husband.


Police were not even involved, she said, until she admitted privately to medical personnel at Great River Medical Center in West Burlington that she did not want the baby at times and had considered abortion because of hardships with her husband.

Taylor said her husband, who lives in Maryland, left her after she became pregnant with her third child last summer. She said she was despondent after a Jan. 19 telephone conversation with him.
"He was saying some very hurtful things and told me he wants to be free," said Taylor, a Maryland native. "And here I was alone, pregnant with two young kids, with no family around or support. I just thought, 'It's not fair.' ... I was so upset and frantic I almost blacked out, and I tripped and fell."


But under Iowa law, any person who attempts to intentionally terminate a pregnancy "with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person" after the end of the second trimester can be accused of attempted feticide.

Right, so, this is a story that seems to have a (semi-)happy ending. She was accused under circumstances that were, at best, rather ambiguous and the decision has been made not to prosecute. No harm, no foul, right? Yeah, maybe- but then again, we should probably attend to the reason why she isn't being prosecuted:

Taylor said she was near the end of her second trimester at the time of her fall, but the nurse who treated her at Great River told police Taylor was in the first week of her third trimester, according to a police report.

Assistant Des Moines County Attorney Lisa Taylor said the attempted feticide charge was dropped because Christine Taylor's doctor confirmed she was in her second trimester. [emphasis added]

Well isn't that peachy, then? I honestly don't know what to say about all this, except that when our cultural obsession with abortion becomes so strong that pregnant women who have accidents are turned into criminals, there's something very wrong.

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