The XX Factor

No, Prop 62 Isn’t Funny at All

Rachael , I somewhat agree with you that the Choice USA ad was ill-advised in using a character that looked like she’s eight months pregnant.  It’s not because I disagreed with their point-it’s true that pregnant women are only legally treated like two people if it’s being used to take away women’s rights-but because showing someone so far along in her pregnancy could mislead the public about what Prop 62 in Colorado is about.  Prop 62 doesn’t deal at all with women that far along in their pregnancy.  It’s actually an assault on women in the earliest stages … or women who aren’t even pregnant at all.

It’s not just that seven- or eight-month-and four- and five-month-fetuses already have a great deal of legal protection that encroaches on a woman’s right to choose abortion at that stage, which is largely uncontroversial because few to no women actually wake up when they’re 8 months pregnant and say, “You know, I changed my mind.”  Only 1.5 percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks (five months), and those are generally done for medical reasons.  Prop 62 is about defining a fertilized egg as a rights-bearing person.  That is more directly an attack on the vast majority of abortions-the 62 percent that are performed before nine weeks.

But it’s oh so much more than that.  For one thing, this law has the potential to restrict the rights of women who aren’t pregnant or have pregnancies that have absolutely no hope of coming to term. In the latter category, you have women with molar pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, or incomplete miscarriages.  According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , Prop 62, if passed, could severely restrict a doctor’s ability to provide health- and life-saving medical care to women who have pregnancies that have gone wrong.  This isn’t an overreaction on their part, but based in a long history of what happens to women when you consider a zygote the equivalent of a 5-year-old.  Catholic hospitals, for instance, will not perform emergency care to remove an incomplete miscarriage as long as the fetus is still technically alive, which leaves a woman quite likely to get an infection that could render her infertile or even kill her.  These are called “ambulance cases” in gynecological jargon, because women who are in the throes of a miscarriage and have the misfortune to go to Catholic hospitals are usually put in an ambulance and rushed to a place that isn’t religion-bound to let her die before they perform the necessary procedures.  You see similar issues when it comes to ectopic pregnancies-in Nicaragua, the personhood status of zygotes means ectopic pregnancies can’t be removed until the fallopian tube bursts, which is one of the main causes of maternal mortality in the country.

There’s a gap between when an egg is fertilized and when it implants, which is what triggers the hormones that indicate that you’re actually pregnant. Considering that 30 percent to 50 percent of fertilized eggs never even implant , one has to conclude that proponents of Prop 62 are arguing that every tampon is potentially the gravesite of a teeny-weeny human corpse.  Despite the fact that using the pill actually means you’re murdering fewer of your itty-bitty “babies”, because you’re not ovulating in the first place, many proponents of this law hope to use it to ban the birth control pill by claiming, incorrectly, that it works by killing fertilized eggs.

So, yes, it’s a shame to see Choice USA fall for the anti-choice bait and switch, where images of hugely pregnant women and well-developed fetuses dominate, but the proposed laws actually target early pregnancies and women who aren’t really pregnant at all.  And while I’m always up for a joke, I have to say that the threat Prop 62 represents to the well-being, health, and even lives of pregnant women is something that extends far beyond their access to singles tennis courts.