Alabama Seeks To Strip Prisoner Of Parental Rights To Prevent Abortion

by
Indrani Sengupta
If they can do it to her, they can do it to any woman. What will happen to a woman's choice then, if she's reduced to a vessel?

UPDATE: On Wednesday, a sworn statement was issued on Jane Doe’s behalf, announcing that the woman had changed her mind.

"After much consideration and counsel, I ... have decided that I no longer desire to pursue an abortion procedure and intend to carry the unborn child to full term and birth.”

Doe/Doe's representative stresses that she made the decision without any “undue influence, duress, or threat of harm,” and we sincerely hope that’s true. Because it’s quite hard to believe that being threatened to have your parental rights stripped, and forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, doesn’t constitute “undue influence” or “duress.” If these are the lengths the state was willing to go in full view, then who's to say what else might have happened behind closed doors?

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They’ve implemented waiting periods, shut down abortion clinics, and maligned Planned Parenthood. Now, the latest in a long line of attempts at preventing women from exercising their right to choose:  attempting to strip a woman of her parental rights, so that she is forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

The unnamed prisoner, referred to only as “Jane Doe,” sought permission from the court to travel to Huntsville to end her pregnancy, as per her constitution rights. She says she was unable to procure an abortion before being taken into custody, and was still in the first trimester.

But Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly is arguing against the request, asking the court to strip Doe of her parental rights, and in so doing, her right to end the pregnancy. The state court has appointed an attorney to serve on behalf of Doe’s fetus.

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One of Doe’s attorneys, Randall Marshall, captures the sheer oppressiveness of this imposition:

“It appears to me that what the state is attempting to do is turn Jane Doe into a vessel, and control every aspect of her life, forcing her to give birth to a baby, which she has decided she does not want to do.”

Adding, with a touch of sardonicism,

“The case has certainly moved to this new dimension, but welcome to Alabama.”

Indeed, Alabama is no stranger to such baffling extremes. This isn’t the first time it’s appointed legal representation to fetuses (and sometimes without offering any to the women carrying them). It’s even required pregnant teenagers who wish to procure an abortion without notifying a legal guardian to argue for their right before court.

Basically, parents know best…unless what’s best is abortion.

Such a ruling could set a dangerous precedent: the state is able to exercise undue influence over the woman because she is a prisoner, and prisoners (regardless of their crimes, or lack thereof) appear a lot less sympathetic than the average citizen. But who’s to say such an imposition won’t befall any other woman thereafter, regardless of age or circumstance?

Read more: Abortion Fight Haunts U.S. Top Court Hearing On Healthcare Law

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