15. Reporting Miscarriages, Criminalizing Pregnant Women’s Bodies

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

A proposed bill before the Kansas state legislature would require women to report miscarriages at any stage in pregnancy. This has been described as the first step along the path to criminalizing pregnant women’s bodies. Under an amendment attached to House Bill 2613, doctors would be required to report all of their patients’ miscarriages to the state health department, Tara Culp-Ressler reported for ThinkProgress.

The initial purpose of HB 2613 was to provide an alternative to the state’s current stillbirth certificate. Some parents believe the existing law overemphasizes their child’s death in a way that is emotionally painful. Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, who happens to be among the state’s most active and enthusiastic abortion opponents, added the miscarriage-reporting requirement. The bill’s original author, Kansas representative John Doll, subsequently withdrew his support from the legislation: “I can’t support the bill as it was amended. I think it waters it down and makes it into a political statement. I wanted a bill to help give closure to some families—I didn’t want it to have anything to do with pro-life or pro-choice issues.”

No other state has enacted a mandatory miscarriage reporting law, Culp-Ressler reported, although Virginia considered similar legislation in 2009. “We never see these bills,” said Elizabeth Nash, the states issue manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to advance reproductive health including abortion rights. “The whole point,” Nash explained, “is to further the idea of the fetus as a person. It’s a way of establishing the groundwork for making abortion harder to get, and eventually illegal.”

In addition to adding the mandatory miscarriage reporting amendment to HB 2613, Sen. Pilcher-Cook has also sought to weaken the state’s sex education laws, levy a sales tax on abortion procedures, and prevent the state’s abortion restrictions from including exceptions for rape and incest.

Culp-Ressler reported that National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has documented “hundreds of cases of women being held criminally liable for decisions they made while pregnant, particularly if they later suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth.” Ultimately, Culp-Ressler concluded, enacting additional regulations related to the end of a pregnancy, like Kansas HB 2613, “turn pregnant women into suspects in the eyes of the law.”

Source: Tara Culp-Ressler, “Kansas May Force Doctors to Report Women’s Miscarriages to the State Health Department,” ThinkProgress, March 24, 2014, http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/03/24/3418085/kansas-miscarriage-reporting.

Student Researcher: Alandra Brown (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)