Buckle up those fetuses!

A report on pregnant women and seat belts is a reminder of the slippery slope in how we talk about the unborn.

By Carol Lloyd

Published April 3, 2008 7:46PM (EDT)

A U.S. News and World Report article about a new report on seat belt use among pregnant women had me regurgitating my bran flakes this morning.

"Seat Belt Use by Pregnant Women Could Save 200 Fetuses a Year." Headline peeled from the cover of the Onion? No, it's a story about a new study from the University of Michigan and forthcoming in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study found that pregnant women should wear seat belts, not only for their own safety but also for the safety of their fetuses.

Very well. Since there is apparently some folklore that advises pregnant women against wearing seat belts (strikes me as patently absurd), there's no harm in a scientific study proving the obvious: Seat belts save lives. Not just "regular people" but pregnant women with big vulnerable bellies.

But the angle of the article -- the saving of 200 fetuses a year, a rather small number given the approximate 43,000 automobile deaths in the United States every year -- seems kinda insidious. (In case you missed it, Oklahoma passed legislation this week that allows healthcare workers to refuse to perform abortions and requires abortion providers to do ultrasounds of all pregnant women seeking abortions, along with another bill that makes it a felony to assault a pregnant woman and cause a miscarriage.)

Would I be devastated to lose a pregnancy in an automobile accident? Of course. But with headlines focused on saving fetuses (not their mothers) combined with new laws and Horton hearing every creature however small, it seems there's a not-so-silent march toward endowing fetuses with personhood.

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

MORE FROM Carol Lloyd

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex