Pregnant and licensed to kill

What's the real aim of an Oklahoma law allowing expectant mothers to slay any attacker?

Published April 4, 2009 10:30AM (EDT)

A bill before the Oklahoma Senate would give pregnant women the license to kill. OK, so it's a bit of a stretch to envision Agent 00Baby, clad in spy maternity wear and waddling around with a gun resting on the top of her bulging belly. But, if the law is passed, expectant mothers in the state would be allowed to annihilate anyone who threatens her sensitive mission: birthing that baby.

The Use of Force for the Protection of the Unborn Act is reportedly a response to a tragic story: A pregnant Michigan woman stabbed her boyfriend to death after he hit her in the stomach, killing her quadruplets; she was convicted of manslaughter. (It's worth mentioning that there was some disagreement during the trial over whether she was actually pregnant at the time.) I had a visceral, momma bear response to the story. Scrubbed of expletives, it was something along the lines of: Who wouldn't kill to save their baby? But, by now we pro-choicers are trained to suspect that the underlying aim of such bills is to redefine a fetus as an unborn person whose rights can challenge those of the mother. It's proved a pretty ingenious way to attack abortion rights, and it always puts pro-choicers in a tough spot.

I could venture down the well-trodden path of debate over when a stirring of life becomes a fully realized person -- a question to which I have a political, although not a personal, answer -- but it's unclear whether this bill really warrants that defensive position. It doesn't grant a fetus the same rights as a fully realized human being, as Megan points out on Jezebel. Still, I get a paranoid impulse to look over my legal shoulder anytime a fetus is legally codified as an "unborn child," as it is in this bill. Not to mention, Rep. Mike Thompson's defense of the measure is a tad worrying: "What we want to make sure is that a woman feels safe and secure defending herself and her unborn child against any attacker." First, Oklahoma already has a law on the books defending a person's right to use necessary force against an attacker. Second, that state also has several fetal homicide laws.

So, I'll kick it to you, dear reader: Is this an appropriate strengthening of pregnant women's rights or a dangerous advance of fetuses-as-people politics?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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