The Right Makes War on Pregnant Women and Mothers

Here’s a thing about the right that puzzles me, and it’s something I have written about before: many conservatives claim to be deeply concerned about ‘the children,’ yet they actively work against their welfare on a regular basis. Most are specifically interested in foetuses, creating a sort of fetish for them that I find deeply disturbing, but even if foetuses are the only thing of value and children are worthless once born, conservative policies, bluntly, do not make sense. If the right cares so deeply about ‘the children,’ why isn’t it promoting their welfare?

In the US right now, we’re looking at what is very specifically a war on pregnant bodies, with a particular focus on pregnant cis women (who are, after all, the vast majority of pregnant people in the US). We have a ballooning number of foetal homicide and foetal pain laws designed to limit access to abortion services and penalise patients who have abortions or, in some cases, lose pregnancies to natural causes. Imagine the pain of miscarriage topped by a criminal investigation to determine whether you should be charged, with your very much wanted pregnancy viewed on center stage and people attempting to determine whether you were ‘fit’ or ‘responsible’ or if you were to blame. Pregnancy loss happens, and while it is tragic, it is also not unprecedented, and it is often out of the control of anyone involved.

And we have states like New Mexico, pushing laws to turn a foetus into ‘evidence’ in rape cases, thus setting up a situation where rape victims and survivors would have to carry pregnancies resulting from rape or risk being charged with evidence tampering.

All of these laws are designed to do several things. The first, of course, is to limit access to abortion, and the right is very open about the ways in which it uses legislation and social pressure to assert control over the bodies of pregnant patients. Conservatives want to end access to legal abortion in the US, period. They would prefer to see people dying before being able to access abortion services, even in cases where the foetus is unlikely to survive and the focus should be on trying to save the life of a living human being rather than doing everything to save a pregnancy that likely won’t make it to term.

These laws are also designed to very specifically and sharply dehumanise their subjects. They reduce pregnant people to walking incubators who are only of interest inasmuch as they can carry foetuses, and their sole purpose in life is, apparently, to do just that. In passing laws that focus entirely on foetal existence without so much as a passing reference to that of the living patient, the right abstracts the reality of the fact that a pregnancy isn’t just about a clump of rapidly dividing, differentiating, and developing cells that turns into a foetus which eventually becomes viable and has the potential to become an actual independently breathing, much-loved, and happily-greeted baby.

A pregnancy involves a whole system, not just the uterus as a floating abstraction drifting through the landscape. Without the patient to support it, the uterus is useless, and a body is not a vessel for a uterus; pregnant patients are not there merely to supply a developing foetus with a place to hang out. They have their own lives and concerns and in cases where they want a pregnancy, obviously they are going to take every step possible to ensure its success, but they also have the right to determine that a pregnancy is not in their best interests at the time, and may not be in the best interests of the foetus, either.

In all its fetishising of foetuses (not pregnancy, mind, just foetuses), the right utterly fails to provide any support whatsoever for pregnant patients. It screams that it’s necessary to make sure every foetus successfully matures, but won’t lift a finger to help pregnant patients. At the same time the right demands that patients be nothing more than baby factories, it won’t actually provide any social or institutional support for such, and in fact actively works against pregnant patients in some kind of deep perversion of its own stated values.

If the foetus is a precious jewel and a prize to be saved at all costs, shouldn’t pregnant patients be supported, by extension? Shouldn’t they be able to access the nutrition they need to fully support a pregnancy? Shouldn’t they have access to comfortable, safe, healthy housing, warm clothing, and other basic necessities of life? Shouldn’t they be able to get out of abusive relationships, report rape and abuse, and enjoy other legal protections? Shouldn’t they be supported in the workplace, and provided with adequate paid leave as they prepare for the birth and deal with the aftermath of the arrival of the baby? Shouldn’t they be given flexible work schedules to raise all those babies they’ll be having, and shouldn’t their work as caregivers, and potentially as homemakers, depending on which parent stays at home, be valued as a form of important and critical work?

Why, if foetuses are so important, is there zero interest on the part of the right when it comes to creating an effective support system for them? Surely the right understands that a developing foetus does not actually exist in a vacuum, much though the right seems to wish it were possible to just use mechanical incubators for all fetal development needs. The right must realise that numerous things can endanger a pregnancy, including pollution, stress, and lack of social support; and surely it must understand that its opposition to attempts to regular these very issues makes it look like a raging bumpkin.

How can you say that every foetus is precious and scream about the value of human life and put up manipulative signage about how abortion is destroying Black communities when you refuse to take action on pollution in West Oakland, where numerous primarily Black and Latino babies are born with serious health problems? How can you do that and oppose hospital funding? Withdraw support for social services? Cut food stamps, medical assistance, and other programmes intended to support people, some of whom may be pregnant? Specifically cut programmes designed for pregnant people? How can these actions be reconciled with the love for the foetus? Why is the right being allowed to dominate narratives about pregnancy?