The Size of a Sweet Pea

According to the American Pregnancy Association, for women in their childbearing years, the chances of having a miscarriage can range from 10-25%, and in most healthy women, the average is about 15-20% chance.

That’s pretty high, and pretty terrifying. You can be perfectly and flawlessly healthy, and still lose your pregnancy. You can be a decorated Olympic athlete, and still suffer a miscarriage.

The medical term for “miscarriage”, as I learned in my nursing course from last quarter, is “spontaneous abortion”.

The states of Georgia and Alabama, amongst others, apparently wish for all abortions, both planned and spontaneous, to be equally punishable under the court of law as a felony. Doctors who perform the procedure could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison. The bill includes an exception for cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk, but lawmakers on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have added exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Convicted felons cannot vote, cannot recieve federal and state grants to fund their education, cannot live in public housing, cannot recieve SSI and food stamps, may lose their parental rights, may lose their ability to travel abroad, cannot hold public office, and have an intensely difficult time finding a home. 

John Becker, an Ohio Republican, believes that to avoid both planned and spontaneous abortions, doctors who would normally think to terminate a pregnancy, specifically those that threaten a woman’s life, can easily fix the problem by moving the embryo; it is currently medically impossible to take an ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants itself outside the uterus, which can result in massive internal bleeding if not caught early) and put it into the uterus where it belongs. Again, this is impossible, and intensely insulting to women who have lost their very-much wanted pregnancies as a result of this. His ignorance is insulting to all humans who have suffered miscarriage. 

For the state of Georgia, their anti-abortion law, HB 481, will have the power to prosecute people who have elected abortions after the sixth week of gestation, people who suffer spontaneous abortions, and the medical personnel who treat them. For most uterus-owning humans, the sixth week of gestation is about 2 weeks after a missed menstrual period; every person’s cycle is different, so we can only estimate plus or minus 14 days after the day one is supposed to begin seeing blood in their underpants. The median age of menarche in the United States is about 12, and many children do not have regular, monthly periods until their late teens. Even adults can experience irregular periods for years due to things like stress, chronic diseases such as diabetes and IBD, hormonal issues with the thyroid gland, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.     

Under HB 481, a fetus shall have full legal rights once medical personnel can detect cardiac activity. This means that a fetus will be viewed in the court of law as a distinct person with full legal recognition and be included in population based determinations (like, the census records) because they are legal residents of their state. A 6 week old fetus is the size of a sweet pea. A fetus less than 6 weeks is even tinier than a sweet pea. But the Grand Ol’ Party apparently thinks sweet peas have more right to life than migrant children crossing the border who go for months without seeing their family members and endure sexual abuse under U.S. custody. Why aren't Republican state legislators actively and passionately pursuing legal protection for those babies? 

Unless something changes, this bill will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020; abortion and miscarriage are still legal, for now at least. As Margaret Atwood wrote in her dystopian thriller The Handmaid’s Tale, “Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”