Thursday, April 03, 2008

Miscarriage of justice

Echidne noted an AP story via the NYTimes about a teen girl who had a miscarriage. Note the language used by the AP (with emphasis):

Police in Houston say a 14-year-old girl who delivered a stillborn fetus in an airliner restroom on her way back from a middle-school field trip will not be charged with any wrongdoing.

Gee, that's a relief. But why did the AP fail to call the "delivery" a miscarriage?

Homicide investigators say they interviewed both the girl and a 14-year-old boy believed to be the father.

Police say that prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against the girl. The fetus was found in a waste can on a Continental Airlines flight that landed at Houston after a flight from New York.

Authorities say the girl told police she didn't know she was pregnant. Preliminary autopsy results indicated the fetus was stillborn and not viable.

Echidne's righteous response:

Homicide investigators???? The fetus was stillborn and not viable, and in any case it was a fetus. What wrongdoing could she possibly have been charged with? Leaving a dead fetus in a waist can, perhaps, rather than wrapping it up carefully and taking it home to show to her parents?

In a patriarchal system, the autonomy of a female's bodily functions and her privacy are always in question, in need of review, approval, and control. Now miscarriages--miscarriages, people!--attract the scrutiny of law enforcement. The damn AP story couldn't use the proper term because of why? While Houston homicide wasted time investigating the teen girl's miscarriage, how many bona fide murder investigations cooled off? Screwed-up, ya think?

A few years ago in Virginia, state legislator John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) introduced a poorly-written bill "requir[ing] any woman who experiences 'fetal death' without a doctor’s assistance to report this to the local law-enforcement agency within twelve hours of the miscarriage. Failure to do so is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor." The penalty for failing to report? "[C]onfinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2500, either or both.” Cosgrove was inundated by outraged emails so that he amended the language. Mighty nice of the incompetent twit.

Misogyny is pervasive and oppressive. Don't ever forget it... although political news and pundits remind us constantly.