An Acorn is Not a Tree, An Embryo Isn’t a Person and Miscarriage Isn’t Murder

Lost in the emotionally charged atmosphere of reproductive rights is the fact that unlike nearly any other discussion about legal rights and freedoms, abortion rights reflect one of the few instances where we deal with a zero sum game.  You cannot grant potential humans rights without taking them away from living, breathing women.

When you acknowledge this basic fact, personhood legislation becomes more than simply political disagreement, it becomes a public debate on how much we as a society value (or don’t value) women.

Tennessee’s legislature has made sure that it has joined company with other states that show that they clearly believe: that bitches ain’t shit.

Like bills that have been proposed or even passed in other states, the original idea that made these sorts of laws palatable is that they purport to protect pregnant women.  The idea of protecting women by adding an additional penalty for attacking or killing pregnant women to existing law seems on the most shallow examination to be a positive step.  Pregnant women are statistically more vulnerable to domestic violence, and so the basic idea seems to hold water.

But the difference comes in how the laws are constructed; when an criminal prosecution includes an aggravating factor (e.g. hate crime), that modifies an existing crime.  These laws create a new crime against a victim that should never be recognized under the law.  It’s absolute essential to recognize it’s not about protecting pregnant women from attack (which is obviously already illegal), it’s about prosecuting someone for the death of a person that doesn’t even fucking exist yet.  These sorts of laws have been used to constrain the rights of pregnant women in totally unethical ways.  I’ve already talked about the sorts of bills that only deal with assaulting or killing a pregnant woman here, but the bill the Tennessee legislature has passed is something more harmful.

While these bills normally simply blur the line between abortion and homicide, the change to Tennessee’s law very clearly attempts to advance a legal justification of a zygote as a person under the law.  The previous statutes specifically require a “viable fetus” whereas this bill allows for criminal prosecution for anyone causing the death of “a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero.”

It becomes abundantly clear that conservative lawmakers are trying to get the law to recognize eggs as people; here is a quote from Republican Representative Matthew Hill:

This deals with criminal behavior, by people who have harmed not one but two Tennesseans

I don’t think we need any more proof that we’re looking at another embryos are people bill here.

One response to “An Acorn is Not a Tree, An Embryo Isn’t a Person and Miscarriage Isn’t Murder”

  1. Wink101 says :

    I just saw another site where someone had posted something almost identical to this and thought I’d leave you the same reply that I left there…

    This article got me really upset and worried over what this could mean for the rights of pregnant women…. until I actually looked up the law and read it for myself. :/ This article is incredibly misleading and draws focus away from the real errors of the bill that need to be addressed by falsely marketing it as “criminalizing miscarriage.” The article also fails to mention that HOUSE BILL 3517 is actually an amendment to a preexisting law: Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 39-13-214

    The bill specifically states: “(a) For the purposes of this part, “another” and “another person” include a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the
    victim of any act made criminal by this part, and when at the time of the criminal act the
    victim was pregnant.

    (c) Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any act or omission by a pregnant woman with respect to an embryo or fetus with which she is pregnant, or to any lawful
    medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents, performed by a
    health care professional who is licensed to perform such procedure. ”

    In other words… the law only applies to miscarriages that are the result of a criminal act of violence in which the victim is a pregnant woman who loses her embryo/fetus as a result of the violent act. Under this law it is possible to charge the assailant for the murder of the embryo/fetus, but the law SPECIFICALLY states that the pregnant woman cannot be charged under this law for a miscarriage that was due to her own action or inaction. It also SPECIFICALLY states that legal abortions by licensed healthcare providers cannot be criminalized under this law.

    The only thing truly objectionable about Tennessee’s HOUSE BILL 3517 is that it sets a precedent for Pro-Life groups to claim that the state recognizes a fertilized embryo as a living thing. HOWEVER, the bill makes a clear distinction that the fetus is only considered a homicide victim in the case where the mother intended to carry it to full term and it the miscarriage was induced against her will. Otherwise, it is not considered a homicide victim and subject to legal abortion without consequence. And, yes, abortion is legal in Tennessee.

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