March 15, 2004
Prosecuting a Utah mother for murder due to the stillbirth of her child is not only cruel, it is an attack on all women
"Utah's prosecution of Melissa Ann Rowland is a fascistic assault on the rights of women," according to Anne Slater, Seattle Radical Women Organizer. "Ms. Rowland's crime is being a poor, mentally ill woman who made reproductive choices that the moralistic medical establishment disagreed with. Radical Women calls for Ms. Rowland's immediate release and that all charges against her be dropped."
Rowland is in a Salt Lake City jail for child endangerment and has also been charged with criminal homicide. Over a three-week period, Rowland was reportedly told by doctors several times that she should have an immediate Cesarean section delivery due to medical complications of the twins she was bearing. Rowland had experienced two surgical deliveries before and had evidently found them severely traumatizing. Nevertheless, she eventually agreed to the procedure on January 13. One of her twins was born dead. The other allegedly tested positive for cocaine and alcohol, resulting in Rowland being jailed the day following surgery. On March 11, still in jail, she was charged with criminal homicide for the death of the stillborn child.
"Is this compassion? Is this how Utah cares for the ill and mentally disabled?," asks Slater, an abortion rights activist who has often led clinic defense efforts in the Pacific Northwest. "The criminal behavior here is all on the part of Salt Lake officialdom. Salt Lake officials seem to believe that Rowland's status as a pregnant woman makes her a breeding instrument of the state, with no right to privacy and no personal sovereignty. This is a nightmare straight from the pages of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale."
Slater attributes the prosecution of Rowland to a political climate hostile to reproductive rights for women. Utah has passed a number of laws that restrict abortion including mandatory counseling and delays, prohibiting certain medical procedures, restricting public funding for poor women seeking abortions, and requiring parental consent. Other measures enacted by the state legislature have been found unconstitutional.
"This horrifying case reflects a view of the uterus as state property that is enshrined in other Utah state laws. Who will be targeted next--pregnant smokers? Working mothers? People with improper genetic backgrounds?" she asks.
Slater sees a contradiction in the Bush administration's fondness for advocating women's rights in other countries and yet pushing his own anti-woman agenda at home. "George Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq on the partial pretext of protecting the women of those country's from anti-woman fundamentalism and brutality. Yet the laws that allowed this attack on Rowland are backed by Bush 100%--as well as by the Republicans and Democrats who enshrine fetal rights over women's rights in measures such as the ban on late term abortion and the proposed 'Unborn Victims of Violence Act.'"
Radical Women invites women across the country to join their Revolutionary Feminist Contingent at the March for Women's Lives on April 25, 2004 in Washington, D.C.
For more information, email RWseattle@mindspring.com or call 206-722-6057 (Seattle) or 212-222-0633 (New York City).