Your miscarriage may now be a crime in Kentucky

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples
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Here’s the scenario: You are very clearly pregnant. Your family knows, your neighbors know, your co-workers know.

Then one weekend, you begin bleeding – lightly at first, then heavier. You call your OB/GYN, who says to go to the hospital and she’ll meet you there. After examining you, she confirms your suspicions: you are having a miscarriage.

After some hours of waiting, she notes that your body does not appear to have expelled all the fetal tissue on its own. She recommends a dilation and curettage (D&C) to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. Eventually, you go home, and begin to deal with the end of your pregnancy.

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For the hundreds of women in Kentucky who have a miscarriage each year, the trauma of dealing with it should be the end of the story. But with Kentucky’s “trigger law” that is now in effect, it may not be. In fact, you, the pregnant woman, may be investigated by law enforcement – and your OB/GYN could go to prison.

Why? Because you were obviously pregnant, and now you obviously are not. You can SAY you had a miscarriage, but can you prove it? Perhaps it was not a miscarriage; instead, you obtained the “abortion pill” from a friend, or through the mail, and ended your pregnancy that way. In Kentucky, that is now a class D felony.

And even though Kentucky’s law says the woman will not be charged with a crime herself, there will still be an investigation. Who gave you the pill? Your sister? Then SHE can be charged and sent to prison.

Let’s say, instead, that you did go to the hospital. Imagine a woman who has just had a miscarriage at the hospital, and is back at home, exhausted and in grief. Then there comes a knock at the door, and two police officers say they are there to “just ask a few questions, ma’am.” They then proceed to interrogate her for two hours about her supposed “miscarriage.”

And what of the OB/GYN? A D&C is a standard procedure after a miscarriage. It is also one method of carrying out an abortion. Will the police also show up at the hospital? Will they ask the OB/GYN to “come with us,” and arrest her for carrying out an abortion? Will she be prosecuted?

Will OB/GYNs across the state consider that the risk is too great, and stop treating miscarriages? Will some OB/GYN not be able to prove she was dealing with a miscarriage, and wind up facing prison time for a felony?

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I can hear some of you snorting “this will never happen” – but it is already happening.

  • In the U.S., a Native American woman had a miscarriage at four months in 2020. In 2021, she was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, after the prosecutors said the miscarriage was her fault for using illicit drugs.
  • In El Salvador, a 33-year-old woman who went to hospital to seek treatment after a miscarriage was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide. She died in jail in 2010. El Salvador’s laws require doctors to report women suspected of having abortions or face jail themselves.

And consider the political reality in our state, with large numbers of electeds and everyday citizens cheering the overturn of Roe. Isn’t it reasonable to expect that some ambitious local prosecutor will see this as a way to make a name for himself, to be the first to investigate a miscarriage as a “possible abortion”?

And isn’t it also likely that at some point in the future, EVERY miscarriage will be treated as a possible abortion – especially if a “fetal personhood” bill gets passed by Congress and approved by the Supreme Court?

If you ask any Republican lawmaker about this, they will pooh-pooh it and claim they didn’t mean for the law to apply to miscarriages. Why, then, did they write the law the way they did? They may not have meant for it to apply to miscarriages – but it DOES, as I’ve illustrated above.

So now, women, if you decide to become pregnant, remember that not only is it an irreversible decision, according to Kentucky law – it also puts you in danger of being the target of an investigation if you have a miscarriage.

We may not be in Gilead yet – but we can see it from here.

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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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