One of the most horrorfying aspect of moves like making miscarriage a crime, is how they reduce women to being no more than a womb.
A lot of it seems to me to elevate an actual human being over a potential human being. A living breathing woman, whether she is pregnant or not, actually exists. She has thoughts and opinions; her life is real and now and it is undeniable. Embryos and fetuses have the potential to be all those things, but they are not there yet. I know this will be a controversial point to some reading this blog, who oppose a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, but I wanted to clearly state that this is where I am coming from. To put what's in the uterus ahead of the person with the uterus seems bizarre to me.
Some of this seems to stem from a weird concept of innocence that is rooted in the idea that the older we get the more sinful we are, and therefore the less worthy we are as people. This view seems to be surprisingly widespread, and sometimes even results in the frustrating use of the term "women and children" as a shorthand for a special class of people who are "the innocent"*. As if some people could be more deserving of being blown up than others, because of some quaint idea that they are less sinful. But I digress.
I can understand how people look at a significantly pregnant woman and find it hard to look past her gravid state. I remember when Wriggly was about three months old turning up to something and having an acquaintance do a double-take that I was no longer bulging out the front. His gaze went straight from my face to my belly. Then he asked where Wriggly was, as if we were somehow still physically attached, looking around behind me. I had actually seen this person since my son's birth, but somehow it was taking him a while to get to grips with me as a non-pregnant person again. My defining characteristic for so many months, my distended middle, had gone and some people found it difficult to relate.
And it's an easy topic of conversation, an icebreaker if you will. For the observer, it's the first time you've talked about this with this woman and so it's still interesting to you. It may be the tenth time she's discussed her pregnancy today, been asked the same well-meaning questions ("do you know the gender?" "when are you due?" "are your ankles swelling yet?") and listened to horror birth stories she really didn't want to hear. Don't get me wrong, it's nice that people care, but sometimes you really don't want to talk about your uterus All The Time. Sometimes you want to make up a FAQ handout, give it to people along with five minutes of SSR, and then start a conversation about something else entirely. Because a woman is so much more than her pregnancy, and it's not the only thing she wants to talk about (or is capable of talking about either).
I look forward to a time when women are treated like full agents in charge of their own lives, whose fertility is just one facet of their lives. The sooner the better.
*In a more trivial example I heard on the radio a few weeks back that some of those supporting a city-wide liquor ban in public places in Wellington were arguing for it on the basis that "women and children" (or sometimes "mothers and children") shouldn't have to see drunk people in their playgrounds. Because everyone knows that if you are a lady who has responsibility for caring for a child you will swoon on the spot if you see someone who is intoxicated. /sarcasm