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FACT CHECK: Did pre-Roe abortion law force Florida rep to carry stillborn baby for months?

by | May 17, 2024

By Nancy Flanders

Rep. Frederica Wilson from Florida first publicly shared her story of child loss in January of 2023 in front of the House of Representatives. Her heartbreak was obvious, but the truth was obscured. She claimed that approximately five decades ago, Florida’s pre-Roe v. Wade law prevented her doctor from inducing labor after a stillbirth (a miscarriage late in pregnancy).

Recently, she shared the story again, as Florida’s law protecting preborn babies after a detectable heartbeat (about six weeks gestation) went into effect.

But Wilson’s story is particularly puzzling, because according to Dr. Donna Harrison, Director of Research for the American Association of Pro-Life OBGYNs, “There is no law now nor has there ever been any law in any of the states of the United States which prohibits the treatment of miscarriage.”

Her story

“After getting married in 1968, I would soon become a mother-to-be. It was the joy of my life, I was ecstatic. My husband was walking on the clouds … [We] would touch my stomach all the time just the feel the movement of our baby boy and the glory of a life growing inside of me,” Wilson claimed, acknowledging the humanity of her own preborn son.

“Then at seven months, the baby stopped moving. He was soon pronounced dead — right inside of my womb — and the doctor was prohibited by law from inducing labor,” she added.

Later, in a tweet on May 2, 2024, Wilson claimed that prior to Roe, “I was forced to carry my dead stillborn baby boy in my womb for 3 months to term. As his flesh disintegrated, it poisoned by bloodstream, and I almost died! It was considered illegal to induce labor, even to save my life.”

Then she added (referring to Florida’s new pro-life law, which does not prevent miscarriage treatment or ectopic pregnancy treatment of any sort), “WE CAN’T GO BACK FLORIDA!” (emphasis added)

Despite the fact that Wilson clearly knows her own son was a human being based upon the language she uses when referring to him, she supports abortion. On April 1, 2024, she stated (reiterating her own pre-Roe stillbirth) “… [P]eople’s reproductive health care decisions should be made by them. It should not be subject to the mandates of the state, unelected officials, or male legislators who lack firsthand experience of the joys, pains, and challenges of a pregnancy. Now, with abortion up for consideration on the Florida ballot, we have the opportunity to reclaim the authority over our own bodies. I know what it was like before Roe v. Wade. I almost died from a stillbirth because, at the time, there were no protections for me. We cannot go back to those days.” (emphasis added)

Florida’s abortion law at the time

According to a paper published in the Florida Law Review by author C. Ken Bishop, the state’s law from 1868 remained unchanged until 1972 (the year before Roe), and stated:

Abortion. – Every person who shall administer to any woman pregnant with a quick child any medicine, drug or substance whatever, or shall use or employ any instrument or other means, with intent thereby to destroy such childunless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such mother, or shall have been advised by two physicians to be necessary for such purpose, shall, in case the death of such child or of such mother be thereby produced, be deemed guilty of manslaughter.

The paper’s author also stated that in Florida, “An abortion before the ‘quickening’ of the fetus was not criminal at common law.” The phrase “quick child” referred to a child whose movement can be felt by the mother, meaning sometime between the 16th to the 20th week of pregnancy, notes the paper.

So, to clarify: the state’s law did not allow anyone to “produce” the “death of such child” with “intent thereby to destroy such child” who was considered a “quick child” likely beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy, “unless… necessary to preserve the life of the mother.”

It seems clear that in the case of a stillborn baby like Wilson’s, that 1) the state’s law did would not have considered the induced delivery of her deceased child an abortion (since no one was producing the child’s death or intentionally destroying him), and 2) even if Wilson’s life were threatened and her child was still alive, an abortion would have been allowed under the law.

Therefore, Wilson’s claim that inducing a stillbirth was illegal makes absolutely no sense. Was Wilson misled by her physician about the law? If not, one can only guess why she would repeatedly make such a claim.

Does it seem logical that a state which would allow a living child to be killed in the womb to save a mother’s life would somehow not allow a stillborn (deceased, miscarried) child to be delivered? The answer is no.

It is simply false to claim that the delivery of a stillborn child was restricted by law, and equally false that it wasn’t allowed even to save the mother’s life.

Delivery of a miscarried/stillborn child was legal then, and is legal now

Research shows that in cases of a diagnosis of “fetal demise” such as this, the timing of delivery as well as the method depends both on the child’s gestational age and the mother’s obstetric history as well as what she prefers to do — meaning she has options.

According to research compiled by Medscape, induced delivery of the child should be offered, but the mother is able to decide at what point she wishes be induced. “The timing of delivery is not critical unless there is an associated condition that places maternal health at risk such as preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, placental abruption, or coagulopathy,” according to Medscape.

Risks can be reduced with careful observation of the mother’s health. This treatment is valid and legal regardless of the state the mother lives in and the laws governing abortion in those states because induced delivery of a deceased child is not an induced abortion.

In an induced abortion, the intent of the procedure is to kill the preborn child.

Medscape continued, “Methods for delivery of the stillborn fetus typically include dilation and evacuation [D&E] or induction of labor. In the second trimester, dilation and evacuation can be offered if an experienced healthcare provider is available. The patient should be aware that dilation and evacuation limits autopsy evaluation of macroscopic fetal abnormalities and precludes seeing or holding the fetus [because in a D&E, the baby is dismembered].”

It is unclear — and will likely remain unclear, since Rep. Wilson is over 80 years old and her doctor is likely to have since passed away — why her physician didn’t induce labor if Wilson wanted labor to be induced. (Research shows there was likely not a major threat to Rep. Wilson’s life unless she had a pre-existing health condition or a pregnancy-related health condition that she has not shared.)

Dr. Harrison of AAPLOG told Live Action News, “The laws regulating abortion only regulate the intentional killing of human beings in the womb. If a woman had a baby who had died in the womb, there was never any law which prohibited caring for her. It is nonsense to say that she would be required to ‘carry to term’ because there is no ‘term’ with a dead baby.”

This never has to happen again

The narrative put forth in Rep. Wilson’s story never need be another woman’s experience in the United States, even if induced abortion is completely prohibited by law.

Prohibiting the intentional killing of preborn children does not equal prohibiting the treatment of pregnancy loss, and pro-life laws already distinguish between the two. Using one’s own story of child loss to promote the elective killing of other people’s children (some even up to birth) under the guise of saving lives is — at best — dishonest and misleading.

It can be illegal to intentionally kill a preborn child while it is legal to induce the delivery of a deceased baby. Legislators like Wilson can act to ensure women receive proper health care during pregnancy — such as induced delivery during a medical emergency — without making it legal to kill preborn children. But they don’t want to — as her own recent remarks made clear.

Wilson’s pro-abortion efforts aren’t about the emergency care that she needed. Nor are they about any other woman’s need for such miscarriage management, ectopic pregnancy treatment, emergency delivery, or emergency C-section. If they were, then pro-life laws would be acceptable to her because pro-life laws do not prevent any of these valid and necessary medical care treatments.

Pro-abortion efforts also aren’t about educating the medical community to ensure that they (as the laws specify) know the difference between intentionally killing a child and removing an already deceased one. Instead, they’re about one thing: ensuring that women can kill their living babies during pregnancy at any point for any reason.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action and is reposted with permission.

Categories: pro-abortion