Before they found the body behind their sorority house...
January 23, 2020 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Her Sorority Sisters Suspected She Was Pregnant. What Did Emile Weaver Know? For months, Emile Weaver denied her pregnancy. A gruesome discovery forced her to confront the truth. (Elle by Alex Ronan)
posted by crazy with stars (45 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Of course if the GOP has it's way and repeals Roe- this will only become more common. Take away options, take away support and desperate people will do desperate things.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:18 PM on January 23, 2020 [20 favorites]

Fuck literally everything about Ohio's anti-abortion legislation. This happened in 2015 while John Kasich was in the middle of signing every single piece of anti-abortion legislation that passed his desk. In 2014 there were twelve abortion providers in the state of Ohio. Women Have Options is my favorite organization in Ohio - followed closely by Founders Women's Health Clinic in Columbus.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:22 PM on January 23, 2020 [37 favorites]

I'm sorry, Emile, but I can't finish your story.

That poor young woman, to feel so....stuck, without choices. It breaks my heart.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:30 PM on January 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Incidentally, legislation passed in 2019 in Ohio criminalizing D&E abortions - essentially criminalizing elective abortions after 10 weeks (which, functionally, means about two months of pregnancy, perhaps less than a month of being sure you are pregnant). As far as I can tell, the part of the law criminalizing doctors providing D&E abortions before 18 weeks is on hold pending a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood so it's still possible to get those abortions in the state, but some clinics (like FWHC, where I had a D&E in 2015) seem to have stopped providing that care in order to minimize complications as legislation changes.

Like I said, fuck everything about Ohio's anti-abortion legislation.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:39 PM on January 23, 2020 [30 favorites]

Life without parole??? And they wanted the death penalty?? What the FUCKING FUCK. Seriously, I don't know how to respond to that other than sputtering with rage.
posted by holborne at 1:40 PM on January 23, 2020 [32 favorites]

I somehow didn't expect such longform pieces from Elle. What a bonkers story. Rough going but certainly worth reading.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:40 PM on January 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm an educated adult woman with a good job and a good support system and I often put off dealing with things that are hard to deal with because, well, they're hard to deal with . They're usually just things like ... not getting the emissions inspection done on my car on time and things like that.

I can't even imagine being 19ish, away from home, with some shitty boyfriend(s), and being expected to find some way to deal with an unexpected pregnancy on your own. How lonely she must've felt, and how unsupported. There were so many points of failure here, even from the beginning with the health center just being like "well, we called and sent a letter, what can you do?" And I can only imagine, despite the pledges of "sisterhood" how the rumors and gossip must've hurt her. It's hard to ask for help when it feels like everything is stacked against you (which, to be absolutely fair in this case, it actually was).

But yeah, let's not bother to address all the societal and systemic things that put Emile in this situation. Let's just throw in her prison for life! That seems like a good solution.
posted by darksong at 2:10 PM on January 23, 2020 [44 favorites]

Ironically, infanticide was punished much less harshly than murder in Victorian England; if a woman gave birth and either abandoned or killed the baby immediately, she would usually be convicted of 'concealing a birth', not murder. It wasn't classified as manslaughter until the 20s.

Killing or abandoning newborns was incredibly common in the period, but no woman was hanged for the crime after 1849 -- even though killing a newborn is obviously murder. But even the Victorian criminal system had more compassion and understanding than is shown in this case.

So the USA is retreating back to pre-1850s attitudes, here. There will be many more such tragedies, and many more suicides, and infinitely more human misery in general.
posted by jrochest at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2020 [42 favorites]

I really dislike the framing in this story. "How could this happen" "Most disturbing act" etc. No one seems to really consider the birth parent in cases like these; not on an emotional level. Sure, we get an overview of contributing factors. She was a little off, she had a crappy childhood, there was no support system, she was young and full of shame, she felt out of options.

But I don't think any of that gets at the deep and persistent trauma that pregnancy really is when you do not want to be pregnant and you do not want a child.

First: you are hosting an alien life form in your body for nine months. You did not ask for it, you can't decline it, it is literally sapping your energy and nutrition and lifeforce, pushing you to the limits of human endurance. You could die. You are aware of its imposition at every moment and you feel revolt and disgust at the changes your body is going through, changes you reject with every fiber of your being. Still, the alien keeps growing no matter what you do. You are a host to an implacable force, uncaring and cruel. The stress and shame of this experience overwhelms you. You are living a body horror nightmare. It's hard to think. How can you get rid of it? Will anyone notice? Can you afford to? If you manage to eject the alien, will you survive your vicious social clime? You're unsure. You realize you live in a world that is extremely hostile to carriers like you. The clock ticks. By the time you steel yourself to do something drastic, it is too late to act. The alien is fully rooted.

Slowly: You live in a split reality. No one sees why this ordeal even bothers you. People around you are joyful the alien is growing! (What kind of carrier doesn't want to host an alien?) Others don't notice at all. Wait. There was another alien maker, wasn't there? Where is he? Oh. The other maker doesn't want anything to do with you. Your problem. Well, you've heard the gossip. If you tell them, your friends and neighbors will surely malign you. What were you thinking, hosting an alien at this age, in this place? Fool. You feel entirely alone. Even admitting your real feelings is so taboo you could be locked up for thinking them. In fact, every bit of propaganda around you encourages you to side with the alien. How would it feel to be destroyed? What if it grows up to do great alien things? Now that you're hosting it, you better take care of its body (your body). Anyway it's your fault for letting yourself host in the first place. Buck up. Besides it's only nine months and a then lifetime you will never get back.

Surely after the carrying and the ejecting you will look into its alien eyes and feel a surge of power and love as it screeches and shits and begs for fluid from your body.

Wait. What if you could do something after all. It's too late to stop the hosting. But-- if you could just hide it -- the whole thing-- maybe there's a chance. You could live your life. Be free again.

What if the worst part was only the memories.
posted by aw jeez at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2020 [106 favorites]

I think an appropriate sentence in this case would be for Emile to get free therapy and special accommodations in class for the next semester.
posted by value of information at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2020 [22 favorites]

One last thing -- the case of the high school senior charged with the same offense referenced in the very last paragraph of the piece is much closer to to the Victorian attitude:

In September, the jury found her not guilty of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter, and child endangerment. She was found guilty of gross abuse of a corpse, and the judge sentenced her to seven days in jail (which she’d already served) and three years’ probation. She’d buried the baby in her parents’ backyard.

We will see more of this. Forgive me if I think that chemical and surgical abortions are less traumatic all round.
posted by jrochest at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2020 [30 favorites]

"It will likely cost the state of Ohio over $1,500,000 to incarcerate her."
posted by Slothrup at 2:59 PM on January 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

Forgive me if I think that chemical and surgical abortions are less traumatic all round.

the trauma is the point. harming women is the point. causing deliberate suffering to women is the entire point of antichoice legislation. nothing else. the people who pass these laws, the people who vote in the officials who promise to pass, defend, and uphold these laws, all of them feel pleasure at the thought of women's suffering. pleasure and satisfaction at a job well done.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2020 [92 favorites]

the trauma is the point. harming women is the point. causing deliberate suffering to women is the entire point of antichoice legislation.

This cannot be emphasized enough.

Women's sense of autonomy begins with reproductive control. Even if you reduce women's legal autonomy over their bodies, so long as women continue to believe they have the right to determine when and how they have children, the job's not done. The point is to weaponize women's bodies to a degree where women are terrified of their own bodily functions and thus will submit without requiring too much coercion.

Antichoice activists are essentially terrorists with a fixation on gender. If they were genuinely opposed to abortion, they'd be fighting to ensure that it's not needing. They show their hands every time they propose a law that punishes someone for having a uterus.
posted by sobell at 5:01 PM on January 23, 2020 [59 favorites]

Goddam that is a difficult read. My heart aches.
posted by dazed_one at 10:06 PM on January 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Where is the compassion for an innocent child murdered? Are you arguing for exposure as being compassionate? A perfectly healthy baby was placed in the trash and asphyxiated.

Being pregnant does not mean you have an alien inside of you. Having not been pregnant, I would imagine that framing your own offspring incubating in your body as an alien increases the anxiety of pregnancy.
posted by koavf at 4:00 AM on January 24, 2020

Did you actually RTFA? Evey bit of your "alien?" question was addressed in there.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:39 AM on January 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

koavf: Dude, I've had two kids I love to bits who are profoundly wanted, and it is *fucking alien*. You can feel them moving inside you - I could see their hands and feet poking out of my belly towards the end they rot your teeth, they sap your will. They make your tits darken and leak and your body hair thicken and your odor change. Even the discharge of your vagina changes. It's deeply unpleasant at the best of times and I hated every second of it, and if it weren't for how much I wanted those two kids I'd have never gone through it.

You do not get to make broad statements about what pregnancy feels like if you've never been there, hey.

And it's deeply uncharitable to assume we're all terrible monsters for not filling this thread with talk about Addison. What's there to talk about? She lived a few minutes. Her mother is all we have to work with here so that's who we're discussing, and clutching at pearls is not going to stop some other desperate, out of choices young mother doing exactly the same thing.

So you wanna get emotional about babies, you can start be taking a step back and trying to work out how to save the next one down the line, which is the whole point of articles like this.
posted by Jilder at 4:42 AM on January 24, 2020 [52 favorites]

Agreed: society should defend and protect innocent life and provide more adequate options for a just and equitable distribution of resources.

Basic compassion to a newborn in danger is something that I would not expect to be something to argue for: Mencius believed that no one is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others and used the example of a baby about to fall into a well. Anyone will naturally be moved by compassion to prevent the tragedy, not to get into the good graces of the parents nor to win praise nor because one dislikes to hear a child cry. Whoever is devoid of a heart of compassion and shame and right or wrong is not human. From this heart comes goodness, duty, courtesy, propriety, and wisdom. Anyone lacking these is a slave. Practicing the good is like archery: when one fails to hit the mark, one must correct oneself. If others do not respond to your love, look into your own humanity. If others fail to respond to your governing, consider your own wisdom. If others do not return your courtesy, look into your own respect. In other words, whenever you fail to achieve your purpose, look into yourself. I take it for granted that if I heard “a dying cat” and found a dying cat, I would be horrified. Similarly, if I heard “a dying cat” and it was a dying human struggling to breathe, I would also be horrified. I take that as instinctual and something that you have to actively fight against.

In no sense is a human being incubated in a human being an alien: not an extraterrestrial, a foreigner from another land, someone from outside your clan, etc. This kind of language is just wildly inaccurate and dehumanizing.
posted by koavf at 4:51 AM on January 24, 2020

Funnily enough, having not been pregnant, I would imagine that people who have can be trusted to accurately report their own experiences and don't need me to tell them what they should be feeling.

But then, I have always been a very imaginative person.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:52 AM on January 24, 2020 [32 favorites]

I don't think anyone is excusing, justifying, or advocating for infanticide, koavf. Of course it's the worst possible outcome and a complete tragedy.

From the article, it's also heartbreakingly common. The article says that estimates are that each year there are 50 to 300 neonaticides from women who are unable to cope with their pregnancies.

The horrifying, frightening, and alienating aspects of pregnancy that many of us can attest to are a reality that surely contributes to the personal hell those women experience. It doesn't excuse what they do but it can be part of trying to understand it.
posted by Sublimity at 5:04 AM on January 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

You understand it, you can work to prevent it. That's it. That's what we're doing here. This is an article in a magazine well read by women around the same age of the sorority girls who missed Emilie's pregnancy. Who knows who will read this and be moved to step in next time. Emilie is explicit - she was desperate for someone to step in and take control, and maybe if we lay it all out like this next time, someone will.
posted by Jilder at 5:11 AM on January 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

I take it for granted that if I heard “a dying cat” and found a dying cat, I would be horrified. Similarly, if I heard “a dying cat” and it was a dying human struggling to breathe, I would also be horrified. I take that as instinctual and something that you have to actively fight against.

I have no idea what you're saying here.
posted by PMdixon at 5:15 AM on January 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

What I am saying is that I do not see anyone showing compassion for a dead baby in this thread (maybe I missed it) and if every take is, “Oh man, this story is awful because of the circumstances of this woman (exclusively and not her child)” then that is curious at best. Her circumstances were certainly pretty awful and I cannot put myself in her shoes. The circumstances of a human being thrown in a trash can to die are also pretty awful, so I am advocating for us to take stock of that and show compassion for someone even more vulnerable than the woman in this story and women in general. Oppressed as women are, I cannot imagine any demographic or cohort or population who are more vulnerable than newborn babies.
posted by koavf at 5:20 AM on January 24, 2020

People allegedly caring about “babies” are a good part of why it was so hard for Emile to have an abortion as she’d attempted to.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:36 AM on January 24, 2020 [39 favorites]

I cannot put myself in her shoes.

Yet you keep insisting on saying that folks are talking too much about how hard it is to walk in those shoes, which is only something that makes sense to do if you think you know what it's like to walk in those shoes. And you keep insisting that people don't care about things if they aren't talking about them right this second, which is so manifestly not true that I know you don't actually believe it or else you'd be on the street yelling about any one of a number of horribles. Neither one of us are going to be pregnant in any form let alone a hidden one or ever going to be abandoned newborns, so maybe don't let's pretend we can say anything about the details of and relationships between those two versions of misery and instead sit the fuck down and listen?

You have come into a room of people expressing anger, grief, and commisseration over the tragedy of someone they feel akin to and done the equivalent of shouting "yeah but she was no angel." I take that level of callousness as uninstinctual and something that you have to actively fight for.
posted by PMdixon at 5:38 AM on January 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

Saying that we should spend some of our emotional energy caring about babies left to die in trash bins and then refocusing it as being about the persons (mothers or others) who leave them to die I guess proves that it is simply impossible to even discuss their suffering. I never said anything about the mother not being an angel: I said that we should not leave babies in trash bins.
posted by koavf at 5:44 AM on January 24, 2020

Nobody's explicitly "showing compassion for a dead baby" (which would be done how, exactly?) in this thread because everyone is fucking taken it as a fucking given that yes of course dead babies are terrible. We don't need to start from first principles or demonstrate our personal moral righteousness by stating how terrible it is that a baby is dead. We are justifiably assuming that certain things are true - the earth is round, water is wet, dead children are a horrible tragedy.

What the article is about and what we are discussing here is how personal trauma and a variety of social and cultural factors all intersect and interact to cause the death of this child and many others and resulted in a young woman being put in prison for life.

If you do not understand that this article and discussion are just one small step beyond the super-basic "dead babies are bad" level of opinion and engagement, then, bluntly, you are not equipped to contribute anything meaningful.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:46 AM on January 24, 2020 [46 favorites]

Yeah, I don’t think that anyone here thinks dead babies are good, but there would have been no substantially mature dead baby if the State of Ohio still had sane laws regarding safe terminations of unwanted pregnancy.
posted by hwestiii at 5:58 AM on January 24, 2020 [17 favorites]

I have three kids - all of whom were wanted and planned for in a stable married relationship. I generally enjoyed being pregnant other than morning sickness, aches and pains, inability to sleep comfortably, etc etc etc and yet it was in some ways a profoundly weird and disturbing experience. One definitely is out of control of one's body between nausea, kids kicking and all the rest. And it's utterly life changing once kids arrive. In good ways if one wants it, has the resources to manage and a support system. For someone barely out of childhood from what sounded like a pretty messed up childhood with limited resources that's a nightmare scenario. Would I argue that she was mentally ill - yes I would. But it's all too easy to imagine being in that position - no money, no resources, frozen with fear and denial. One life lost and another one functionally lost to a life sentence. It's grotesque and we're heading towards more of this with all the restrictions on access to birth control and abortion. Koavf you are complaining about lack of compassion being noisily expressed for the baby but you are utterly missing the point of the discussion and the underlying issues. Forced childbearing is hosting a parasite that takes over one's body, changes one's body and causes significant risk to one's health and future. No one should have to go through it if they don't want to - and we should have easily available resources and support to help women, especially young, poor women in that situation without stigma, moralizing or limiting of options.
posted by leslies at 6:33 AM on January 24, 2020 [14 favorites]

I guess proves that it is simply impossible to even discuss their suffering.

no, what's impossible is for you to hijack this discussion to turn it towards antichoice talking points. sorry, we're clearly not having that shit.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:57 AM on January 24, 2020 [49 favorites]

I find it telling that the person arguing for compassion effectively reduced women to "incubators" ("a human incubating in another human"). I've been pregnant, twice, both deliberately, both with a supportive and active partner, good health care, and no shame or stigma. It was still scary and hard, physically and emotionally. Koavf, if you truly want to improve outcomes for newborns in this country, I'd suggest you start by actually listening respectfully to what people who have been through it are saying.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 7:37 AM on January 24, 2020 [21 favorites]

So detectives DNA tested the body in an attempt to prove paternity ... why? Certainly not to find any mitigating circumstances towards Weaver (these are the people prosecuting her, after all). It could only be used "against" her (for example: the father was not her shitty-boyfriend-at-the-time, this gives her more reason to conceal the pregnancy, deliberately kill the infant, etc., plus her character suffers because: sluttiness). It can't be used "against" the young men though. They continue on with baseball season, send horrible texts or give pitying, sympathetic statements to police officers, declining to be interviewed for this article.

I also do not doubt for one instant that her sorority sisters are traumatized. I do find it fascinating that this is a case which hinges so much on Weaver's state of mind, her "knowledge" of the pregnancy and her "emotions" about the pregnancy -- and the women who lived with her during her entire pregnancy didn't seem concerned enough about her state of mind to take action then, but upon the prosecution "proving" Weaver's state of mind to be bad during the trial, they agree that she is guilty now. But it's certainly not unusual for very young adults to have a complete re-evaluation of events during college.

The "we treat pregnant women well!" "we let a woman with a kid join!" "another sister had an unexpected baby and she didn't kill it!" incidents occurring after Weaver's conviction, then being used as a cudgel against Weaver's past actions, seem to allow the sorority a "forgiveness" for their denial, for any guilt they might feel about the situation. (I'm not saying the sorority is criminally responsible, nor is it as ethically responsible as Weaver; but it also seems like a denial-based social group is doing what it needs to do to protect itself psychologically.)
posted by Hypatia at 7:53 AM on January 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

It astonishes me still, even though I’ve been following this issue since the original Roe v. Wade decision when I was 13, how successfully the anti-abortion forces have been able to elide the pregnant woman herself from their rhetoric and the discussion in general. As someone upthread suggested, they are treated as little more than self-ambulatory incubators. That and the complete disregard of the role of the father. I don’t think you could design a more thoroughly misogynist social policy if you intentionally set out to. This is one of the many reasons I won’t cast a vote for any Republican candidate any more, and regret the times I have in the past.
posted by hwestiii at 8:04 AM on January 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

Speaking of my own mention of social & cultural factors (and, on preview, some of Hypatia's points) - to me there's a strong but maybe not really explicitly stated theme in the article about how sorority culture & expectations and the culture of the university (Wikipedia tells me it's a tiny liberal arts college in a tiny town about an hour outside of Columbus) interacted to produce an environment where Emile's denial of her pregnancy was . . . what's the word I'm looking for? Expected? Normalized? Like, sisters asking if she's OK and the clinic sending registered letters to inform her she was pregnant are fine as far as they go, but that was as far as they went - that there were some kind of deep "That doesn't happen here" or "That doesn't happen to good girls" beliefs or assumptions that resulted in neither individuals nor the college being able to take the further steps necessary to actually help Emile before the tragic end result.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:14 AM on January 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

It felt like, for everyone involved - Emile, her shitty boyfriend, her sorority sisters, even her college medical centre - was in denial about what was actually happening, and just saying over and over "if I ignore this it will go away". Emile got all of the blame and a horrific sentence and it sounds like some of the sorority sisters had traumatic experiences that have been difficult to recover from. And they all, and the shitty boyfriend were young and by definition inexperienced. The staff at that college were really not.

The outcome for the high schooler mentioned at the end of the article is probably (by overly punitive US standards) the right one. I notice she was at home. I wonder whether her family were more able to provide support (more money, or more status or both).
posted by plonkee at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2020 [9 favorites]

I think the immediate options of the school here were fairly limited. They could not legally notify her family. They could not force her to get health care, either physical or mental, even if she weren't avoiding all forms of contact with them. I doubt anyone would've thought it appropriate to take the step taken with many severely mentally ill students (with decidedly mixed results) of suspending her and excluding her from campus until she got care.

Similarly, I'm not sure what the sorority could have done. Several people reached out to her and were rebuffed. Were they going to force her to pee on a stick? How would that have overcome her denial? And then what if she weren't cooperative? Were they going to kick her out? Would that have led to a better outcome? Ultimately, this was an adult, albeit a very young one, who chose to reject all attempted forms of engagement from anyone who tried. I'm just not happy with us putting so much of the responsibility for the shitty anti-choice/misogynist culture of the U.S. on either the school or the sorority, also very young people (their post-hoc hypocrisy notwithstanding).

I would bet that what led to such a remarkably excessive sentence (beyond the "how dare a woman not see her highest purpose as bringing a fetus to term and then raising the child!!!!!!!" background, surely in play) was those texts with the baby's father. Not only would they remind the jury that there was certainly at least one person to whom she was regularly acknowledging the pregnancy, that "no more baby"/"taken care of" phrasing would make many jurors think that if she wasn't mentally ill to the point of psychosis, she was extraordinarily cold-hearted, someone who would be capable of intentionally murdering a newborn. And no one was arguing that she was extremely mentally ill. If I were her defense attorney and concluded I couldn't get those texts excluded, I would have advised her to take almost any plea (no discussion of plea bargaining in the article, I don't think).

(Note that she stopped at the "pre-counseling" step for abortion, not because it changed her mind, but because it put a logistical barrier between her and the abortion. That's exactly what anti-choice activists want to mandate such counseling for. About the only relatively superficial change I can think of here that might have changed the outcome of this story is if the school's clinic routinely wrote RU-486 prescriptions. But even that I have doubts about.)
posted by praemunire at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2020 [9 favorites]

It's been 24 hours and I still can't get over this:

Among an instant mac and cheese box, a freezer pop wrapper, and a Doritos bag, Samantha saw what looked like a foot. “I’m done,” she said, according to Elise. “I didn’t sign up to be in a sorority to do this.”
posted by Countess Elena at 9:16 AM on January 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I read the piece and then was honestly afraid to read comments here, because there is such a strong cultural narrative of only disdain and horror for a woman who could "do this" so thank you, Metafilter, I am so glad to see there are some spaces where we can empathize that these choices don't happen in a contextless vacuum.

This woman gave birth by herself and was then detained instead of taken to a hospital. For 81 hours. Not until her mother intervened. Even immediately post birth they cared more about punishing her than care for her immediately post-partum living body.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:37 AM on January 24, 2020 [30 favorites]

It's an interesting "what-do-we-owe-to-each-other" problem for sure. We have, over the past decades, tried to limit the restrictions placed on women and increase their freedom in these situations precisely because the past alternatives were so shitty. And this is going to cause problems with adults who still want "someone to take over" and fix things. We're not, as a society, particularly interested in "helping" pregnant women. (Witness the Baby Safe Haven things).

I've had to work with a lot of 19th and 20th century medical texts, and lots of doctors wrote about diagnosing college-aged women as pregnant. Before the 1970s, the most humane, accepted best practice was: "I always insist that the girl notify her mother. I tell her that if she does not do so, I will do so. The girls will cry and beg me not to do so, and say their lives will be ruined, but I tell the mother anyway in a few weeks." (This was from doctors who also fiercely protected the privacy of male students who contracted STDs, or had "homosexual tendencies", even when the "in-loco-parentis" deans tried to weasel it out with them.)

Then the doctors washed their hands of the situation. And, honestly, if a doctor was not willing to recommend an illegal abortion, what else could they do? They can't just "hope it will go away". It would become obvious to all, and although Weaver would then have had "someone else take control" and the benefit of her mother's help, she would also have been kicked out of her sorority and expelled from college.

The best case scenario "help" offered to Weaver in 1920-1970 would have been: a mother-and-baby-home situation where she was forced to relinquish the child, which may or may not psychologically harm her (bad!); or a life as a single mother (bad!); or a forced marriage with Shitty Boyfriend (horrifying!) or a dangerous and illegal abortion.

In an era before that, (when Weaver wouldn't have gone to college anyway, being the daughter of a Fallen Woman herself), the wonderful options lean more heavily towards forced marriage with Shitty Boyfriend (unless High School Boyfriend is brought up to prove her immorality), but also include being a wet nurse to some richer woman and, of course, prostitution.

Post 1970, options are basically abortion-with-lots-of-hoops-to-jump-through, adoption-with-possible-complications, and single-parenthood-while-trying-to-get-child-support -- none of which are particularly appealing to a scared 19 year old, or to a group of 19 year olds who will not acknowledge the situation and assist their friend in any of those shitty options.
posted by Hypatia at 9:48 AM on January 24, 2020 [16 favorites]

For the history for when culturally unborns became property and women liable for those 'products', please consider reading "Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraceptives and Abortion in the West" by John Riddle.
It had nothing to do with the so called 'sacredness of life' invented by the catholic church.
Maybe we'll have to get back to mother earth's plants to care for ourselves.
posted by Mesaverdian at 10:05 AM on January 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

unfortunately for that plan the roman empire's contraception needs made silphium go extinct, but there are certainly others, with varying degrees of safety for usage.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:08 AM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

One thing I have not seen in these discussions of pregnancy-denial cases is tokophobia. Pregnancy is scary, so of course that fear can rise to the point of phobia easily. The idea that your body is not yours, that it is doing things that you don't want it to be doing, is scary. Fear on that scale can make you do crazy things. The only way to make pregnancy less terrifying is to have better outcomes for pregnant people. Starting with less stigma, more resources, and a lower maternal mortality rate.
What happened to Addison is horrifying, but it is actively harmful to the next child and mother-in-denial to ignore how this happened. That means thinking about Emile's frame of mind.
posted by domo at 10:22 AM on January 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I found this very hard to read. Earlier this year, I miscarried a very wanted child. I recently found out that it's very unlikely that I will conceive again without great difficulty and expense.

I was going to say that I can't imagine what it would be like to be pregnant and be in denial or not want it... except, I can. I can imagine everything that Emile went through, up to and including giving birth alone in a bathroom, in pain, blood flowing and not knowing what to do. That part sort of happened to me - only I wasn't alone: I had a wonderful partner (and my mother and his mother, who rushed over to support us) - and it was still the worst pain I'd felt in my life - worse than crushing the end off my baby finger, worse than breaking a limb.

So my heart was breaking for Addison - and for Emile. I would have given Addison a home (and yes, I know it's not that simple), or driven Emile to an abortion clinic if that's what she wanted.

What I wouldn't have done is charge Emile with a crime. There's no justice in that. It does nothing to help Addison, does nothing to protect any future Addisons or Emiles. It just hurts Emile - and her family and all of society. The point of the justice system should not be to make more pain.
posted by jb at 10:26 AM on January 24, 2020 [19 favorites]

Anti-choice rhetoric about "babies" and the "sanctity of life" are straw men arguments that arouse pathos in sentimental people. Pictures of miscarried & aborted fetuses arouse disgust in people who experience psychopathological contamination fears.

Anti choice rhetoric and regulations are intended to remove women from the public sphere. Women who are pregnant, and/or caring for a small child, and/or multiple children, are unable to effectively compete with men for resources/power.

Most anti-choice rhetoric is less than 50 years old; belief that life begins at conception is about 125 years old.

Unwanted pregnancies could have many tragic outcomes. Infanticide is one: common throughout history and still practised in China and India. A baby given up for adoption might be forever mourned, the child upon finding they were adopted might feel forever abandoned. An unwanted child could be resented by the mother for spoiling her chances for college, escape from small town, escape from poverty.

Of all the choices that a woman faces, the best one is to control her reproduction. If she has access to reliable birth control, she is protected against pregnancy from consensual and non-consensual sex.

A woman who does not have reliable birth control and gets pregnant, should have easy and cheap access to medical abortions. Throughout history, back to the Stone Age, women have used abortifactents to end a pregnancy in the very early stages. Before "quickening," a woman's sense of the fetus moving, most cultures accepted this practice without shame or penalty.

But when a pregnancy becomes advanced, termination is more complicated and dangerous. Again, clinics & hospitals should offer this service without shame or penalty.

Many states have Safe Havens, where newborns can be dropped off. Police stations, fire stations, some hospitals, will accept a newborn with no questions asked.

I think of Emile, a very young teenager, without experience or resources. At each opportunity to gain control of her life, she was prevented from exercising autonomy. She was blocked from taking the preventative or protective steps that might have terminated the pregnancy upon early detection. She was in a state of terror and denial, unable to recognize that her own life, let alone the life inside her, belonged to her.

Emile's outcome was the worst possible, both for her and her baby. The State of Ohio and their punitive laws restricting access to abortion are at fault.
posted by ohshenandoah at 2:45 PM on January 24, 2020 [12 favorites]

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