This week, attorneys for an Oklahoma woman filed an application asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to stop state prosecutors from criminally charging women who use medical marijuana during pregnancy.
The filing centers around the case of Brittany Gunsolus, a 27-year-old woman who used edibles and topicals during her pregnancy at the recommendation of her doctor. She legally obtained a medical marijuana license to do so. In October 2020, she gave birth to a healthy baby, who tested positive for THC. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services investigated and found no evidence of neglect, reporting that Gunsolus’s home was a clean and safe environment. Still, the district attorney of Comanche County, Kyle Cableka, charged Gunsolus with felony child neglect in May 2021.
Prosecutorial Absurdity: Charging a Woman for Not Having a Marijuana Card for Her Fetus?!
At a court hearing in August of this year, a prosecutor argued Gunsolus broke the law because her unborn child did not have its own, separate state license to use medical marijuana. Yes, you read that correctly — prosecutors say that Gunsolus is liable for felony child neglect because her FETUS DID NOT HAVE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD. Felony child neglect charges carry a potential life sentence in Oklahoma.
Of course, it’s ludicrous to say that a fetus should require a medical license, but it’s in keeping with the absolute insanity unfolding around the country since Roe v Wade was overturned 18 months ago. Republicans are waging war on women’s bodies with a fervor that I can only compare to the horrors of the War on Drugs. And they definitely don’t give a flying fuck about women, or children.
The Alarming Implications of Fetal Personhood
Brittany Gunsolus was investigated for using prescribed medicine, and found to be a good, loving parent by the DHS. But Kyle Cabelka isn’t interested in the welfare of Gunsolus’s child, or her rights as a parent. His argument that Gunsolus’ fetus didn’t have a medical marijuana license stems from the alarming legal theory of “fetal personhood” that’s being weaponized to criminalize pregnant people.
Dana Sussman, deputy executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), said in a March 2022 interview with Jezebel that “fetal personhood is about normalizing the idea that a pregnant person is not their own person anymore, that they’re subservient to the rights, individuality, and full personhood of a fetus.”
If a fetus is considered to be a person with legal rights, and the pregnant person’s rights are secondary to the fetus, Sussman said, that “lends to an environment in which violence — whether it’s state violence like imprisonment or interpersonal violence — can be committed against pregnant people with far less accountability.”
Parallels to the War on Drugs: Reproductive Rights as a Tool for Control
Sound familiar? State violence being committed against people by targeting, criminalizing and imprisoning them? If you’ve ever been arrested for weed, you know exactly what we’re talking about here. The War on Drugs was created as a political tool to control Blacks and hippies — and we know this because former Nixon domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman went on the record saying so in an interview with Harper’s Magazine.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people,” Ehrlichman told writer Dan Baum. “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The GOP’s Terrifying Agenda: A Threat to All, Regardless of Gender
The war on reproductive rights is tearing a page out of the very same playbook: criminalizing behavior to control people. We should all be fucking terrified — not only people who could become pregnant; not only women of childbearing age; ALL OF US. Because it doesn’t stop here. The anti-abortion movement is fueled by white Christian nationalism. As outlined in an essay in the Washington Post, white Christian nationalism is a toxic ideology upheld by the three pillars of freedom, order and violence. The freedom belongs only to people that white Christian nationalists see as like them (white men). The order is to be imposed on all those they don’t (everyone else). And righteous violence is to be deployed to achieve their vision. If you’re not a straight, white, Bible-thumpin’ bro (and even if you are!!), the shit the GOP is trying to pull should give you chills.
Take a Stand Against the Criminalization of Reproductive Rights
I wrote an essay for this column about sexism last year, and the comments from many, many dudes that I should “shut up and make them a sandwich” inspired me to start a project where I make myself sandwiches and chat about things that interest me, a woman who is a person with a uterus who enjoys sandwiches. The sandwich I made about Brittany Gunsolus’s fetus needing a medical marijuana license is currently at 1.3 million views on TikTok. So, to all the dudes who are going to come for me for this big fat rant about reproductive rights: make yourselves a fucking sandwich. The GOP is criminalizing pregnant women; you can be sure they’ll come for you next.