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                       Pregnant Pause
                       Dorothy Lindman
   A tired-looking young woman opened the door four inches and

peered over the chain. "Can I help you?"

   He looked her over quickly.  Her face was white and drawn, her

eyes swollen, as if she'd been crying. Lots of them were like this; they should've thought of that before. "Mrs. Jones?"

   He flipped open his wallet and showed her his badge. 

"Detective Lewis. Homicide. I'd like to ask you a few questions."

   She looked at the badge nervously and nodded.  The door closed

for a second, then opened again sans chain. "Please. Come in."

   He slipped his badge back into his pocket as he walked into

the house. The living room was decorated in Generic Suburban middle-class, everything in pale blue. The normal-looking ones were always the ones to watch out for.

   She gestured to the sofa.  "Won't you sit down?"  She took a

seat in the recliner, didn't lean back, sat forward at attention. "What's this all about?"

   He could tell she was scared.  That should make it easier.  He

pulled out his notebook computer and tapped the screen to call up her file. "According to the hospital, your pregnancy terminated three days ago."

   She bit her lip.  "Y-yes.  The doctors said there was nothing

they could do…"

   "That's your second miscarriage in two years, Mrs. Jones," he

snapped, taking full advantage of her hesitation. "Care to explain that?"

   "I can't," she said weakly.  Her lower lip trembled as she

tried not to cry. "My doctor wants to run a complete hormone scan as soon as he can. He's afraid that… he thinks I might not be able to carry to term."

   That was an excuse he hadn't heard in a while.  His manner

softened a little, just in case she wasn't lying. "I'm sorry, but this is standard procedure. Now, how soon after conception was the pregnancy reported?"

   "I don't know, exactly..."
   His eyebrows went up.  "You haven't been taking your weekly

pregnancy tests? That's a misdemeanor, you know."

   "No, no," she said quickly.  "I mean, yes, I've been taking

the tests– you can check with my doctor. What I meant was I don't know how many *days* it was. At least two, maybe three or four."

   He nodded and made a note of that.  "Well, that's within

acceptable range. No trouble there. And you went on the Diet as soon as you tested positive?"

   "Oh, yes."  She smiled, a little, but it was mostly a sad

smile. "My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for almost three years."

   He grunted.  He'd heard that before.  "I assume your husband

can corroborate that. No drugs, including tobacco or alcohol?" She shook her head. "No caffeine?" Another shake, not quite so certain. "You're sure? No coffee? Tea? Cola? Chocolate?"

   She gave a tiny gasp.  "I forgot.  I... had an ice cream


   "And when was this?"
   "Um, about two weeks ago, I think.  I'd have to check my

dietary log." She looked at him helplessly. "I didn't want to do it. I had a craving."

   Another grunt.  "I'll take a look at your log in a minute. 

Anything else you've forgotten?"

   "I don't think so."
   "Do you work outside the home, Mrs. Jones?"
   "Yes.  I'm a customer service representative at the


   "Complaint department, huh?  When did you go on leave?"
   "I had another five weeks before my mandatory leave deadline." 

She smiled that sad smile again. "I was going to take leave as soon as my husband got another assignment. He's a contract programmer, and things have been a little slow…"

   "You weren't aware that customer service representative is

listed as a high-stress occupation? Mandatory leave date for HSO's is *four* months, not *six*." He glared at her accusingly and clicked his light pen off. "I'd like to see your medicine cabinet."

   She rose and led him to the stairs.  He looked at the steps

critically. "I assume you don't run up and down these stairs."

   "Not unless I have to."  She shrank under his stare.  "The

only bathroom is upstairs. And then, sometimes, the cat…"

   He cut her off quite effectively by walking up the stairs.  He

glanced into the bedroom and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He went into the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. He clicked his pen on and began to record all the medications there, both prescription and over-the-counter. He paused at one bottle. Based on the date filled, the dosage, and a guess at the number of tablets remaining, this might be a violation.

   "What's this?"  He turned and showed it to her.
   "That's for my allergies."  She smiled apologetically.  "This

time of year, I can barely see without them."

   "You've been *taking* this?"
    She flinched.  "My doctor said it was okay; he said it was on

the 'Safe List'."

   "It was until three weeks ago.  The FDA announced that this

compound was shown to cause birth defects in laboratory mice, and they took it off the Safe List."

   She clapped her hands over her mouth.  "I... I didn't know..."
   "Ignorance is no excuse."  He pocketed the bottle and closed

the medicine cabinet. "I'm going to have to take you in for questioning, Mrs. Jones."

   "Abuse of an unborn child, suspicion of murder."
   She shrank away in horror.  "You think I lost the baby on


   "Maybe, maybe not.  We have to check it out."  He shrugged. 

"They'll probably only charge you with negligent homicide, anyway."

   She let out a wail that would have split his soul if he hadn't

heard hundreds like it before. She collapsed to the floor, convulsed with hysterical sobbing, and once again he thought about asking for a transfer from the Fetal Homicide division. It had seemed so natural when he joined, ensuring that unborn children had full rights under the law from the moment of conception, but after two years he wasn't so sure anymore.

   He patted her lightly on the shoulder, a useless gesture of

sympathy. "Hey, don't get so upset," he murmured as he found her wrists and put the handcuffs on. "If your hormone scans do come back abnormal, you'll get off with involuntary manslaughter, tops."

  • *In 1994, Congress passed the Human Life Act, which states:

"The life of a human being is considered to begin at conception, with all rights under the law. Unborn persons have a right to life which cannot be infringed." The law was cheered as a great victory by the pro-life movement, and people who expressed reservations that the law was too sweeping and general were largely ignored. Feminist activists fought to have the last sentence stricken from the law, arguing that, according to the act, men and children are always afforded the right to life, but women are only guaranteed the right to life when they are not pregnant.

   The Supreme Court upheld the Human Life Act in two separate

cases in 1996. The ruling in the first case, Tennessee vs. Newkirk, effectively outlawed not only abortion, but also many forms of birth control, including all forms of the Pill and IUD's. In the second case, Louisiana vs. Andrews, the Court upheld a conviction of second-degree murder against a woman who sought and obtained an illegal abortion. The majority opinion stated, "Under the law there is no difference between a fetus of four weeks and a child of four years. Any woman who knowingly and willfully causes the death of her unborn child can be considered as guilty of premeditated murder as if she had knowingly and willfully caused the death of any other human being."

   A wave of other laws followed, most notably the Fetal Rights

Act of 1997 stating that women who knowingly use substances harmful to the fetus during pregnancy can be charged with child abuse. Originally intended to protect the unborn children of female drug addicts, the law was quickly extended to all harmful substances: tobacco, alcohol, sodium, caffeine, and prescription and over-the- counter drugs including antibiotics and aspirin.

   The American Medical Association challenged the Fetal Rights

Act on the grounds that the law was unenforceable: women could easily go as long as six weeks before they even realized they were pregnant. To facilitate enforcement, many states initiated weekly, mandatory pregnancy testing for all women of child-bearing age and ordered that all positive pregnancy tests be reported to Health and Human Services immediately. Upon notification of a positive pregnancy test, women were required to begin a diet approved by the Surgeon General and maintain a daily dietary log to prove their compliance. In some states, pregnant women also became subject to random drug tests similar to those given to probationers or parolees. Women's rights groups and the ACLU have challenged the mandatory pregnancy tests and random drug tests on the grounds that it violated women's right to privacy, effectively treating pregnant women like criminals. So far, the Fetal Rights Act has been upheld in all cases.

   When later studies showed the stress had a detrimental effect

on fetuses, Congress passed the Prenatal Leave Act of 1999, requiring working women to leave their jobs no later that the six month of their pregnancy and no later than the fourth month if they were in an occupation designated as High-Stress.

   The Women's Employment Rights Act of 1999, which required

companies to provide job security and unpaid pre-natal leaves to female employees as well as to continue medical insurance coverage for women on pre-natal leaves, was struck down as unconstitutional. The Maternity Rights Bill, originally proposed in 1983, would require companies to guarantee six weeks unpaid maternity leave to female employees. It has so far failed to pass either house of Congress.**

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