When I talked to him last year, Mississippi State Representative Bubba Carpenter sounded quite unhappy about being in the limelight for having said that coat hanger abortions might come back in his state, "[b]ut hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere." At the time, Mississippi Republicans had just passed a law designed to close the state's only abortion clinic, and after tape of Carpenter's boasting about coat hangers got loose on the Internets, the state party tried to make that clip harder to see.
Now Carpenter is back with a couple of high-profile initiatives. First of all, he is leading Republicans' efforts to arm teachers, with help from an NRA lobbyist in writing the bill. Carpenter is also pushing a measure that would make testing positive for controlled substances while pregnant a form of felony child abuse, with a sentence of 10 years to life.
(2) (a) Any person who shall intentionally (i) burn any child, (ii) torture any child * * *, (iii) except in self-defense or in order to prevent bodily harm to a third party, whip, strike or otherwise abuse or mutilate any child in such a manner as to cause serious bodily harm, or (iv) test positive for a controlled substance while pregnant as provided by Section 1 of House Bill No._____, 2013 Regular Session, shall be guilty of felonious abuse of a child and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for life or such lesser term of imprisonment as the court may determine, but not less than ten (10) years. For any second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, the person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The legislation was referred to a judiciary committee on Monday.
As written, it calls for pregnant women arrested on drug charges to be tested for controlled substances. It's not entirely clear how the state would first determine that a woman was pregnant, if she's not showing, or how it benefits anyone to have a mom in prison for life on a drug crime.
Mississippi Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governorship, so they can pass the bill if they want to. Last year, the Mississippi GOP did bounce a bill that likely could not have withstood a court challenge. Prosecuting pregnant women for child abuse is neither uncommon nor uncontested. Supporters of abortion rights point out that it grants personhood to fetuses, an idea Mississippi voters rejected in 2011. (More about the story in Mississippi on the show later this week.)