05.22.131:04 PM ET

Fetal Murder Laws: Punishment or Protection?

Ohio abduction case reveals tough questions about pregnancy terminations.

Since allegedly capturing and raping three women in Cleveland, Ariel Castro may face murder for one of his victims’ miscarriages. The federal government and 38 states have feticide and murder laws that define fetal deaths as murder, mainly used when a pregnant woman is assaulted. But when there is a case such as the one in Ohio, the lines are hazier. Lynn Paltrow at The Nation asks a tough question: “What if any of the women held in the Cleveland horror house had found ways to perform self-abortions to prevent giving birth to children in those conditions?” In some states, they may be subject to prosecution. Paltrow argues that this very politically charged, hard-to-define issue sometimes actually punishes women more than protects them.