Oklahoma continues to remind the world that it hates women…
11:14 AM EST on November 9, 2021
There are many definitions of womanhood.
For some, it means becoming a wife and having children. For others, it means spending 60-hours per week building a subterranean lair to keep the men contained when the matriarchy finally completes its hundred-year plan for world domination.
For many, the definition of womanhood is a deeply personal, individual experience that cannot be boiled down to one label. But no matter your definition of womanhood, there's one shared experience among us all: living in Oklahoma as a woman also means living in state that, at best, doesn't give a shit about you and, at worst, hates you.
Last month, Brittaney Poolaw was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison after suffering from a miscarriage.
Though there was evidence that Ms. Poolaw had used narcotics while pregnant, the medical examiner report attributed the loss to “genetic anomaly or placenta abruption.” Even though 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and the medical examiner found no evidence to suggest that meth use was to blame, the Comanche County District Attorney’s Office charged Ms. Poolaw with the fetus’ death, citing her methamphetamine use as the cause.
Living in Oklahoma has taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman. The constant stream of anti-abortion bills have taught me that my life and right to autonomy are not as important as a gaggle of middle aged white men’s talking points and right to pander to conservative zealots. The ever-rising domestic violence rates, low rates of insurance, and high rates of pre-mature death among women have taught me that when lawmakers call themselves “pro-life” they should have an asterisk leading to a disclaimer stating that females are not included in the promotion. What’s more is that Ms. Poolaw's court case has taught me that women are expendable if it means men in power get to carry out justice get more convictions.
Fun fact! Blind Justice is actually weighing out which candidate got the most votes.
There are multiple reasons why District Attorneys would want to pursue convictions and unfortunately justice may not always be the main concern. Rather than making sure justice is carried out, research suggests that prosecutors may often be rewarded in various ways for their conviction rates. In a state where all 27 DAs are elected, being seen as “tough on crime” may be politically helpful. In a country where wrongly convicted individuals often cannot sue prosecutors due to immunity, there is really little incentive for DAs to not seek prosecution; especially in cases that may appeal to their conservative voter base.
But again, in the case of Brittaney Poolaw, what did the DA’s Office have to lose? Research suggests that women of color and those who are low-income are disproportionately convicted in cases where women are prosecuted for drug use or other arrests during pregnancy and Ms. Poolaw, who is a citizen of the Comanche Nation, spent 18 months in jail before being convicted due to being unable to afford her $20,000 bail. The Comanche County District Attorney’s Office gets to look tough on drug use, bring “justice” to a nonviable pregnancy, and add another notch in the conviction belt to use as talking points in the next election. Ms. Poolaw gets to spend the next 4 years in prison processing the trauma of a miscarriage and mishandling of justice.
Living in Oklahoma has taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman. From carrying an unwanted fetus to term, being the target of male aggression, or contributing to the resume of a district attorney, in Oklahoma, being a woman means being a means to an end.