After 20-week-old fetal remains were found in August, Georgia, where abortions after 20 weeks are outlawed, the city coroner sent the remains to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for an autopsy and DNA testing.
The Verge reports that this city coroner, Mark Bowen, was apparently not interested in the criminal implications of sending the fetus to be DNA-tested. “My intention is to put the mother and fetus together, and make sure the mother’s okay,” he said. “I just want to make sure she isn’t getting an infection or bleeding out, and then I would like to connect them back together so she can have her miscarried child or aborted child properly disposed of.” He also adds that the autopsy can reveal how the fetus died. “Did that baby take a breath and drown in the water? We don’t know,” he adds.
DNA-testing in a case like this, The Verge points out, is far different than how most missing persons cases play out in which a family member of a missing person submits their own DNA to help identify an unidentified person. The Georgia law against late-term abortions incriminates the physicians who perform them, so the fetus and the mother are considered victims. But when you take into consideration that the fetal remains were probably flushed down a drain, this was likely not an abortion overseen by a physician and was perhaps even self-induced. So who exactly are the police looking to criminalize here?
Back in 2015 a Georgia woman was arrested and charged with murder after she induced her own abortion using pills she had bought online. The charges were ultimately dropped when the District Attorney discovered that “criminal prosecution of a pregnant woman for her own actions against her unborn child does not seem permitted.”