Last week, I wrote about Quinta Layin Tuleh – a 28 year old woman from Cameroon sentenced to 238 days in federal prison because she is HIV positive and pregnant.
Today, Margo Kaplan from the Center for HIV Law and Policy has a piece on RH Reality Check analyzing just how terrible the judge’s decision was.
Judge Woodcock’s decision ignores the complex factors involved in a pregnant woman’s medical treatment decisions – as through being HIV positive makes one incapable of reasonable decision-making – and glibly equates being HIV-positive and pregnant with committing a crime. When reading the sentence, he makes clear that his sole reason for keeping Tuleh in prison was that she was HIV-positive and pregnant, and that, had she been pregnant and not HIV-positive, he would release her with time served. He reasons that he could keep Tuleh in jail “to protect the public from [her] further crimes.”
…While some states do, indeed, criminalize HIV exposure, Judge Woodcock does more than this – he imprisons a woman for the mere possibility that she might transmit HIV in the future. His reasoning essentially criminalizes being HIV-positive and allows the state to jail anyone with HIV simply because they have HIV and are capable of transmitting it to another. It classifies anyone with HIV as a threat to society who can be incarcerated at the whim of the state to protect public health.
Make sure to check out the whole piece, Kaplan does a great job linking the paternalism, discrimination and misogyny that are so rife in this case.