What would you do if you saw a pregnant woman doing something you found irresponsible or possibly dangerous to the life of her baby? Most people would judge her. Some would confront her. But how far is too far when it comes to telling a woman that she should be thinking about her unborn child? Pulling a gun, that’s too far.
A bizarre and troubling thing happened in Bellingham, Washington when a 24-year-old man drove past a woman walking down the road who happened to be smoking a cigarette. The woman was also eight months pregnant. I think most of us in that situation would have been angry to see such irresponsible behavior. A couple of us might have questioned the woman, as this young man did. He yelled, “Who the heck smokes when they’re pregnant?” The 28-year-old woman responded, “I do.” At that point, the conversation should have ended. The man, Justin Palmer, had made his opinion known. The woman had acknowledged that she understood him. Palmer should have driven away shaking his head and possible going home to rant on Twitter. Instead, he supposedly drew a gun on the woman and pointed it at her before driving off.
Understandably, the young woman called 911 and Justin Palmer was arrested. He claims that he did not pull a gun while arguing with the smoking pregnant woman, but two handguns were found in his truck.
Plenty of people will condemn Justin Palmer for pointing a gun at this woman, ultimately threatening her. But there are plenty who will think that he was justified in behaving the way he did because this woman was doing something they find horrible and dangerous. Plenty will applaud Palmer for calling out this bad behavior and possibly “scaring this woman straight.”
Now, I can understand the anger with those who expose children to cigarette smoke. Every time I see an adult smoking in their car with kids in the back seat, a bubble of fury rises up in me that I cannot completely control. I get more side-eye than a middle schooler girl being chastised by her gym teacher. That being said, I do not threaten those people with bodily harm. In fact, I normally keep my thoughts about the situation to myself. I do that because I do not have dominion over other people’s lives and choices.
When it comes to pregnant women, lots of people feel like they have the right to direct and control these females out of concern for the child in their bellies. People think that pregnancy makes a woman’s choices public domain. Even more than we normally try to control and regulate each other, pregnancy brings out the worst of it.
While pregnant, I was criticized by people I didn’t know for carrying around a Starbucks cup. (I had a ‘steamer’ with absolutely zero caffeine in it.) A friend of mine was criticized for being out at a bar late at night while obviously with child. She was there for my sister’s bachelorette party and hadn’t had a drop to drink. I was told off more than once for working in a hair salon, where I could inhale the fumes from perms and hair color by customers who had just gotten perms and their hair colored.
Too much caffeine can be bad for everyone, but it’s only pregnant women who are told off. Someone drinking at a bar could get in their car and pose a risk to everyone on the road, but we don’t shame them automatically. Smokers hazard everyone with second-hand smoke. Driving a gas-guzzling SUV contributes to global warning that could put entire generations at risk.
People behave recklessly, irresponsibly and without thought for others all the time. Pregnant women are the ones that people like to frequently comment on and even control.
I am not saying that this pregnant woman was right. I really hope that she stops smoking. I think smoking while pregnant is horrible. But until it’s illegal, we can judge that woman, even make our opinions known to that woman, but no one has the right to make her stop her behavior, through threat of force or otherwise. If you really want to help, educate someone instead of bullying or chastising them. And keep the guns locked away, thanks.