‘The case involves Nina Buckhalter, a woman who gave birth to a stillborn girl in 2009 after she used methamphetamine during her pregnancy. A grand jury indicted Buckhalter for manslaughter two months later, claiming that she killed the baby by “culpable negligence.”
Buckhalter’s attorneys challenged the case, arguing that if Buckhalter can be prosecuted for homicide for using meth during her pregnancy, a pregnant woman could be prosecuted for all kinds of unhealthy behaviors that may or may not lead to the termination of her fetus, including smoking cigarettes or exercising against a doctor’s orders.
At least one judge raised the million dollar question. “Exactly what are the boundaries?” If doctors advise women to avoid herbal teas, unpasteurized cheese, lunch meats, where will it end?
Abortion rights advocates have argued that if states are allowed to jail women for stillbirths and miscarriages, that will set the precedent for fetal personhood laws that ban abortion and emergency contraception.
Buckhalter’s defense attorney says that since the incident in 2009, Buckhalter has completed a drug rehabilitation program and has earned an associate’s degree at a community college. Putting her in jail for a stillbirth “is just crazy.”
OTHER STATES WEIGHING IN:
Alabama has a chemical endangerment law that was written to protect children from exposure to methamphetamine laboratories and is being used by prosecutors to put women behind bars if their newborns test positive for drugs.
The laws thus far seem to be directed at mothers who abuse drugs while pregnant. Prosecution may be well intended but ambiguous laws could open the flood gates that pervert its good intent. And until one justice in Mississippi can determine what the boundaries are, the case against Buckhalter may not stand.
What do you think? Should a woman who miscarries be held criminally responsible?
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages (salon.com)
- WHAT??!!! Mississippi Could Soon Jail Women for Stillbirths, Miscarriages (1800politics.com)