Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

August-02-04

Women Can Be Convicted of Homicide for Risky Behavior during Pregnancy

After Regina McKnight delivered a stillborn baby in 2001, prosecutors speciously linked the baby’s death with McKnight's cocaine use and promptly convicted her of homicide – a conviction that American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys are seeking to overturn. McKnight now faces 12 years in prison. This unprecedented conviction means that women must be the guarantors of pregnancy outcomes, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) reports. “The pregnant woman who ‘allows’ herself to be battered and the woman who misses prenatal care appointments are both now vulnerable to prosecution,” the NAPW press release reports. The case is expected to be appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The Chief Prosecutor for Horry County explicitly stated that “the fact that it happened to be an illegal substance” did not determine McKnight’s conviction; rather, “Even if a legal substance is used, if we determine you are medically responsible for a child’s demise, we will file [homicide] charges,” reports The Sun News. McKnight’s ACLU lawyer argued that this interpretation of the law means that pregnant women can be convicted of homicide if they deliver a stillbirth and had smoked a cigarette, had a drink, engaged in strenuous physical activity, or taken prescription medicine, reports KaiserNetwork.org. Furthermore, doctors and nurses are now being encouraged to report pregnant patients to the police if the medical staff suspects that the woman is engaging in potentially harmful behavior, the Drug Policy Alliance reports.

Twenty-two-year-old McKnight turned to drug use after falling into depression when her mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1998. Lacking access to grief services, substance abuse intervention, and adequate pre-natal education, McKnight could not have known that “having a drug dependency co-occurring with pregnancy would be treated as murder,” according to NAPW. Had McKnight sought an illegal third-trimester abortion, her sentence would have been two years instead of 12.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.

Media Resources: Journal of American Medicine 3/2001; Philadelphia Daily News 10/8/03; National Advocates for Pregnant Women press release 5/27/04; Drug Policy Alliance Press Release 7/29/04; KaiserNetwork.org 7/30/04, 5/30/03


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

4/1/2015 On Transgender Day of Visibility, Advocates are Celebrating Trans Lives and Experiences - Today marks the sixth annual International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), a designated day for the trans community to share and celebrate their lives and experiences. Visibility for the trans community is crucial in a world where 80 percent of trans students feel unsafe at school, 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide, and where 50 percent of trans people have been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner. . . .
 
3/27/2015 Security and Women's Rights are Essential to Afghan Recovery - President Ashraf Ghani and a delegation of some 70 plus Afghan leaders came to the US this week to urge Congress and President Obama to extend the deadline for removing support troops from Afghanistan. . . .
 
3/27/2015 Senate 'Vote-A-Rama' Passes Amendments for Equal Pay, Pregnant Workers, Paid Leave, Benefits for Same-Sex Couples - A bipartisan majority of Senators this week voted in favor of budget amendments that show growing momentum for paid sick leave for employees, social security and veterans benefits for same-sex couples, equal pay, and fair treatment for pregnant workers. The votes, though significant, are symbolic. . . .