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

4/17/2015 Senate Passes Compromise Bill Increasing Federal Funding for Abstinence-Only Sex Education - The Senate overwhelmingly approved of HR 2 on Tuesday, a $200 billion package that included an enormous increase of federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) curricula. The US Senate voted 92-8 to pass HR 2, which has been known as the "doc fix" for Medicaid reimbursement rates, as well as many other health care provisions. . . .
 
4/16/2015 March2Justice Protesters Embark on 250-Mile March to Protest Police Brutality - Marchers are ending an eight-day journey across 250 miles and five states to deliver anti-profiling and police-force-militarization legislation from New York City to Washington, D.C. . . .
 
4/16/2015 One Year Since the Kidnappings, #BringBackOurGirls Still Matters - In April of 2014, almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. . . .