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Abortion Law Gone Wild: Woman who miscarried faces life in prison

Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
Complete article:

Source

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals.

"Women are being stripped of their constitutional personhood and subjected to truly cruel laws," said Lynn Paltrow of the campaign National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). "It's turning pregnant women into a different class of person and removing them of their rights."

Bei Bei Shuai, 34, has spent the past three months in a prison cell in Indianapolis charged with murdering her baby. On 23 December she tried to commit suicide by taking rat poison after her boyfriend abandoned her.

Shuai was rushed to hospital and survived, but she was 33 weeks pregnant and her baby, to whom she gave birth a week after the suicide attempt and whom she called Angel, died after four days. In March Shuai was charged with murder and attempted foeticide and she has been in custody since without the offer of bail.

In Alabama at least 40 cases have been brought under the state's "chemical endangerment" law. Introduced in 2006, the statute was designed to protect children whose parents were cooking methamphetamine in the home and thus putting their children at risk from inhaling the fumes.

Amanda Kimbrough is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down's syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with "chemical endangerment" of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

"That shocked me, it really did," Kimbrough said. "I had lost a child, that was enough."

She now awaits an appeal ruling from the higher courts in Alabama, which if she loses will see her begin a 10-year sentence behind bars. "I'm just living one day at a time, looking after my three other kids," she said.

"They say I'm a criminal, how do I answer that? I'm a good mother."

Women's rights campaigners see the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception. In Gibbs' case defence lawyers have argued before Mississippi's highest court that her prosecution makes no sense. Under Mississippi law it is a crime for any person except the mother to try to cause an abortion.

"If it's not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is," Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer asked the state supreme court.

McDuff told the Guardian that he hoped the Gibbs prosecution was an isolated example. "I hope it's not a trend that's going to catch on. To charge a woman with murder because of something she did during pregnancy is really unprecedented and quite extreme."

He pointed out that anti-abortion groups were trying to amend the Mississippi constitution by setting up a state referendum, or ballot initiative, that would widen the definition of a person under the state's bill of rights to include a foetus from the day of conception.

Some 70 organisations across America have come together to file testimonies, known as amicus briefs, in support of Gibbs that protest against her treatment on several levels. One says that to treat "as a murderer a girl who has experienced a stillbirth serves only to increase her suffering".

Another, from a group of psychologists, laments the misunderstanding of addiction that lies behind the indictment. Gibbs did not take cocaine because she had a "depraved heart" or to "harm the foetus but to satisfy an acute psychological and physical need for that particular substance", says the brief.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument put forward in the amicus briefs is that if such prosecutions were designed to protect the unborn child, then they would be utterly counter-productive: "Prosecuting women and girls for continuing [a pregnancy] to term despite a drug addiction encourages them to terminate wanted pregnancies to avoid criminal penalties. The state could not have intended this result when it adopted the homicide statute."

Paltrow sees what is happening to Gibbs as a small taste of what would be unleashed were the constitutional right to an abortion ever overturned. "In Mississippi the use of the murder statute is creating a whole new legal standard that makes women accountable for the outcome of their pregnancies and threatens them with life imprisonment for murder."
This is the kind of government intrusion that really and truly scares me. A woman has a miscarriage, has to be one of the darkest moments of her life and some stiff in a suit who can't help but weave biblical logic into state laws gets her arrested for what they believe is "murder".

I'm all for protecting children from terrible parents but it's clear these laws are just new ways for lawmakers and politicians to fight the abortion battle. If not serious revision, these laws need to be removed and rewritten entirely.

Thoughts?
 

stripes

Registered Member
Personally, I would, in part, agree with it. This isn't a basic miscarriage - it's one happening to someone who was being incredibly irresponsible, and taking major risks, whilst in control of another life.

I'm anti-abortion myself, and I do in principle agree with people being charged, in some way, if their pregnancies are ended through a fault of their own. That said, where I'd draw the line, I don't know.

I'm changing my whole lifestyle in advance of my plans to become pregnant, in an attempt to provide the best possible healthy body for a child to develop in. Then again, we can't say exactly what can cause damage and what can't - there are debates, for example, that state how a miscarriage can be caused by sleeping on your back, or right-hand side. According to certain experts, you reduce the risk by sleeping on your left - does that mean we should be charged for sleeping on the wrong side whilst pregnant? I'd say not. And I'd say that it's more than likely, in such a situation, that your body knows what it's doing anyway, and wouldn't let you sleep in a way that would harm the baby.

I'm all for charging those who take damaging substances whilst pregnant - those who drink, smoke or take drugs, but my vice was food, and it's one that for my own personal beliefs I've worked hard to change. I'm not going to try to conceive until I've lost the weight I plan to lose, and I wouldn't have done so on the diet I had before I began preparing. Then again, how do we know which foods can harm our babies - if I eat one pizza, when pregnant, could I be putting my child at risk?

It could end up a bit of a slope, this one.
 

Shwa

Well-Known Member
V.I.P.
Personally, I would, in part, agree with it. This isn't a basic miscarriage - it's one happening to someone who was being incredibly irresponsible, and taking major risks, whilst in control of another life.

I'm anti-abortion myself, and I do in principle agree with people being charged, in some way, if their pregnancies are ended through a fault of their own. That said, where I'd draw the line, I don't know.

I'm changing my whole lifestyle in advance of my plans to become pregnant, in an attempt to provide the best possible healthy body for a child to develop in. Then again, we can't say exactly what can cause damage and what can't - there are debates, for example, that state how a miscarriage can be caused by sleeping on your back, or right-hand side. According to certain experts, you reduce the risk by sleeping on your left - does that mean we should be charged for sleeping on the wrong side whilst pregnant? I'd say not. And I'd say that it's more than likely, in such a situation, that your body knows what it's doing anyway, and wouldn't let you sleep in a way that would harm the baby.

I'm all for charging those who take damaging substances whilst pregnant - those who drink, smoke or take drugs, but my vice was food, and it's one that for my own personal beliefs I've worked hard to change. I'm not going to try to conceive until I've lost the weight I plan to lose, and I wouldn't have done so on the diet I had before I began preparing. Then again, how do we know which foods can harm our babies - if I eat one pizza, when pregnant, could I be putting my child at risk?

It could end up a bit of a slope, this one.
This is unacceptable, period. A miscarriage in itself is enough punishment for the woman who is carrying the child. You have to remember, anything can happen during the time period of child birth where the slightest thing can kill a baby. A common cold to the motherly host, something she ate in her food, the way she sleeps, her daily activity, work, stress, and more to add onto. Charging someone for a miscarriage is horrid at best. So this woman was negligent with the life inside of her, she did try to take her own life, as a result she lived and the baby died. After being left by her boyfriend and now her child is dead, the suffering should be enough.

~Shwa
 

stripes

Registered Member
This is unacceptable, period. A miscarriage in itself is enough punishment for the woman who is carrying the child. You have to remember, anything can happen during the time period of child birth where the slightest thing can kill a baby. A common cold to the motherly host, something she ate in her food, the way she sleeps, her daily activity, work, stress, and more to add onto. Charging someone for a miscarriage is horrid at best. So this woman was negligent with the life inside of her, she did try to take her own life, as a result she lived and the baby died. After being left by her boyfriend and now her child is dead, the suffering should be enough.

~Shwa
This is something I did mention in my original response, though. Obviously, I agree that we can't know every possible way that we can harm our unborn child, but some things, including a poor diet, the consumption of alcohol and drugs, and smoking, we DO know can do damage, so I'm all for charging people, myself.

That said from another point of view (though as stated I'm totally anti-abortion), I think it's wrong for someone to be charged for killing their own baby at a gestation age where the government will allow the same legally.
 

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
If there is no evidence that her cocaine habit contributed to the death of her child and this was just a routine miscarriage then I don't see a jury convicting her of depraved heart murder. The fact that charges have been brought leads me to believe there is more to the story than "though there is no evidence the drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death". I'm pretty sure there is some evidence that there is some kind of connection.

This isn't about someone weaving biblical logic around, this is about holding people accountable for their actions. She was carrying a child, a human life in the eyes of many. With that comes responsibility. Certainly using cocaine while pregnant is extremely irresponsible. Whether that irresponsibility contributed to the loss of a human life is up to a jury to decide, not anyone here. Unless anyone here ends up on that jury.

EDIT: You have to remember, even under Roe v. Wade, the state's interest in protecting the unborn child increases as the pregnancy goes on. Roe v. Wade does not grant an abortion on demand at any time during the pregnancy.
 
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Jeanie

still nobody's bitch
V.I.P.
If there is no evidence that her cocaine habit contributed to the death of her child and this was just a routine miscarriage then I don't see a jury convicting her of depraved heart murder. The fact that charges have been brought leads me to believe there is more to the story than "though there is no evidence the drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death". I'm pretty sure there is some evidence that there is some kind of connection.

This isn't about someone weaving biblical logic around, this is about holding people accountable for their actions. She was carrying a child, a human life in the eyes of many. With that comes responsibility. Certainly using cocaine while pregnant is extremely irresponsible. Whether that irresponsibility contributed to the loss of a human life is up to a jury to decide, not anyone here. Unless anyone here ends up on that jury.

EDIT: You have to remember, even under Roe v. Wade, the state's interest in protecting the unborn child increases as the pregnancy goes on. Roe v. Wade does not grant an abortion on demand at any time during the pregnancy.
I don't typically go for "slippery slope" arguments, but I think in this case it's definitely a concern. Pregnant women are told to avoid certain foods, as Shwa mentioned, so if a woman eats something like feta cheese and the baby dies from listeriosis, does that mean the woman acted irresponsibly and can be tried before a jury?

Furthermore, I don't have faith in a jury made up of laypersons to be able to decide whether the mother's cocaine use led to a miscarriage. That's really something best left to a medical examiner, or someone else with medical training.
 

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
I don't typically go for "slippery slope" arguments, but I think in this case it's definitely a concern. Pregnant women are told to avoid certain foods, as Shwa mentioned, so if a woman eats something like feta cheese and the baby dies from listeriosis, does that mean the woman acted irresponsibly and can be tried before a jury?

Furthermore, I don't have faith in a jury made up of laypersons to be able to decide whether the mother's cocaine use led to a miscarriage. That's really something best left to a medical examiner, or someone else with medical training.
How often do medical examiners come to different conclusions? On just about every file I have there is an expert saying X with another expert saying Y. If a jury isn't to decide who is right then who?

There is a difference between a doctor saying you can eat feta cheese and someone does and the baby dies, and someone using cocaine. I just don't see that slippery slope ever happening.
 

Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
There is a difference between a doctor saying you can eat feta cheese and someone does and the baby dies, and someone using cocaine. I just don't see that slippery slope ever happening.
The religious fervor abortion debates always spark should be enough to validate such a theory of a slippery slope happening. We know abortion has been fought to death across the country and a vague law like the one discussed in the article is a perfect opportunity for the 'faithful' to push their beliefs on others. So what if she used to do coke, if there was no drug evidence (as you noticed as well CO) then there should be no arguments. Yet you don't think they'll just paint her like a psycho who enjoys killing babies?

People who push these sorts of laws know exactly what they're doing.
 

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
The religious fervor abortion debates always spark should be enough to validate such a theory of a slippery slope happening. We know abortion has been fought to death across the country and a vague law like the one discussed in the article is a perfect opportunity for the 'faithful' to push their beliefs on others. So what if she used to do coke, if there was no drug evidence (as you noticed as well CO) then there should be no arguments. Yet you don't think they'll just paint her like a psycho who enjoys killing babies?

People who push these sorts of laws know exactly what they're doing.
Abortion has been argued and debated before Roe v. Wade was even filed in Texas. Both sides are guilty of pushing their agenda on others, which is what every single act by every single government whether it be city, county, state or federal government is about. Every single one.

This is what this comes down to, even in Roe v. Wade the SCOTUS recognized the state's rights in their protection of the unborn child once the child is viable. That's what this law does. To argue against this law is to accept only part of what Roe v. Wade grants while ignoring the rest.

I didn't say there was no evidence the drug didn't contribute to the death, what I said was the article says the drug didn't contribute to the death, which I do not believe. Obviously someone believes it contributed to the death or charges would not have been filed. Whether it did or not is yet to be determined. Since I'm not a medical expert, and even if I were I don't have access to the medical records, I make no claim as the cause of death. I doubt the author of this article is either.

EDIT: And again, I don't see that slippery slope happening. One is following a doctor's advice and it going bad. The other is abusing an illegal drug. The two couldn't be any more different.
 
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Merc

Problematic Shitlord
V.I.P.
I didn't say there was no evidence the drug didn't contribute to the death, what I said was the article says the drug didn't contribute to the death, which I do not believe. Obviously someone believes it contributed to the death or charges would not have been filed. Whether it did or not is yet to be determined. Since I'm not a medical expert, and even if I were I don't have access to the medical records, I make no claim as the cause of death. I doubt the author of this article is either.
You think they didn't have doctors testing her? When it comes to a pregnancy, everything is tested. You're basically disagreeing with a doctor here, how does that work? This is what Jeanie was getting at, if they say there was no evidence then that means no evidence was found. Simple.

When something of this magnitude happens, shit tons of tests are performed, mainly to determine the cause of death so I'm actually pretty confident in the statement that there was no evidence. It's only because they discovered she had had a habit in the past that they decided to go after her. In my view, they're just trying to make examples of people to scare women out of abortions.
 
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