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Alabama Supreme Court Declares A Fetus Is A Child

Alabama Supreme Court Declares A Fetus Is A Child

Anti-choice activists are not simply trying to pass abortion restrictions through state legislatures, they are trying to expand existing criminal statutes to create multiple pathways for recognition of fetal rights. The latest example of this strategy comes courtesy of the Alabama Supreme Court and an opinion that held a fetus should be considered a child and therefore is protected under the state’s chemical endangerment law.

The ruling came as the court upheld the convictions of two women whose used illegal drugs while they were pregnant. The two women had been charged with chemically endangering their children in violation of an Alabama law that makes it a crime to expose a child to a controlled substance, a chemical substance such as precursors for manufacturing drugs or drug paraphernalia.

The cases are themselves tragic, even without the additional failure of the criminal justice system here. Hope Ankrom and her newborn son both tested positive for cocaine when the child was born on January 31, 2000. Medical records documented Ankrom’s substance abuse during her pregnancy but she was unable to break her addiction. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, which was suspended, and she was placed on probation for one year, according to the statement.

In the case of Amanda Helaine Borden Kimbrough, her son, T.K., was born premature and died 19 minutes later. An autopsy determined his death was caused by “acute methamphetamine intoxication.” Prosecutors charged Kimbrough under the state’s chemical endangerment statute. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Both women challenged their charges, arguing the chemical endangerment statute did not apply to them because the statute protects “children” not a fetus. However, the court disagreed, observing that “the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”

Executive Director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Lynn Paltrow responded to the ruling. “This decision is judicial activism at its most dangerous. By reinterpreting the word ‘child’ to include eggs, embryos, and fetuses, the court has judicially enacted a “personhood measure” in disguise—making it a crime for some pregnant women to go to term and to give birth” Paltrow said.

“What this ruling means is that every pregnant woman in Alabama will be a criminal suspect and those who ingest any controlled substance—even if it is prescribed and whether or not it will have any effect on her future child—may be arrested and incarcerated.”

Paltrow’s correct. And it’s not just Alabama, either. This woman was arrested for DUI and child endangerment despite the fact that she was under the legal blood alcohol limit and didn’t have a child in the car with her when she was pulled over. But she is pregnant, which for the state of Tennessee, was good enough.

Cases like these are chilling reminders of what is at stake in the battle over reproductive rights and show that in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade the battle over women’s legal ability to own their bodies remains far from settled.

 

Related Stories:

Conservatives Say Next Election Needs More Abortion, Rape Talk

Michigan Republicans Propose Tax Credits For Fetuses

Is the GOP Punishing Women for the Election?

 

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Photo from dreamsjung via flickr.

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205 comments

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10:48PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

dan o. you are right on! Thank you for your messages. Please keep them comming.

3:59PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Let's make stupidity a criminal offense. And watch the republogoons go extinct.

Quite right Dennis. All these desperate attempts will fail at the Federal level.

8:42AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

"Let's tax the unborn and see what happens next!"

Let's tax abortion and see what happens next.

10:17AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

Well now it goes to the federal level.. and there the case will be over turned.. While I am not familiar with the case itself. I am willing to bet that when it makes it to the Supreme Court slaps down these State Personhood Amendments..

9:26AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Yes women's rights are important; I'd be the first to say so, and I have genuine sympathy and concern for drug addicts. However, very few of the comments seem to make any reference to these poor innocent babies. I have seen drug-addicted newborns and it's heart-wrenching. They scream in pain and are inconsolable, and of course they don't understand what's happening to them. If you want to use heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, or you need to use methadone, that's your business, but don't get pregnant, especially not TWICE. If you won't take advantage of the many drug detox facilities available and at least clean up your act for nine months, don't get pregnant, especially not TWICE. Same goes for alcohol. I've seen a woman eight months pregnant drinking methylated spirits. My heart breaks for these poor vulnerable babies, especially the dear little boy who only lived for 19 minutes. RIP.

4:37AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

What else is it?

Evelyn Mc M I am sorry to hear your story. No you are NOT either. Some things are beyond your control. The fact that you drank and smoked, just says you didn't know better, not that you are a bad mother.

12:26PM PST on Jan 25, 2013

Let's tax the unborn and see what happens next!

4:32PM PST on Jan 24, 2013

Evelyn M - I think that the fact you are a woman is enough for them to condemn you. I get the feeling these people don't like women very much at all.

10:44AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

Since I INADVERTENTLY had a fall while pregnant and later a stillborn 5 1/2 mo fetus, does that make me a murderer? Also drank (some) & smoked while pregnant with my 3 living children, does that make me a child abuser? I think NOT.

9:49AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

Sylvia M, great comment

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