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.
And she’s not the only one. Yet more cases to discuss next time you teach Susan Bordo’s brilliant “Are mothers persons?” (Unbearable Weight)
I’m figuring the feminist worries about this are too obvious to spell out in this context, so I thought I’d note a less obvious one.
I have a friend who specialises, in the UK, in care for pregnant women with addiction problems. She has helped hundreds (actually, probably thousands by now) of women addicted women through their pregnancies and birth and thanks to the specialised care they provide they have all been healthy, as have their babies. But the specialised care is important. And she tells me that such care is simply not possible in the US, because addicted pregnant women who admit their addiction risk criminal charges. Even if all you care about is the babies, then, you should oppose this: the babies of addicted women are far less likely to be born healthy when their mothers can’t seek the care they need.
And, may I just add, HTF does “depraved-heart murder” get to be a legal category?!