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CA Case Raises Questions Of Whether You Can Be Prosecuted For Murder After A Stillbirth And How Unconcious Biases Play Into The Charges




California attorney general Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference at the California justice department on September 18, 2019 in Sacramento, California.
California attorney general Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference at the California justice department on September 18, 2019 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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The Kings County District Attorney is charging a woman with murder after she gave birth to a stillborn baby that had methamphetamine in its system. This is permitted under California’s penal code, which in 1970 added fetus as a possible victim in its definition of murder, but many experts argue it isn’t the way the law should be interpreted.  

A few weeks ago, California’s Attorney General Becerra filed an amicus brief in support of ending the woman’s prosecution, claiming that it’s based on a misinterpretation of the statute that was meant to protect women, not prosecute them. He and other critics have said that interpreting the statute in this way opens the door for criminal investigations any time a pregnant person suffers a stillbirth. The Kings County DA has said that the move is necessary to condemn the use of meth by pregnant people. The woman in Kings County has now become a focal point for a larger debate about the criminalization of pregnancy and mothers who have issues with addiction. Today on AirTalk, we get the latest on the case in Kings County and discuss how similar cases throughout the country have played out. Plus, a legal expert explains how women, particularly pregnant women and mothers, have faced unconscious biases in these cases. Do you have thoughts about the case in California? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.

Guests:

Alex Wigglesworth, staff writer for The Los Angeles Times who has been covering the story; she tweets @phila_lex

Linda C. Fentiman, professor of law at Pace University in New York where she specializes in health and criminal law, author of “Blaming Mothers: American Law and the Risks to Children’s Health,” (NYU Press, 2017)