June 28, 2011
A Mississippi woman is facing murder charges after her child was stillborn. Rennie Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but experienced a stillbirth 36 weeks into the pregnancy. Because she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse caused the baby’s death – she was charged with “depraved-heart murder”, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
One group estimates that up to 300 women in the US have been arrested for their actions related to their pregnancies, in cases similar to this one.
Read the whole story here: OUTCRY IN AMERICA AS PREGNANT WOMEN WHO LOSE BABIES FACE MURDER CHARGES (Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, June 24, 2011)
This kind of criminal charge against pregnant women could have been possible in Canada had one of several private members’ bills proposed in Parliament in the past several years become law. For example, Bill C-484 — Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence) – would have given full human rights to foetuses. This bill did exclude legal abortion or, as it stated, “lawful termination of pregnancy of the mother of the child to which the mother has consented.” But, once the foetus had separate legal status, this would have laid the foundation for criminalising abortion, and any behaviour deemed harmful to the foetus.
Bill C-484 did not pass in the 2008 minority Conservative govenment. Read about the reaction to that and similar proposed laws here.
Oppose Bill C-484, “Unborn Victims of Crime Act”
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
SOGC Position Statement on Bill C-484
Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada