Women who use drugs and deliver stillbirths could face murder rap if San Joaquin Valley case advances

California

It sounds like a nightmare scenario for women’s rights in California. Every time a woman suffers a late-term miscarriage or gives birth to a stillborn baby, she could potentially become the target of a homicide investigation, with police visiting homes and delivery rooms to carry out interrogations.

Chelsea Becker is seen in an undated booking photo released by the Hanford Police Department.
Chelsea Becker is seen in an undated booking photo released by the Hanford Police Department.

Yet some medical and civil rights groups say that scenario is not so far-fetched if the murder prosecution of Chelsea Becker is permitted to proceed in a rural county of the San Joaquin Valley. They say it could judicially rewrite the state’s homicide statute, expanding it to apply to any pregnant woman whose conduct might have resulted in the loss of her pregnancy.

“These are potentially dangerous precedents which make all women who have any not-perfect pregnancy event criminally liable for that event,” said Dr. Mishka Terplan of UC San Francisco, an expert in the fields of pregnancy and addiction. “And that should terrify everyone.”

The Kings County district attorney maintains the prosecution is driven by law, not by politics.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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