In some states, the criminal justice system is attempting to prosecute mothers of stillborn babies if the child resulted positive for illicit drugs on autopsy.  In 2007, a young Mississippi woman was indicted by a grand jury for “depraved heart murder” which is defined as an act that results from the gross negligence of an individual.  The indictment reported she had “unlawfully, willingly, and feloniously” caused the death of her child from smoking crack during her pregnancy.  Although, at birth it was noted the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. One article on the case can be viewed here.

The controversy in that case is whether her drug use caused or contributed to the death of the unborn child. In truth, there are no individuals that can say for certain which was cause of death as both are correlated with fetal demise and both have resulted in a viable and even healthy child outcome. For certain, using illicit drugs during pregnancy is detrimental to the child. 

Disclaimer: Heightened emotions arise when discussing the rights of women and what they are permitted to do with their body, versus the rights of children before they are born. This blog post is in no way a stance related to either side, but simply a commentary on a rising issue in the criminal system. 


This month’s criminal topic is the Criminalization of Drug Use During Pregnancy. Topics covered are:

  • Still-Born Births (6/6/14)
  • Drug Effects on the Fetus (6/13/14)
  • Legal Implications – mother (6/20/14)
  • Legal implications – fetus (6/27/14)

Note: To see all posts in this topic, click here.

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