Britney Polo has been sitting in a prison in Oklahoma for over a year and a half. She will spend more time behind bars, having recently been convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in prison for miscarrying her child last year.
In May 2020, Pullaw, then a teenager, arrived at a local hospital after losing his fetus at 17 weeks. She was soon transferred to a cell and charged with a felony, on the theory that drug use led to the fetus’s death.
At the trial, the veracity of this claim was questioned, with an expert witness for prosecution It certifies that the use of pulau may not have been a direct cause of death. The autopsy concluded that the unborn child tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine – but also found congenital anomalies, placental abruption, and chorioamnionitis, an infection associated with adverse “maternal, perinatal, and prolonged” outcomes, including stillbirth. .
In other words, it is entirely possible that Beaulieu’s miscarriage had nothing to do with her behavior. “No expert at the trial stated that her drug use caused a miscarriage,” says Dana Sussman, deputy executive director of Advocates for Pregnant Women. “It’s a confusing issue on many levels.”
Perhaps most confusing is how Beaulieu’s trial fits into the state’s current abortion laws, which allow women to terminate pregnancies before the 20th week of pregnancy. Although Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill in April that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected, it was not scheduled to take effect until November 1 and was temporarily banned by the courts. Polo’s pregnancy ended long before that.
And Polo wasn’t even seeking an abortion: she had an abortion, perhaps through no fault of her own, and would now suffer a barrage of legal consequences that Oklahoma women did not ask doctors to terminate their pregnancies.
“Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that criminal laws could be applied to pregnant women in the context of child abuse and neglect, and thus manslaughter and murder when a viable fetus is felt to be harmed,” Sussman says. (Viability is usually understood to begin at week 24.) As a matter of law, the conviction and sentencing of Paulau goes against the basis of how the United States should deal with such cases.
However, I am less interested in the legal argument than thinking about the harmful effects of holding women criminally accountable when they lose a pregnancy. Such an approach, I believe, is not really “pro-life”.
It should go without saying that taking meth is not a good idea. Doing this while pregnant is doubly irresponsible and reckless. But prosecuting women for making poor choices that inadvertently harm their fetuses is a kind of slippery slope that will punish undeserving people and harm the long-term health of women and children.
This is not by default. Sussman notes that there are several similar trials taking place on the pipeline, and the Pulau trials were by no means the first. There was Marsha Jones, an Alabama woman who lost her baby in 2019 after being shot in the stomach. The state claimed to have started the conflict, which then resulted in her being shot, which then resulted in the loss of her fetus. “Even if Jones had already begun the altercation, it does not mean that she knew or should have known that her opponent was armed or that her opponent would use lethal force in response,” she wrote. reasonElizabeth Nolan Brown at the time. “A lot of people – sometimes even pregnant women – get into fights that don’t end with anyone shooting anyone else.”
Still more confusing is this case mischief call, and where the state decides to draw the line. Drinking alcohol in certain amounts during certain parts of pregnancy is sometimes associated with an increased chance of miscarriage, but where the lethal threshold remains shrouded in uncertainty. An alcoholic should go to prison because of Could caused the death of her fetus? People have complex problems, and addiction is not easily solved by throwing someone in prison for several years.
Every public medical and health association or organization in this country [has] She condemned the use of criminal laws to address drug abuse and pregnancy,” Sussman adds. It’s sending the message that they should avoid prenatal care, that they shouldn’t be honest with their doctors, not try to get the help they need, and it puts them in a really difficult situation to have a healthy pregnancy.” Polo showed up at the hospital of her own volition. Such prosecutions are unlikely that others would do the same.
Get an abortion and you’ll still be free, states state. But if you show up to the hospital for help during or after a miscarriage, we may jail you for years. Whatever this system is, it’s not pro-life.