Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder chargesIn this instance, it's the religious right in the US criminalising women who suffer unsuccessful pregnancies which authorities solely - and without proper substantiation - attribute to the mother's behaviour.
Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.
Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals.
[Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer] told the Guardian that he hoped the Gibbs prosecution was an isolated example. "I hope it's not a trend that's going to catch on. To charge a woman with murder because of something she did during pregnancy is really unprecedented and quite extreme."Well, that's a battle for the future, one suspects, and it's not difficult to imagine the new religion of public health proudly at the helm when it inevitably arrives.
We've already seen a few rumblings, and I'm sure we've all heard the "it should be classed as child abuse" line many times already with regard to parental lifestyles. So why not just go that little extra step and push for the prosecution of women who have problematic pregnancies while also being obese, consuming cigarettes, or drinking in excess of guidelines, eh?
We'll just have to take it on trust that those currently taking the opportunity to rail against the religious right on the criminalisation of pregnant mothers will be consistent when the idea is picked up by the predominantly left-leaning health lobby.