Mar 21 2014

How ‘Fetal Harm’ Laws Harm Women: The Case of Rennie Gibbs

In November 2006 Rennie Gibbs, only a child of 15, gave birth to a stillborn baby whom she named Samiya. While hospital records point to the umbilical cord wrapped around Samiya’s neck as the probable cause of death, Mississippi Medical Examiner Steven Hayne concluded, after an autopsy, that the infant’s death was the result of cocaine in Rennie’s bloodstream.

Seven years after Gibbs’ indictment by a grand jury on charges of ‘depraved heart murder,’ she may soon stand trial for murdering her stillborn baby. A major issue in the case will be whether there is scientific evidence that cocaine can cause damage to a developing fetus. Gibbs’ case has been just one of many ‘fetal harm’ cases which have come up in the courts in recent years.

Pitting the rights of mothers against those of unborn children, a disproportionate number of the women who are brought up on charges of ‘fetal harm’ tend to be low income and women of color. Rennie Gibbs, who is African American, is now waiting for the judge to decide whether or not to dismiss her case or bring it to trial.

GUEST: Nina Martin, writer for ProPublica, whose article on Rennie Gibbs is entitled “A Stillborn Child, a Charge of Murder, and the Disputed Case Law on ‘Fetal Harm’

Click here to read Nina Martin’s article.

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