Woman uses crack cocaine and has stillbirth: a crime?


The short version of this story is that a woman had a stillborn baby. She admitted to using crack cocaine throughout the pregnancy. Both she and the baby tested positive for cocaine.

She was convicted under South Carolina’s homicide by child abuse law for the 1999 death. Today the US Supreme Court refused to consider the case, which in effect lets her conviction stand.

Is this a fair ruling? Will it cause “pregnant addicts not to seek prenatal care or drug treatment?”

Or did this woman knowingly cause the death of her baby through the “ingestion of crack cocaine, which she had no legally protected right to do?”

Your link doesn’t work for me.

Based on your summary, I’m not sure why what she did is a crime but an abortion is not. Anyone willing to help do away with my ignorance?

If what she did is a crime, then would it also be a crime for a woman to stay with a monster who beat her until she miscarried? What about women well-past 35 who decide to have a first child and spend thousands and thousands of dollars to become pregnant and then are unable to carry the baby to term? They very willfully put a possible future baby in jeopardy??

I hope she is able to appeal. Of course it’s idiotic to be pregnant and using crack. I kind of think people whose lives are so out of control don’t have what it takes to seek counseling. Maybe we should think about being more attentive to people like this earlier.

If during the commission of a crime, someone loses their life, you can be charged with murder. If you’re burglarizing a house, and you give the resident a heart attack, your held responsible for the resident’s death.
The woman was committing a crime, smokin’ crack, and someone lost their life because of it.

I may not RC.

Basically, it’s not criminal to have an elective abortion before the fetus is viable. The states are allowed to make it criminal to have an abortion after viability (in the third trimester), with various exceptions for the health of the mother.

The convicted woman was two weeks before her due date, if I remember correctly. Definitely in the viability period.

So it’s a crime because in theory the baby could have survived outside the womb?

It i a crime because she was smoking crack, and the crack smoking was the proximate cause of the baby being stillborn.

And this is why I don’t want to be libetarian.

It’s a crime because the legislature of South Carolina made child abuse a crime, and the judiciary determined that that crime applied to acts affecting fetuses, as well as children. This determination was clearly not barred under the reasoning of Roe v. Wade as applied to this case, because the fetus was viable at the time of the crack smoking.

In addition, I think that this would probably not be barred under Roe v. Wade even before viability, because the states have the right to regulate medical procedures, even though they can’t deny all forms of abortion in the first two trimesters. So, for example, they can ban unreasonably dangerous procedures, like back-alley knitting-needle abortions, or self-induced “abortion” by ingestion of illegal substances.

Will it cause "pregnant addicts not to seek prenatal care or drug treatment?"

Doubtful. Pregnant addicts are not the most health conscious demographic to begin with, and plus, sad to say, most addicts don’t give a shit about the babies they are carrying. They care only about their next fix.

Heifers like the one in the article is why voluntary sterilization is such a great idea.

Not sure why that link doesn’t work. Sorry. I’ll try again. In case it still doesn’t work, you cann go to cnn.com and click on the law section and i he article is there.


Considering the fact that she appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court and was turned down by them, I think this is the end of the line for this case.

Hmmm. Very interesting topic, and as j.c. indicated, could open up a huge can of worms. I don’t think it is a fair ruling, no matter what I might think of her drug-taking and general carelessness.

What if a pregnant woman is driving a car at excessive speed (say just 5mph over the speed limit), is involved in an accident, and as a result of abdominal trauma (or whatever) the fetus dies? Her speeding is a ‘crime’ technically, and caused the death of the fetus. Should she be charged with homicide?

Or will it eventually be the case that any activity by the mother during pregnancy that might be shown to be harmful to a fetus will be criminalised? Should a woman who drinks early in her pregnancy and delivers a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (who then dies) be charged with murder, even though the damage occured before ‘viability’?

Fascinating issues though!

If you accept the rulings in South Carolina that a viable fetus is a legal person, then this case is essentially the same as if the mother purposefully gave her child crack cocaine which subsequently caused her child’s death. Unfortunately, she knew what she was doing and didn’t care. That is part of the evil associated with drugs and addiction.

I don’t buy the slippery slope defense that it would trickle down to a mother driving 5 miles over the speed limit. Those infractions are not on the same playing field. If a mother was driving 40 miles over the speed limit with the same end result, then she should be responsible for the child’s death


From the article:

“[Regina] McKnight’s lawyers say she is borderline mentally retarded and lived with her mother until her mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1998. McKnight quickly became homeless, addicted to drugs and pregnant.”

Yeah, sounds like a real “heifer” there. :rolleyes:

Uh, my mother smoked a lot of crack, and look how great I turned out!

Tracer, Maybe it would be more believable if the people saying she is borderline mentally retarded were medically trained to make such a determination and also not her defense lawyers.

A destitute borderline mentally retarded woman who is addicted to crack, and has nowhere to turn to, has a stillborn baby? I think this is a case where society needs to address the root causes instead of hacking at the roots. Punishing her will accomplish nothing.


instead of hacking at the vines

I work in the 5th or 6th largest birthing center in CA and have cared for women who had late-term stillbirths after they had ingested meth and/or crack. I work with a Dr. L. who will not drug test his patients. He leaves that to the pediatricians to test the newborns if those babies are symptomatic—jittery, unable to suckle or unable to retain oral feedings, uncomfortable and unable to sleep. He says he doesn’t want women afraid to seek prenatal care and he can’t change the addicts.
I agree this woman the OP mentions killed her baby. I agree she committed criminal abuse of her child. Her baby was dependant on what that woman ingested to sustain both their lives. When the child was delivered, that baby would depend on someone for sustenance still. If someone adds crack to the formula fed to a baby, would anyone argue that wasn’t criminal abuse? Will someone argue that some children survive drug-addicted mothers ‘just fine’? That some doses of crack are more harmful that others, that some doses of crack are varied in strength?