California AG: Don’t File Murder Charges In Stillbirths

Prosecutors should not charge women with murder when a fetus dies, even if their behavior may have contributed to the death, California’s top law enforcement official said Thursday.

Attorney General Rob Bonta acted after prosecutors in the San Joaquin Valley’s Kings County twice charged women with “fetal murder,” alleging their drug use led to stillbirths. He issued a statewide alert intended to advise law enforcement officials on how to interpret state law.

Most recently, Kings County prosecutors charged in 2019 that a woman’s methamphetamine use led to the stillbirth and thus constituted murder. A judge dismissed the charges in May.

The loss of the woman’s baby “was blamed, without scientific basis, on her consumption of a controlled substance,” said Samantha Lee, a staff attorney with National Advocates for Pregnant Women that represented her.


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