Under a controversial law in Mississippi that allows the state to prosecute women for causing harm to a fetus, Rennie Gibbs could be sentenced to life in prison because her daughter never took a breath.
As ProPublica reports, Gibbs was just 16 years old when she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, who she named Samiya, back in 2006. Samiya was born premature, and medical records indicate that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. But, since Samiya’s autopsy turned up traces of cocaine, Gibbs was indicted by a grand jury for “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” causing the death. If Gibbs receives the maximum sentence, she’ll spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Gibbs’ case is an example of a dangerous trend that’s certainly not specific to Mississippi. Across the country, there have been hundreds of documented cases of fetal harm laws being used to criminalize pregnant women. This is partly due to the proliferation of state-level abortion restrictions — since there are so many complicated regulations stipulating how women may legally end a pregnancy, that’s created a world in which miscarriages can fall under increased scrutiny, and desperate women can face charges for resorting to illegal abortions. But it’s largely due to persistent issues with this country’s War on Drugs.
Even though there are studies that show that cocaine has no effect on births, we see states routinely act like a crime has been committed.
The government as midwife should be an anathema to most Americans. Apparently not.