Target: Mississippi State Supreme Court
Goal: Stop the Mississippi’s state Supreme Court from criminalizing countless women for unintentional pregnancy loss.
A Mississippi woman’s case is currently on trial before the Mississippi’s state Supreme Court for a pregnancy loss that occurred on March 14, 2009. Thirty-one weeks into her pregnancy, Nina Buckhalter gave birth to a stillborn baby girl named Hayley Jade. Two months later, the then-29-year-old woman was indicted by a grand jury in Lamar County, Mississippi for manslaughter. It was claimed that since she had methamphetamine in her system, she had “willfully, unlawfully, feloniously, [killed] Hayley Jade Buckhalter, a human being, by culpable negligence.”
Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, says that if prosecutors win this case, Mississippi would be setting “a dangerous precedent” that “unintentional pregnancy loss can be treated as a homicide.” The National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) fears that if the case moves forward, it could start a wave of similar prosecutions in Mississippi and other states.
Many experts believe that it is hard to determine the cause of any miscarriage or stillbirth. There is also no conclusive evidence that when a fetus is exposed to drugs, it will lead to a miscarriage or stillbirth. Prosecuting Buckhalter will open the floodgate to prosecuting women for any number of other causes of a miscarriage or stillbirth. Such potential causes include ”smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, exercising against doctor’s orders, or failing to follow advice regarding conditions such as obesity or hypertension.”
Women who are dealing with drug or alcohol addiction may seek out abortion in fear of prosecution. The government should not instill such fear in pregnant women for unintentional pregnancy loss. Stop the Mississippi’s state Supreme Court from criminalizing countless women and deterring women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction during pregnancy from seeking help for fear of being prosecuted.
Dear Members of the Mississippi State Supreme Court,
You are currently considering a case that could lead to women being prosecuted for manslaughter if they have a miscarriage or a stillbirth. If prosecutors win this case, you would be setting a dangerous precedent that unintentional pregnancy loss can be treated as a form of homicide. Many medical experts believe that it is very difficult to determine the cause of a miscarriage or a stillbirth. There is also little evidence to directly link maternal drug use to causing a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
If Nina Buckhalter is found guilty of manslaughter, you are sending a dangerous message to all pregnant women that they could go to jail for having an unintentional miscarriage or a stillbirth. Out of fear of being prosecuted, pregnant women may start seeking out abortion, especially those women who have drug and alcohol addictions. Women should not be made afraid to seek medical help.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Peace Education Center via Flickr