MS Supreme Court Considering Mother’s Criminal Responsibility for Stillbirths and Miscarriages

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(Hernando, MS) Having a stillbirth in Mississippi may land you behind bars.

Right now the state’s Supreme Court is considering a case that charges a mother with manslaughter after he baby was stillborn because she’s accused of doing meth while pregnant.

A debate is raging in Mississippi over Nina Buckhalter.

She’s accused of doing drugs while she was pregnant and her child was stillborn.

Her attorney says there is no basis for the 20 years she could spend in jail if the Supreme Court rules against her.

“Mississippi law doesn`t allow for anyone to be prosecuted for homicide because of the unintential termination of a pregnancy,” said Buckhalter’s attorney Robert McDuff.

“Somebody`s got to be able to protect the fetus if the mother doesn`t want to,” said Desoto County District Attorney John Champion.

Champion says child neglect must be prosecuted, but he says it might be hard to prove a mother`s negligence with drugs or alcohol is what actually killed the baby.

“It would be very fact sensitive.  It would definitely be the type of case where you would have to look at multiple things before you could make a charging decision,” said Champion.

News Channel 3 viewers bring different perspectives to the debate.

Lori White Porter says “As a prenatal nurse, I have seen fetuses demise for many different reasons.”

Martin Spiegel asks “Are we going to start requiring all women who miscarry to take a drug test?”

Ashley Whitmore says “Yes, I do think that the mother should be charged because the mother should have thought about her actions knowing there would be consequences.”

Tennessee’s legislature considered a bill that would allow a mother to be charged with homicide if she caused the stillbirth or miscarriage of her child by using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.

That bill’s cosponsor Brian Kelsey of Collierville says it never made it out of committee, but he hopes it will next year.

Attorneys say Mississippi’s legislators frequently consider a similar bill but it has never passed.

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