The 12-year prison term of a South Carolina woman who used cocaine during her pregnancy and whose daughter was stillborn will stand. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Regina McKnight’s case yesterday.
The Christian Science Monitor says the case is important because it could make many women in South Carolina who suffer a stillbirth potential murder suspects. The list of potential suspects could include drug addicts, users of tobacco, alcohol, and coffee, and maybe even those who endure unhealthful conditions in the workplace.
“It is clearly going to reach a lot wider than just individuals who are addicted to drugs,” says William McColl of the Drug Policy Alliance. “People should be wary. If you take a drink or if you smoke [and later suffer a stillbirth], women are going to become murder suspects.”
While most states have laws to prosecute someone who kills a viable fetus, South Carolina is the only state in the nation with a homicide statute tied to stillbirth. South Carolina officials say the law tries to deter pregnant women from in risky behavior.
McKnight, a homeless drug addict, was convicted of “homicide by child abuse.” Hospital workers detected cocaine in her system after she gave birth to a stillborn girl in 1999.