A decision to prosecute a Maryland woman in her baby’s death has renewed a debate over a 2005 state law targeting crimes intended to cause the death of a “viable fetus,” says the Baltimore Sun. Prosecutors intend to test the statute by charging Christy Lynn Freeman, 37, with first- and second-degree murder in the death of at least one infant found at her home. The legislature enacted the law only after it was amended to include language that pro-choice advocates said would protect a woman’s right to a medical abortion. Some say it is unclear whether the law protects women from prosecution for self-induced abortions.
Still, Worcester County prosecutor Joel Todd is proceeding with the case on the basis of the 2005 law. The cause of the baby’s death is under investigation, as are those of three other infants, the remains of which were found in a trunk and in a recreational vehicle on Freeman’s property. The Maryland law was inspired by the killing in 2002 of California resident Laci Peterson, who was in the late stages of pregnancy. Under the law, a new mother can hand over an unwanted baby to a local hospital, police department, or adult friend or family member within three days of birth without risk of prosecution, said Pat Cronin of The Family Tree, in Baltimore. “We want people to know that rather than panicking and disposing of an infant there are opportunities to find a safe haven,” Cronin said.