July 6, 2010
MONTGOMERY, AL – The American Civil Liberties Union submitted a friend-of-the-court brief today challenging the conviction of a woman who tried to continue her pregnancy while struggling with a drug addiction, but whose baby died after being born extremely premature.
Amanda Kimbrough was charged under a “chemical endangerment” statute that was intended to keep children out of methamphetamine labs. However, a local district attorney unlawfully used the statute to prosecute Kimbrough solely because she allegedly tested positive for drugs at the hospital where she gave birth.
“Deciding to continue a pregnancy should never be considered a crime, even if a woman is struggling with addiction,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “If a pregnant woman can be prosecuted for her behavior or illness, then literally everything she does or does not do — including choosing to have a baby despite an underlying health condition — could land her in jail.”
The ACLU argues that using the law this way infringes on a woman’s fundamental right to continue a pregnancy and singles out pregnant women for discrimination.
Similar attempts to punish pregnant women who suffer from addiction have been struck down as unconstitutional, as in a recent case in Kentucky in which the ACLU was also involved. In addition, leading medical groups like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose these prosecutions because they drive women out of the health care system for fear of being prosecuted.
“Not only are these prosecutions unconstitutional, but they make for extremely bad public policy,” said Allison Neal, attorney with the ACLU of Alabama. “If we are truly interested in supporting healthy moms and babies, we should provide pregnant women with prenatal care, treatment and support to overcome their addiction, not jail time.”
The ACLU’s brief can be found here: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/kimbrough-v-alabama-amicus-brief
A list of position statements of medical associations opposing criminal sanctions for pregnant women can be found here: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/position-statements-medical-associations-opposing-criminal-sanctions-pregnant-w
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