Adora Perez was charged with murder in California after she delivered a stillborn baby, with authorities alleging methamphetamine use while pregnant was responsible. Faced with the possibility of life in prison, Perez accepted a plea deal, lost an appeal and busied herself adjusting toan 11-year prison term. To attorney Mary McNamara, the law in California was clear: A woman cannot be convicted of killing her unborn child, and no woman before Perez had been sent to prison in such a case. Perez, 32, is at the center of a high-stakes legal fight between a team of lawyers headed by McNamara and a district attorney who believes Perez and others like her are criminals. If the prosecutor prevails, women’s rights advocates say, it will open the door to charges against any woman who suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Before Perez’s arrest, it was settled law in California that women could not be prosecuted for killing their fetuses. In the 1990s, prosecutors in three counties brought murder charges against women who were accused of killing their unborn children with drug use. In each case, the charges were thrown out or withdrawn. “There have been no cases,” McNamara said, “where any woman has been successfully prosecuted in California as a result of her pregnancy outcome.” Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes says, “It flies in the face of logic, that if the father of a fetus can kill a fetus, why can’t the mother of a fetus be responsible for killing a fetus?” Jennifer Chou of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Expanding the law to criminalize pregnancy outcomes opens the door for women to be charged with murder for any behavior that could potentially harm their pregnancy.”