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California Supreme Court will allow murder charges against woman who used meth while pregnant

Biden’s incoming Health and Human Services director argued against the charges

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California Supreme Court building
California Supreme Court building
(Smith Collection / Getty Images)
Updated: December 26, 2020 - 8:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The California Supreme Court this week declined to halt the prosecution of murder charges against a woman whose child was stillborn after she used methamphetamine while pregnant.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, currently Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, had asked the court to dismiss the charges, claiming that prosecuting the woman for the murder of her child could “dete[r] pregnant women with addiction issues from seeking out necessary, and sometimes lifesaving, healthcare for fear of criminal liability and imprisonment.”

Becerra also alleged that the prosecution could result in “additional and unnecessary scrutiny by law enforcement on every miscarriage and stillbirth.”

Philip Esbenshade, an executive assistant to Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes whose office is prosecuting the case, told media this week that the issue is “not a case about abortion nor women’s reproductive rights.”

Rather, he argued, it is “a case about a person who did specific acts that resulted in the death of a viable fetus.”