Mississippi, that beacon of racial harmony and progressive thought, is prosecuting Rennie Gibbs for the stillbirth of her baby girl, whom she named Samiya. Gibbs was a 16 year old girl when her labor was induced a month early after an ER discovered the fetus was already dead. Medical experts argue that the cause of death was because the umbilical cord had wrapped around the Samiya’s neck and cite the evidence that Gibbs’s placenta “showed the presence of blood clots — a sign that the baby’s oxygen supply had been cut off. (In a 2011 study by a consortium of researchers around the U.S., 24 percent of stillbirths were caused by blood clots or other placenta abnormalities.)” However, Gibbs was also a BLACK teen whose urine tested positive for drugs. A few days later, “Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner at the time, came to a different conclusion. Autopsy tests had turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in Samiya’s blood, and Hayne declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.” Now Gibbs is being prosecuted “for “depraved heart murder” — defined under Mississippi law as an act “eminently dangerous to others…regardless of human life.” By smoking crack during her pregnancy, the indictment said, Gibbs had “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” caused the death of her baby. The maximum sentence: life in prison.”
There are two reasons this is egregious bullshit.
First, there is the case itself. Not only was Rennie Gibbs herself still legally a child when she lost her baby, her drug use probably had nothing to do with the stillbirth. Although the baby’s “blood showed traces of benzoylecgonine, a cocaine byproduct, cocaine itself was “not detected,” according to the lab that did the tests.” Moreover, “experts said cocaine has been linked to one kind of devastating outcome — placenta abruption (when the placenta pulls away from the uterus), which can lead to stillbirth. That was not present in Samiya’s death. In Gibbs’s case, the evidence pointed to “umbilical cord compression” as the likeliest explanation for Samiya’s death, the defense experts said.”
Why should you believe the defense experts? Because Steven Hayne is shady as a grove of oaks: (emphasis mine)
“In litigation (much of it by the Mississippi Innocence Project) and news reports (many of them by Radley Balko, now of the Washington Post), defense lawyers and other medical examiners have accused Hayne of being sloppy, exaggerating his credentials, and leaping to conclusions that sometimes had no basis in science. At least four murder convictions based on Hayne’s evidence — one involving an innocent man sentenced to death for the killing of a three-year-old girl — have been overturned since 2007. Despite having failed to complete his certification test by the American Board of Pathology, Hayne not only practiced for two decades in Mississippi and nearby states, but by his own estimate he performed as many as 1,800 autopsies a year (the National Association of Medical Examiners recommends that a single doctor conduct no more than 250). Mississippi stopped hiring Hayne in 2008, but he continues to testify in cases that he handled before then. In their court filing, Gibbs’s lawyers cited a capital murder conviction of a 14-year-old boy that the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned because of what it called “scientifically unfounded” testimony by Hayne. That case involved both the prosecutor and the judge handling the Gibbs prosecution. (To read more about Hayne, go here, here, and here.)”
Obviously the case against Gibbs is punitive because she was a drug-using black teen unwed mother, not because her drug use killed her baby. That’s bad enough, but there is also the larger ramifications of the law. Even if you are so anti-choice you think personhood starts at the blastocoel stage prior to conception, this shit should scare you. Law’s like these aren’t’ just trying to keep women from obtaining abortions or risk murder charges; they are eradicating a pregnant woman’s rights even if she doesn’t have an abortion.
For one thing, it is racist as hell. “African Americans, who suffer twice as many stillbirths as whites, would be affected the most” and it will be extra hellish in states like Mississippi, which “has one of has one of the worst records for maternal and infant health in the U.S., as well as some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and among the most restrictive policies on abortion. Many of the factors that have been linked to prenatal and infant mortality — poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, pollution, smoking, stress — are rampant there.”
There are a lot of things doctors think harm a fetus, including hair dye, as well as shit they KNOW harms the fetus, such as tobacco. Smoking radically increases the risk of stillbirth and doubles the change of neonatal mortality. Do they test mothers for tobacco use in ERs? Nope. White women smoke while up the pole. Rich and famous white women smoke while preggo. The long arm of the law isn’t reaching for them. How about if a bottle blonde has a miscarriage? Using the same criteria that they are using on Gibbs means that the woman who dyed her hair should go in the pokey because she added to the risk of stillbirth. Being overweight may cause pregnancy complications including miscarriage. Should I have been arrested for endangering a fetus because I was fat and pregnant? How about depraved murder when I miscarried at 12 weeks? Sure, my miscarriage had nothing to do with my weight … but that doesn’t mean a trial wouldn’t have poured salt on my wound.
This will never, ever effect a man. There have been studies since 1991 which show that cocaine can maybe “piggyback” on sperm, meaning women are exposed if her partner uses it. Men who smoke significantly endanger their partner’s pregnancy, even if they don’t smoke around them. Is the law going after the men who got women pregnant if she loses a baby? No. Only the women.
Where does it end? Can they take away your baby because you refused to do what the doctors told you to? Yep, that happened. A “baby girl has been kept away from her mother for almost five years after she refused to sign a form consenting to a Caesarean section – even though she did not end up needing to have the operation … The hospital said that her refusal to give permission for the C-section amounted to child abuse and thus reported her to welfare authorities. This was despite VM saying that she would agree to the operation if it became necessary and going on to deliver a healthy baby. The courts agreed with welfare agencies in New Jersey that the baby, born on April 16 2006, should be kept in care and revoked parental rights. VM was successful at an appeal hearing that reversed the lower court’s decision saying that the mother was ‘unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child’ and that ‘termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.’”
Imagine the state ripping your newborn out of your arms because you wanted a vaginal delivery. Imagine your decision to eat fast food during pregnancy meaning you went to jail if your baby died. Imagine your hair dresser being sent to prison for dying your hair because she acted in a “depraved” manner to your fetus. Imagine women being forced to pass a drug test for alcohol or tobacco in the OB/Gyn’s office. Imagine having no say in your body or your choices once you became a “host” for the embryo.
Is that the world you want to live in?