Posted Apr 26, 2012 11:00 am CDT
A chemical endangerment law passed to protect children from meth labs has been used to prosecute about 60 women in Alabama who took drugs while they were pregnant.
Among them is Amanda Kimbrough, who received a 10-year sentence when she tested positive for methamphetamine after the birth of her son, the New York Times Magazine reports. The premature baby died 19 minutes after birth, and prosecutors said the death required a mandatory sentence under the law.
Kimbrough’s appeal, pending before the Alabama Supreme Court, has attracted the attention of “a national army of feminists, civil libertarians and gynecologists” who side with Kimbrough, the story says. The law used to prosecute Kimbrough bars a “responsible person” from “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she … knowingly, recklessly or intentionally causes or permits a child” to be exposed to a controlled substance. Prosecutors say the “environment” referenced in the law includes the uterus and the term “child” includes unborn children.
Emma Ketteringham, the director of legal advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, says prosecutions under the law violate pregnant women’s constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, equal protection, due process, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. An intermediate appeals court upheld the prosecution.
Kimbrough maintains she did meth just once while pregnant. “One time,” she told the Times. “I don’t even know why I done it. I guess the Devil knocked on my shoulder that day.” But she is not an entirely sympathetic figure for a test case. Her appeal bond was revoked earlier this year after she was accused of selling Oxycodone to a confidential informant, the story says.