Arkansas Police Wrongfully Arrest Addicted Mom For Murder After Preterm Birth

Angela Miller, 23, probably wishes she'd never entered the land of God, guns, and apparently Gilead-inspired small town cops.

But for whatever reason she found herself pregnant in Arkansas -- where we're having to fight for access to medical abortion, leaving only one functioning abortion provider in the state.  

After she'd allegedly injected methamphetamine in a motel in Benton, a small town near the intersections of two interstates, she went into early labor on Tuesday, June 5th.  She was only 24 weeks along.  She had someone at the motel call 911 for her, and her baby lived briefly after its too-early birth under the care of medical professionals at Saline Memorial Hospital.  Sadly, at 24 weeks, it's a coin-toss in the best of times as to whether the baby will survive.  She lost the toss, and her child.

You might think that was enough of a nightmare, but it was only the beginning.

See, Angela was from a state that criminalized assaults against pregnant women, not assaults against fetuses.  She probably hadn't heard of the many women in red states arrested for poor pregnancy outcomes.  She probably felt safe being honest with the physicians trying to save her child about her drug use.

She wasn't in Oregon anymore, though.

Instead, the doctors felt compelled (as mandated reporters) to report anything that could possibly have been considered child abuse or neglect.  With this child having died after taking a breath (therefore not a stillbirth), the local police felt compelled to investigate and thought they could make a case, since the child had died a "person" even if what they claimed caused the death occurred before delivery.  They used 911 records from her call for help to go to the motel she was staying at, where they found paraphernalia for injecting methamphetamine -- their final piece of evidence, and compelling enough apparently for many locals interviewed.

Based on her statements to medical professionals, her medical records, and the evidence in the motel room, they arrested her for second degree murder and "introduction of a controlled substance into the body of another".   As soon as she was considered stable enough to release from the hospital -- Thursday, June 7 -- the proud cops took her to the Saline County Detention Center.  They triumphantly posted a media release about the arrest, even.  Mighty proud folks!

Fortunately, the Saline County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney schooled them for their errors in Angela's bail hearing today.  No, you still can't charge a pregnant woman for a crime committed against her own unborn fetus, even if the child lives a short time after birth.  Nor can you apply a law that was clearly designed to address drug-facilitated sexual assault to a pregnant woman for actions while she was still pregnant.  

The only remaining charges Angela faces, at least at this time, are for the drugs themselves.  Her bond has been set at $5,000, and while the prosecutor said they would continue to see what laws on the books applied, the charges based on ignorant police attempts to use laws designed to protect women against her at one of the worst times in her life have been dismissed.

But how many others will go through a similar experience after being honest with their physicians?

The solution to maternal substance abuse is not found in laws that scare women away from doctors when they need them the most, or laws that discourage them from full and frank disclosure.  I personally wonder if her arrest for the drugs isn't actually "fruit of the poisonous tree", if warrants were properly obtained, etc, but hope that if only convicted of a small drug offense she can still get the treatment she needs.  

Now part of that treatment is going to be for the trauma of thinking she might not get out of prison for decades, though.  Even if she is lucky in comparison to many that her overcharging was addressed quickly.  

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