Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
"Women are being stripped of their constitutional personhood and subjected to truly cruel laws," said Lynn Paltrow of the campaign National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). "It's turning pregnant women into a different class of person and removing them of their rights."
No, how the state views the rights of unborn children with respect to their mother's behaviour, whether they intentionally seek to commit "foeticide" or their lifestyle simply endangers a child to a great degree, is what is being rightly challenged in court.
I say rightly in a neutral capacity: regardless of my views of state-mandated child murder when a precarious position appears in law, particularly in one where it is readily apparent the waters are being tested to see precisely what the law makers meant when they passed it, it follows logic that the first few cases will be painful; all cases should when one entity in the equation is murdered.
The next story in the article illustrates this perfectly:
Bei Bei Shuai, 34, has spent the past three months in a prison cell in Indianapolis charged with murdering her baby. On 23 December she tried to commit suicide by taking rat poison after her boyfriend abandoned her.
Shuai was rushed to hospital and survived, but she was 33 weeks pregnant and her baby, to whom she gave birth a week after the suicide attempt and whom she called Angel, died after four days. In March Shuai was charged with murder and attempted foeticide and she has been in custody since without the offer of bail.
This is both a long-standing contention between libertarians: whether abortion is something allowed by negative freedoms or not, and a dilemma that would test the Wisdom of Solomon; as tragic as her story and life obviously are did it really require her making that decision to end not only her own life but that of her child's?
I am, quite obviously, of the caste of libertarians who believe that negative freedoms protect the life of unborn children; there is something abhorrent in nature that allows us to abrogate the rights of one who's only crime is to grow, a living testament of either or both parents' recklessness: there is no greater example of human sacrifice to vanity than this.
Casting aside fear of straw men a question: were I to walk up to a happily pregnant woman and kick get in the stomach causing the baby to die should I end up in jail? If so then why does my act of foeticide carry criminal consequences? Is it merely because of the mothers desire to have children or the child's life?
All this and more will no doubt be debated in one way or another in the coming months surrounding such instances as these as the argument for human sacrifice starts not to look so glossy; it tends to excuse lifestyle choices which are naturally risky by allowing innocents to pay the price.
All that being said I do share Mssr. Puddlecote's concerns over the other religious aspect of this: that of the ascendency of the great Shiboleth of Public Health:
We've already seen a few rumblings, and I'm sure we've all heard the "it should be classed as child abuse" line many times already with regard to parental lifestyles. So why not just go that little extra step and push for the prosecution of women who have problematic pregnancies while also being obese, consuming cigarettes, or drinking in excess of guidelines, eh?
We'll just have to take it on trust that those currently taking the opportunity to rail against the religious right on the criminalisation of pregnant mothers will be consistent when the idea is picked up by the predominantly left-leaning health lobby.
I will not be holding my breath either; it has never been a problem for the left to excuse ones' actions as you hold the right opinions: climate change fanatics bending results or damaging energy companies property are fine; conversely skeptics are "fair game" whether the operate above board or not.
Sadly the cost is eternal vigilance, not shutting the questions down; for good or ill these lady's actions (and that of the men who are as copacetic to these situations as any) must be questioned - we may not like the answer but we should endeavour to keep it accountable to all, not just those in unassailable positions of power over life or death.