Going to Prison for Miscarriage
Content warning: this article discusses abortion, miscarriage, drug use during pregnancy, suicide and stillbirth. If you choose to continue reading, I invite you to breathe through your reactions. If you are a person with a uterus who is capable of being pregnant, you are also a person with a uterus who is capable of miscarriage or stillbirth, and thus, of being prosecuted for miscarriage or stillbirth.
While murder and manslaughter charges in most of these cases were eventually dismissed, several women served time in jail or prison on lesser charges. With the latest political developments around bodily autonomy, the precedents that could have been set by these prosecutions are terrifying, and we grow less safe by the day.
Arrested for Miscarriage or Stillbirth: a Timeline
1987 — Angie Carter
While Angie Carter wasn’t arrested, her case was foundational for this timeline because of the precedent it set.
In 1987, 27-year-old cancer patient Angie Carter was six months pregnant. She was also in and out of consciousness and near death. Doctors wanted to know if Angie wanted them to try and save the baby by Cesarean even though the likelihood of the baby surviving was very small, and the likelihood of Angie dying in surgery was very high. Angie asked them not to interfere. Her mother, a double amputee in a wheelchair, also begged them not to interfere, knowing the family didn’t have the means to support a child that, if it survived, would likely have severe health challenges.
Although Angie and her family had already made their decision, hospital administrators, through their lawyers, called a judge. The judge ordered the Cesarean. Lindsay Marie Carter was 1.6 pounds with completely undeveloped lungs and died two hours after she was born. Angie died the next day.
Angie’s case was one of the first after Roe vs. Wade to deny rights of privacy to pregnant women in the United States.
2004 — Melissa Ann Rowland
In 2004, Melissa Ann Rowland of Salt Lake City, Utah, was charged with murder after refusing a Cesarean…