California Attorney General has filed a brief in support of a woman who has been charged with murder after delivering a stillborn with toxic levels of methamphetamine in its system, seeking her release.
Chelsea Cheyenne Becker, 26, delivered a stillborn on 10 September 2019. Medical professionals believed the foetus had been exposed to drugs while she was pregnant, and the death was ruled a homicide, CNN reported.
Ms Becker was arrested in November 2019 and is currently awaiting trial. Her bail is set at $5m, NBC News reported.
Kings County Coroner's Office found methamphetamine in the stillborn's system during an autopsy, police said.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief on Friday condemning the arrest of Ms Becker, saying that he believed the law was “misapplied and misinterpreted” in her case.
“Our laws in California do not convict women who suffer the loss of their pregnancy, and in our filing today we are making clear that this law has been misused to the detriment of women, children, and families,” Mr Becerra said in a statement.
“We will work to end the prosecution and imprisonment of Ms Becker so we can focus on applying this law to those who put the lives of pregnant women in danger.”
Kings County District Attorney Keith L Fagundes told CNN that they were aware Mr Becerra would be filing the amicus brief, a document from a person outside the case offering expertise and insight into its issues.
“This case is not about a stillbirth, it is a case about a mother's overdose of a late-term viable foetus,” Mr Fagundes said.
“I appreciate the Attorney General's opinion, and can only conclude that he has not been properly briefed on the facts of this case, has not read any police report nor has he reviewed the medical information involved in this particular case.”
In the brief Mr Becerra refers to the Penal Code section 187, saying that the law protects a mother from being punished for an act for murder as a result of her own omissions or actions that might result in pregnancy loss, in this case, “the defendant’s drug use during her pregnancy.”
"The Legislature’s purpose in adding the killing of a foetus to Penal Code section 187 was not to punish women who do not—or cannot, because of addiction or resources—follow best practices for prenatal health," Mr Becerra wrote.
"The superior court’s contrary interpretation would lead to absurd—and constitutionally questionable— results," he said. "It would subject all women who suffer a pregnancy loss to the threat of criminal investigation and possible prosecution for murder."
Mr Becerra is arguing that Ms Becker should be released from jail "with the charges against her dropped and the law applied the way it was intended – to protect women".
In June the superior court denied Ms Becker's motion to dismiss the charges against her, CNN reported.