Outcry after woman sentenced to four years for miscarriage of 17-week-old foetus
She was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
News of a woman in Oklahoma being sentenced to four years in prison after suffering a miscarriage has been met with widespread outrage and concern.
Brittney Poolaw, 21, was 17 weeks pregnant when she experienced the miscarriage, and afterwards admitted to medical staff that she had consumed methamphetamine and marijuana. She was 19 at the time of the miscarriage.
In January 2020, she was taken to Comanche County Memorial Hospital after her miscarriage at home. An autopsy later revealed the foetus had been 17 weeks old at the time.
An embryo is considered a foetus at the end of the 8th week after fertilisation.
In October 2020, Poolaw was accused of causing her child to be stillborn due to her use of intravenous methamphetamine. According to KSWO, the medical examiner's report listing the foetus' cause of death as intrauterine foetal demise due to maternal meth use.
A toxicology report on the foetus showed the brain and liver had tested positive for meth and amphetamine.
On October 5, she was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison for the miscarriage. People reports that prosecutors blamed the miscarriage on Poolaw's drug use.
“…convicted of manslaughter for experiencing a miscarriage…”
For anyone wondering what the “endgame” of abortion bans and restrictions could possibly be — it’s this. The worst is already happening to Black and brown women across the country. https://t.co/IgkESMqn6f
— Arpita (@ArpiAppa) October 14, 2021
However at the trial, an obstetrician-gynecologist - a doctor who specialises in women's health - testified for the state that controlled substances may not have directly caused the death of the foetus.
Meanwhile the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an advocacy organisation specialising in the protection of pregnant and parenting women, argued that blaming the miscarriage on Poolaw's drug use is "contrary to all medical science."
In a statement the group said: "Oklahoma’s murder and manslaughter laws do not apply to miscarriages, which are pregnancy losses that occur before 20 weeks, a point in pregnancy before a foetus is viable (able to survive outside of the womb). And, even when applied to later losses, Oklahoma law prohibits prosecution of the 'mother of the unborn child' unless she committed 'a crime that caused the death of the unborn child.'
"Contrary to all medical science, the prosecutor blamed the miscarriage on Ms. Poolaw’s alleged use of controlled substances. Not even the medical examiner’s report identifies use of controlled substances as the cause of the miscarriage.
"Even with this lack of evidence, the prosecutor moved forward with the charge. On October 5, after just a one-day trial, Ms. Poolaw was convicted and sentenced to a four year prison term."
This case is a tragedy. Not only has this woman suffered the trauma of pregnancy loss, she was jailed during COVID & convicted of a crime without basis in law or science. Read our statement about the troubling trend we are documenting in Oklahoma: https://t.co/8h590UCv0S (2/2)
— National Advocates for Pregnant Women (@NAPW) October 13, 2021
"For anyone wondering what the 'endgame' of abortion bans and restrictions could possibly be—it's this," said Arpita Appannagari, policy and partnerships manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. "The worst is already happening to Black and brown women across the country."
A $20,000 bail bond was set for Poolaw. She was not able to afford this so has remained in prison since she was first arrest in March 2020.