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Letters to the Editor: Jailing drug-addicted mothers for stillbirths is a legal abomination

Adora Perez, in a picture held by her mother, has been in prison for almost three years after experiencing a stillbirth.
Adora Perez, seen in a picture held by her mother, has been in prison for almost three years after experiencing a stillbirth.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The recent article about Adora Perez, the Hanford, Calif., woman currently serving an 11-year sentence for a stillbirth, reveals a heartbreaking series of systemic failures to support pregnant people.

Perez’s healthcare providers told law enforcement that drug use caused her pregnancy loss, but the question remains: Why would those entrusted with her care participate in her criminalization when medical experts agree it is a counterproductive response to drug use, specifically among pregnant people?

For legal advocates, it is especially shocking that this conviction is able to stand.

California law is clear: Pregnant people cannot be prosecuted for acts or omissions that affect their pregnancies. Otherwise, any miscarriage can become a criminal investigation, and any ambivalence about the pregnancy becomes evidence of wrongdoing.

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When the statute is this clear, the prosecution didn’t “test” the law; it completely violated it, and the prosecutor should be held accountable for this egregious overreach.

Every pregnant Californian should be able to access the care they need without fear of being turned into the police by their doctor.

Farah Diaz-Tello, New York

The writer is the associate legal and policy director for the group If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.

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To the editor: I have a question for the Kings County district attorney who twice since 2018 has filed murder charges against methamphetamine-addicted women for stillbirths attributed to their drug use.

In determining whether meth caused those stillbirths, did you investigate the role played by the fathers? You know, the men who typically provide meth to addicted women to gain sexual access? In each of those cases, men had unprotected sex that risked the mother’s pregnancy ending in stillbirth.

If the district attorney did not investigate these fathers for aiding and abetting murder, then his misogynistic slip is showing.

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Sarah S. Williams, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: A woman who used methamphetamine during her pregnancy is being charged with murder for the stillbirth of her child even if California law forbids the conviction of a woman for killing an unborn child.

The mother has an addiction that imperils rational thinking, yet the notion that the fetus’ rights have to be protected and that the mother must be punished has been gaining traction in the legal system.

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As our social consciences have been reawakened by recent events, maybe we should take a long look at how we came to believe that we have the right to abort fetuses legally without much resistance. Did we fully examine our consciences before abortion became legal?

James Sipin, Oceanside


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