Pregnant Florida woman claims foetus wrongfully detained in murder case

A pregnant woman charged with murder argues that her foetus is being unlawfully detained under Florida's new abortion laws. What's her argument? Click here to read more.
A pregnant Florida woman in prison for murder charges has argued her foetus is being wrongfully detained.

A pregnant Florida woman in prison for murder charges has argued her foetus is being wrongfully detained. She says Florida’s new abortion laws recognise the foetus as a person, meaning her foetus shouldn’t be detained.

A pregnant Florida woman charged with second-degree murder has argued that her foetus is being wrongfully detained in prison. She is citing Florida’s new abortion laws, which were changed after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the country’s constitutional right to an abortion last year. Her lawyer argues that her foetus is classified as a person under the state and national constitutions. As the foetus hasn’t been charged with a crime, they say its human rights have been “clearly violated”, and should be removed from prison immediately.

The context

In July last year, 24-year-old Natalia Harrell – then six weeks pregnant – fatally shot a woman while they were both passengers in an Uber in Miami, Florida. Harrell fired a single round from a handgun she had in her purse at the woman. Days later, Harrell was arrested and held in a Miami prison whilst awaiting her judgement. She has remained in detention and is now eight months pregnant.

What’s her argument?

Harrell has said that laws recognising her foetus as a person mean it is being wrongfully and unlawfully detained. This is because only Harrell, not her foetus, has been charged with a crime. Harrell’s lawyers have said the baby’s father has offered his Miami home for the foetus and Harrell to reside in until the criminal case is concluded. Her lawyer has also said that treatments to support her pregnancy have not been offered in prison, including prescriptions and adequate access to doctors.

A Roe V. Wade refresher

The U.S. Supreme Court last year removed the constitutional right to an abortion by overturning the longstanding case of Roe v. Wade. This didn’t ban abortions, but gave individual states the power to make their own rules about abortion access. Abortion is banned in Florida after a foetus reaches 15 weeks of gestation, except in the case of a medical emergency. The Florida Supreme Court said this year that this law would be subject to a legal challenge.

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