Unassisted Births and Criminal Liability
Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court recently overturned the involuntary manslaughter conviction of Allissa Pugh, a woman from Milford, MA whose child died during an unassisted birth at her home.
According to reports, Pugh mistook her water breaking for a miscarriage. She soon realized the baby was breech and "pushed about 10 times and pulled on the baby to speed up the delivery. The infant was delivered a few minutes later, but was blue and unresponsive," wrote The Portland Press Herald.
The infant's body was discovered in January 2007 during trash collection in her neighborhood.
The Supreme Judicial Court not only threw out Pugh's conviction, but also unanimously ruled that women who choose to give birth without medical assistance would not face potential criminal charges.
"Existing criminal laws proscribing murder, most late-term abortions, and the neglect and abuse of children appropriately protect the State's interests in safeguarding viable fetuses and living children without the need to subject all women undergoing unassisted childbirth to possible criminal liability,'' Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the court.
"Imposing a broad and ill-defined duty on all women to summon medical intervention during childbirth would trench on their ‘protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment,'" she added.
Do you think women who opt for unassisted births should face possible criminal charges? Have you seen any evidence to suggest that more women are choosing this type of child birth?