Saturday, June 09, 2007

Have A Miscarriage, Go To Jail

***UPDATED***

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has brought charges against Christine Hutchinson, a 22 yo Pittsburgh woman, for failure to report her spontaneous abortion to the State.

According to Mr. Zappala’s spokesman, Mike Manko, the local laws have been researched and there exists a law on the books in Allegheny County whereby a woman is to be charged with concealing the death of a child if she fails to promptly inform the State she miscarried.

I'd like to take a closer look at this law, and I encourage you to do the same. Here's the contact info for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office:

Tel: 412-350-3123
e-mail: feedback@da.allegheny.pa.us

And here's the mailing address: Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, Room 303 Courthouse, 436 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. You know, just in case you have some clean pads/tampons and red ink lying around, and you want to get an early start on your miscarriage reporting.


(via Pandagon)

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Lisa, we have the law:

Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes
CRIMES AND OFFENSES (TITLE 18)
CHAPTER 43 OFFENSES AGAINST THE FAMILY
SUBCHAPTER A - DEFINITION OF OFFENSES GENERALLY
§ 4303. Concealing death of child.

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he or she endeavors privately, either alone or by the procurement of others, to conceal the death of his or her child, so that it may not come to light, whether it was born dead or alive or whether it was murdered or not.

(b) Procedure.--If the same indictment or information charges any person with the murder of his or her child, as well as with the offense of the concealment of the death, the jury may acquit or convict him or her of both offenses, or find him or her guilty of one and acquit him or her of the other.

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5 Comments:

At 11:35 AM, Blogger TBTAM said...

Such a sad story - that a woman would have to go through a miscarriage in the 2nd trimester alone, then have to hide the remains in a freezer - What she was afraid of I don't know, but to crimnalize her as well....

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

Hey, be fair. It says she miscarried at 15-20 weeks and put the fetus in her freezer, without telling anyone or seeking medical care. I can see where that discovery would prompt at least enough of an investigation to make sure it wasn't infanticide. (It's not fair to put police in the position of differentiating between a mid-second trimester fetus and a micro-preemie, either.) Besides, the story said they'd dismiss the case if she resumed treatment for depression.

I agree the law needs to be researched and probably trashed, but you have to admit you may have sensationalized the story a bit.

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger ema said...

TBTAM,

My sentiments, exactly.

Dr. #1 Dino,

Heh, trying to remove tongue from cheek would be bad for my health.

Seriously now, without going into the investigation question [an interesting issue to ponder; what's the value of such an undertaking for a 15-20 weeker?], my problem with this case is that there's a law requiring a woman to report a miscarriage to the authorities.

I am very curious to read the law, and I hope the DA's office emails it to me.

Besides, the story said they'd dismiss the case if she resumed treatment for depression.

Another interesting aspect. I cannot see the justification for dismissing the case if she resumes treatment for depression.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

Having the case dismissed is her incentive to get treatment. I don't necessarily agree with using the law in that way, but I can see the argument for doing whatever works.

I agree that the "miscarriage reporting law" is intrusive and discriminatory.

 
At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

This is the law:

Title 18 Chapter 43 § 4303.

Concealing death of child.

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he or she endeavors privately, either alone or by the procurement of others, to conceal the death of his or her child, so that it may not come to light, whether it was born dead or alive or whether it was murdered or not.

I don't see any definition of "born" or "child" in the statutes, and it seems to require an intent to conceal the existence of the "birth". There may be case law about it (I'm not an attorney, so I have no idea.)

 

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