Chelsea Becker Should Not Spend One More Day in Jail
On November 5, 2019, Chelsea Becker was arrested and charged with murder under California Penal Code §187. Ms. Becker had experienced a stillbirth that the prosecutor claims (without scientific basis) was caused by her methamphetamine use during pregnancy. Ms. Becker was charged with this crime despite the fact that §187 does not authorize, nor has it ever been interpreted to authorize prosecution of a woman in relation to her own pregnancy or any outcome of a pregnancy. She has been locked up in the Kings County Jail since November 6, 2019.
Why District Attorney Keith L. Fagundes Must Drop the Murder Charge Against Chelsea Becker
• Experiencing a pregnancy loss is not a crime.
• California Penal Code §187 clearly states that it cannot be used to prosecute the "mother of the fetus." Nonetheless, Ms. Becker was taken into custody and bail was originally set at $5,000,000.
• Chelsea Becker remains in jail today with bail now set at $2,000,000, incarcerated for a non-existent crime in a setting that not only denies her freedom and tore her away from her family, but also puts her at serious risk of contracting COVID-19.
• Among those most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 are those incarcerated or working in jails and prisons. In one California jail, at least 80 inmates and 55 employees have tested positive for the virus, and two veteran deputies have died as a result of contracting it.
• California legislators, consistent with the recommendations of every leading medical group including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have refused to make pregnancy, pregnancy loss, pregnancy and drug use subjects of the State’s criminal law. You can access a summary of medical group opinions here.
• District Attorney Keith L. Fagundes has exercised a grave error in judgment by pursuing a murder charge against a woman because she experienced a stillbirth.
• District Attorney Fagundes is violating Rule 5-110, of the State Bar of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct - Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor. This rule states that the prosecutor in a criminal case shall “not institute or continue to prosecute a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause. There is no “probable cause” to prosecute someone for a crime that does not exist. As the discussion of this rule explains, “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate.”
• Since 1973, individual prosecutors have tried using California’s fetal murder law as a basis for arresting women who terminated or lost their pregnancies. California courts have consistently and repeatedly held that the State’s fetal murder law may not be used as a basis for arresting a woman in relationship to her own pregnancy.
• It is not a crime in California to be pregnant and unable to guarantee a healthy birth outcome.
Pregnancy and Pregnancy Outcomes
• The arrest of Chelsea Becker assumes that pregnant women can guarantee healthy birth outcomes and they should be held criminally liable if they do not.
• Evidence-based research does not support the contention that methamphetamine, the drug Ms. Becker is alleged to have used, causes a miscarriage or stillbirth. See letter from experts Drs. Mishka Terplan and Tricia Wright.
• If the District Attorney cared about maternal, fetal, and child health he would drop the charges.
• During the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of ignoring science and the need to understand and respect scientific research have become much clearer to people. Science must also be respected when it comes to pregnant women - whether to challenge the lie that abortion care is not essential, the myth that controlled substances cause stillbirths, or the idea that women can control the outcome of their pregnancies.
• Increasingly, research shows that pregnancy outcomes have far more to do with the economic and social conditions a woman has experienced in the course of her life, rather than with anything she does or does not do while pregnant.
• Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriages and stillbirths, whether or not a pregnant woman smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, uses controlled or prescription substances or engages in many of the life activities popularly thought to impact pregnancy outcomes.
Arrests and Threats of Arrest Undermine Maternal, Fetal and Child Health
• Arrest and threats of arrest for pregnancy outcomes deter women from seeking health care during pregnancy, including health care for drug dependency problems.
• Tennessee’s 2014 “Fetal Assault” law, a law that actually authorized arrests of women in relationship to pregnancy and drug use ended in failure. As a result of the law, women steered clear of prenatal care and drug treatment and avoided delivering their babies in hospital settings. Based on clear evidence that the law permitting the arrest of pregnant women had failed to achieve any of the law’s stated goals, the legislature allowed it to sunset (go out of effect).
Call, Write, or Email the District Attorney of Kings County, California Keith L. Fagundes and tell him to dismiss the murder charge against Chelsea Becker and not to pursue any criminal charges against her or any other person because of pregnancy or any pregnancy outcome.
Chelsea Becker should not spend one more day in jail.
You can reach DA Keith L. Fagundes at: County of Kings District Attorney's Office
1400 West Lacey Blvd. Hanford, CA 93230 (559) 582-0326