Say What? Woman Charged With Killing Fetus After Cutting Umbilical Cord In Utero

Illustration for article titled Say What? Woman Charged With Killing Fetus After Cutting Umbilical Cord In Utero

In a situation that makes little to no sense to the non-medically trained, an Alabama woman has been arrested and charged with the manslaughter of her unborn daughter because she allegedly severed the child's umbilical cord while it was still inside her uterus. As the Times Daily of Northwest Alabama reports, Jennifer Darlene Johnson, 30, delivered a 7-months along fetus who was dead at birth last Friday night, and, says Police Captain Ron Tyler, "investigators believe the evidence demonstrates that the death of the infant is directly related to the intentional severing of the umbilical cord."


Okay, you guys, my knowledge of obstetrics is rudimentary at best, but how is that even possible? Even if she reached up into her uterus poking around for the umbilical cord, how could she find it in order to sever it? And if she had severed it, wouldn't she have also seriously injured herself in the process? Medically-trained readers, please, enlighten me.

I'm not the only one with a WTF reaction. The AP tried to get more details from Captain Tyler, but he declined to comment. However, the AP did discover a condition"called umbilical cord prolapse, when at least part of the cord emerges from the birth canal while the fetus remains in the womb. Medical literature states the condition can occur during a premature birth after the amniotic fluid is released."

Johnson is currently being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center and her bail is set at $50,000. Captain Tyler said to the Times Daily "Certainly, the events surrounding this case are highly unusual. Though under normal circumstances, the members of our police department would be sensitive to the needs of a mother who recently lost her baby."

If it turns out that Johnson actually did sever her own umbilical cord, this case is sure to bring up a lot of uncomfortable issues about the viability of a fetus, late term abortion, and the idea of personhood. Not to mention the issues surrounding Johnson's sexual behavior. You see, Johnson allegedly cut the umbilical cord at the house of a new boyfriend. This boyfriend was not her baby's father. The Times Daily interviewed the father, Jerry Pigg, on Wednesday. It sounds like Johnson was seeing both Pigg and the new boyfriend simultaneously. The bereaved Pigg said he went from "sad to mad" when he found out that Jennifer had been arrested, and believes that she had a hand in the fetus' death because she told him she was "sorry" she miscarried. "I know she knows what she did was wrong, or she wouldn't have been telling me she was sorry," Pigg told the Times Daily. Considering the mystery shrouding this case, you have to wonder: if Johnson were a married woman, would she be in custody right now?

Woman Charged In Unborn Baby's Death [Times Daily]

Baby's Father Questions Death [Times Daily]

Ala. Woman Charged after Fetus' Umbilical Cord Cut [AP via]




That may be because, as has been said in may other threads, this is a misconception about late term abortions. People are not getting medically performed abortions at 8-9 months for any other reason than an emergency. The characterization of it being something that someone does on a whim is just incorrect. That's why it's frustrating. It keeps coming up in every thread about abortion "I'm pro choice but partial birth/late term abortions are know you're pregnant at 7 months, etc." I understand that it's a complicated issue but please understand that people get frustrated because, medically, what you're talking just isn't what happens.

It's also because "late term" does not actually refer to the last trimester, it refers to any abortion after the first trimester. Which can mean, for instance, 4 months. And it's entirely possible that a person just doesn't know until then, can't schedule it before hand, etc. The kind of later term abortion you're talking about is only performed in emergencies. And they're only performed in less than 1/5 of 1% of abortions. I'm not trying to jump on you, I just feel like this is extremely important because a lot of people seem to be under the misconception that there's some rash of doctors agreeing to abort healthy fetuses in the 9th month. They aren't.

Now, in this case, whatever happened, it clearly wasn't in a hospital or any sort of legal abortion if that's actually what happened. But based on the very dodgy information it sounds more like a tragic accident. As in it's just as (if not more) likely that she went into early labor because there was a problem, didn't know what to do, and made a mistake. It's terrible, but either way, it has nothing to do with late term abortions that are legally performed by a medical professional.