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ACLU Wins "Pregnancy Police" Case;
Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act Does Not Apply to Prosecution of
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 22, 1994
PITTSBURGH --The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has thrown out
charges against a Westmoreland County woman charged with criminal
delivery of a controlled substance and reckless endangerment for alleged
drug use during pregnancy in 1991. While Pennsylvania's Abortion Control
Act defines an "unborn child" as a human being, the court has ruled that
the legislative intent of that act does not extend to the prosecution of
pregnant women for their prenatal conduct.
A three-judge panel ruled late Tuesday that the Commonwealth may not
prosecute Michelle L. Kemp for three charges: delivery of a controlled
substance, reckless endangerment of another person and child endangerment.
The ACLU's national Women's Rights Project and the Greater Pittsburgh
chapter of the ACLU represented Kemp in a case that has focused public
attention on continuing attempts by local governments to misuse criminal
statutes to punish pregnant women, rather than provide adequate drug
rehabilitation treatment for their addictions.
"Those who are really concerned about the health of the developing
fetus should concentrate on helping the pregnant woman, who deserves our
compassion and adequate prenatal care," said Sara L. Mandelbaum, Acting
Director of the ACLU's national Women's Rights Project. "I hope this
ruling will deter the `pregnancy police' throughout the country and
instead point out the need for adequate substance abuse treatment for
Witold Walczak, Executive Director of the ACLU's Greater Pittsburgh
Chapter, stated: "The taxpayers of this Commonwealth should not be
burdened by further appeals of this decision, when every court in the
country that has addressed similar prosecutions has dismissed them as
legally inappropriate and counterproductive from a public health
The Commonwealth had attempted to bolster its argument by citing
language from the Abortion Control Act of Pennsylvania which defined
"unborn child" as a human being from fertilization until birth. The court
ruled that there was no precedent "for the type of biological delivery
concept espoused by the Commonwealth."
The ruling further states that in defining the crimes of "recklessly
endangering another person" and "endangering the welfare of children" the
key words in Pennsylvania's criminal statutes are "person" and "child."
The Court concluded that, "... the legislative intent in the Abortion
Control Act is inappposite to the purpose of the penals laws and the
David J. Millstein, ACLU cooperating attorney in the case, praised
the decision: "The opinion demonstrates a sensitivity for the individual
rights of our client as well as a recognition of women's unique
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