Infanticide soon legal in California? Beware of these misleading articles

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California could legalize infanticide on its territory under a bill currently under discussion, according to articles circulated on Twitter. This is wrong: It aims to protect women from lawsuits in the event of a miscarriage, in the event of the birth of a stillborn child or a child who dies less than seven days after birth, the co-rapporteur told AFP Bill. According to legal experts, this text is unlikely to provide an effective defense for someone who willfully kills their child.

“California Legislation Legalizing Infanticide”headlines the right-wing extremist site Boulevard Voltaire on April 1, 2022. In this article, their author explains that “The bill is written in black and white and (…) filed under Assembly Bill 2223. He proposes that a mother cannot be prosecuted for abortion at any stage of pregnancy (without having to justify physical or psychological distress, as is currently the case). case) or for the death of his newborn.

“A bill that, if passed, would amount to legalizing infanticide”summarizes Boulevard Voltaire.

Facebook screenshot of April 13, 2022

Other publications are covering this California bill and have been shared a total of hundreds of times on Twitter (1, 2, 3), VK and multiple websites (1, 2, 3, 4) over the past two weeks.

A modified text

A California invoice “AB-2223” on the “reproductive health” exists. Its content is available on the California Legislature website.

According to its proclamation is its purpose “to prevent a person from being subject to any system of civil or criminal liability or being deprived of his or her rights” due “Actions or negligence in connection with the pregnancy or the actual, potential or suspected outcome of the pregnancy.”

Several publications identified online (1, 2, 3) explicitly denounce the use of the phrase “perinatal death” state in the body of the text of this bill that it is prohibited here “The Right to Put Babies to Sleep” in the days after her birth.

Perinatal death refers to both death of the infant at birth (also called stillbirth) and early neonatal death, i.e. up to seven days after delivery.

But those publications fail to say that this bill, presented to the California State Board of Health, has been amended. She now determines that the cause of death must be “related to pregnancy”.

Screenshot of the California State Assembly Legislature website taken on April 13, 2022, showing changes introduced by amendments

The article in question can be translated into French as follows:

A “wrong” argument

Despite this change, the publications and articles found online have not been edited and will continue to be shared.

Buffy Wicks, the bill’s co-rapporteur, tweeted a statement criticizing this misleading presentation of the text.

“Anti-abortion opponents are promoting an absurd and fallacious argument that this law aims to kill newborns, while ironically the part of the law they refer to is about protecting and supporting grieving parents [après une fausse couche ou la perte d’un nouveau-né]”she said on the 5th

Buffy Wicks spokeswoman Erin Ivie told AFP that the bill would pass on March 6. “To put it bluntly [ce texte] affects the pregnancy and the outcome of the Pregnancy”. An accepted amendment “only because of misleading interpretations”.

Ms Ivie said the bill aims to avoid situations where women who give birth to stillborn babies would be prosecuted for their behavior during pregnancy.

“This law could protect and support grieving parents after a perinatal death by preventing them from being questioned and potentially incriminated by an investigator or prosecutor when they are likely going through the most difficult ordeal of their lives.”she stressed.

The spokeswoman cited the example of Chelsea Becker, a Californian who was prosecuted for giving birth to a stillborn child after using methamphetamine.

A sign of “ignorance of the principles of interpreting the law”

Legal experts have also said that the purpose of the bill is clear and that it is unlikely to be used successfully in a defense strategy in a child murder case.

“There is nothing to suggest it would be a defense in a case involving the murder of a liveborn child.”said Jonathan Simon, professor of criminal law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Franklin Zimring of the Center for Criminal Law Studies at the same university agrees: “Who wants to extrapolate [ce texte] and using it in court after the murder of a newborn would be an uphill battlehe explained.

In addition, according to Stephen Munkelt, executive director of the California Association of Criminal Justice Attorneys, “The last sentence [du projet de loi] clarifies that death caused by acts after childbirth is not exempt from criminal prosecution.”

Lisa Ikemoto, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, pointed out that by changing the wording of the bill, it was clear that it had nothing to do with infanticide.

“Interpreting the bill to authorize people to kill their babies after birth […] [c’est le signe] of extraordinary creativity and ignorance of the principles of interpreting the law”explained Lisa Ikemoto.

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