The lawyer of a 24-year-old woman, who is eight months pregnant and currently in jail after being accused of second-degree murder, is alleging that his client's fetus is being illegally detained, as the Miami Herald first reported — an unusual case highlighting the effects of the Supreme Court's widely-decried decision to strike down a woman's country-wide right to an abortion in the US.
Attorney William Norris filed emergency documents last week with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, arguing that his client Natalia Harrell's fetus was unlawfully incarcerated and that its constitutional rights were being violated.
According to Norris, Harrell was wrongfully kept in the jail's un-air-conditioned van, even when outside temperatures rose in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Norris' petition also claims Harrell hadn't seen an obstetrician-gynecologist since October and wasn't given the nutrients physicians usually advise pregnant women to take.
"UNBORN CHILD has not been charged with any crime by the State," the document read, as quoted by the Miami Herald. "Further, the State has placed the UNBORN CHILD in such inherently dangerous environment by placing the UNBORN CHILD in close proximity to violent criminal offenders."
Norris' argument relies on the idea that an unborn child is a "person" according to the Florida and US Constitution, a notion that has gotten renewed interest following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer.
There have been other cases as well, deeming that an unborn child was a person. Last year, for instance, a Texas woman tried to argue that she was wrongfully ticketed for driving in the HOV lane since her fetus counted as a passenger.
The stakes, however, in Harrell's particular case are substantially higher.
"An unborn child has rights independent of its mother, even though it’s still in the womb," Norris told The Washington Post. "The unborn child has been deprived of due process of law in this incarceration. You simply have to have the unborn child as a factor in the equation."
Whether Norris' argument will stand up in court remains unclear. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has already filed to dismiss Norris' petition, per WaPo, arguing that the lawyer didn't file sufficient documentation to prove Harrell was ever mistreated.
"We are committed to ensuring all inmates receive professional, timely medical care and all appropriate treatment," a Miami-Dade County corrections and rehabilitation spokesman told the newspaper.
Norris, however, will continue to fight for the unborn child's freedom, according to the report, an unusual case that underlines the consequences of deeming a fetus as a person with constitutional rights.
READ MORE: Fla. lawyer argues pregnant inmate’s fetus is being illegally detained [The Washington Post]
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