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Court Denies Habeas Corpus For Pregnant Jailed Florida Woman

A Florida appeals court denied an attorney’s attempt to have a woman released from jail ahead of trial by arguing that her fetus was being illegally detained without charge. The attorney plans to continue the legal battle. Florida’s third district court of appeal dismissed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by attorney William Norris on behalf of the “unborn child” of Natalia Harrell, reports The Guardian. The petition argued that the fetus is “a person under the Florida constitution and the United States Constitution” and that it therefore should not be detained without charge. Judge Thomas Logue did not issue an opinion "on whether such filing is being brought by a party with standing, whether the claims are legally cognizable, whether they have merit, or what remedies, if any, are available.” Instead, it relied on a technicality that the petition failed to include a factual record of the case – which includes disputed allegations that Harrell has received inadequate prenatal care while in jail – and said the case should be pursued in a lower court.


Harrell, 24, has been in the Turner Guilford Knight correctional center in Miami since July, when she was about six weeks pregnant. She is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Gladys Yvette Borcela during an argument in an Uber vehicle. Harrell is seeking immunity from prosecution under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows individuals to use force in self-defense in some cases. The case has drawn national attention because of the potential ramifications of recognizing embryos and fetuses as persons with constitutional rights. “Fetal personhood” has long been a goal of the anti-abortion movement, and it has gained significant traction in the year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. Norris said that it was not his intention to use the case to set such a precedent, though he said he acknowledged the possibility. "I’m not trying to achieve an outcome that’s universal … I’m not trying to eliminate a woman’s right to control her reproductive health. What I’m trying to get to is that when certain decisions that are made about the woman, you can’t make them without considering the impact on the fetus," Norris said.


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