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FL Woman Says Her Jailing Illegally Endangers Her Fetus

A few months after becoming pregnant, Natalia Harrell sat in 100-degree heat in a corrections van without air conditioning. Harrell, 24, says a Miami-Dade County jail employee opened a door only after hearing her banging against the walls. Harrell has been jailed without bond since July, when she was accused of fatally shooting another woman. Now eight months pregnant, she says the jail staff has endangered the fetus by refusing proper prenatal care and putting her in situations like the incident in the inmate transport van, reports the Washington Post. The allegations are in a writ of habeas corpus Harrell’s attorney filed in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. While habeas corpus filings typically allege that a person is being illegally detained, Harrell’s lawyer has argued that it is Harrell’s fetus who is being improperly jailed.


The petition by attorney William Norris says the “unborn child” is innocent and should be discharged from jail so it can receive proper care. That would require Harrell to be released until the child is born, the writ argues.

“An unborn child has rights independent of its mother, even though it’s still in the womb,” Norris says. "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.” Norris’s argument, which says Harrell’s “unborn child is a person as defined under the Florida Constitution and United States Constitution,” reflects the concept of fetal personhood, the belief that a fetus is a person entitled to constitutional protections. The notion has picked up traction since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed the right to an abortion. On Monday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office sought to dismiss Norris’s petition, saying he didn’t provide necessary documentation to support the allegations about inadequate medical treatment. The motion argues that habeas corpus is the wrong legal argument under which to seek relief.

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