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A Florida Lawyer Argues That a Pregnant Inmate’s Unborn Child Is Being Illegally Detained

A Florida Lawyer Argues That a Pregnant Inmate’s Unborn Child Is Being Illegally Detained

A pregnant woman in a Florida jail is claiming that the facility’s staff have endangered her unborn child by denying her proper prenatal care and exposing her to inhumane conditions.

Natalia Harrell, who is eight months pregnant, has been held without bond since July on a charge of second-degree murder. The Miami Herald reports that Harrell’s attorney, William M. Norris, recently filed a write habeas corp — an appeal alleging a person has been illegally detained — in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, arguing that Harrell’s unborn child is being “improperly jailed” and should be discharged so it can receive proper care.

“An unborn child has rights independent of its mother, even though it’s still in the womb,” Norris wrote. “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 is based on the concept of fetal personhood, which is the belief that an unborn child is a person entitled to constitutional protections. This idea has gained notoriety following last summer’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On Monday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed a motion to dismiss Norris’s petition, saying he didn’t provide necessary documentation to support the allegations about inadequate medical treatment and that habeas corpus is the wrong legal argument under which to seek relief.

Harrell is accused of killing another woman during an argument in an Uber on July 23. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in April. Harrell has been jailed at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center for nearly seven months, an arrangement the petition argues has left her and her unborn child vulnerable.

Norris claims that detention center employees have failed and refused to provide medical care or transport Harrell to scheduled medical appointments. She hasn’t seen an obstetrician-gynecologist since October, according to the petition, and employees have failed to provide Harrell with vitamins, liquids and nutritional food necessary for child development.

Without proper care, Norris said he fears the child will be harmed before or during childbirth.

“The unborn child is incarcerated without any consideration of its rights at all,” Norris said. “Our interest is in the health of the unborn child, and at this point, it’s a crapshoot. We don’t know what the health of the unborn child is at this point because months have passed with no prenatal care.”

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