Brittney Poolaw’s unborn child was 17 weeks old when she suffered her miscarriage. Then 19 years old, Poolaw checked herself into a hospital in January 2020 after giving birth at home. According to an affidavit, she admitted to using marijuana and meth while pregnant.
Poolaw was later arrested, in March 2020, and charged with first-degree manslaughter. Unable to afford her $20,000 bail, she remained in jail until her conviction earlier this month. According to prosecutors, Poolaw’s baby was stillborn due to her drug use. In addition, a toxicology report showed Poolaw’s unborn child’s brain and liver tested positive for meth and amphetamine. The child’s cause of death was officially listed as intrauterine fetal demise due to maternal meth use, according to a medical examiner’s report.
Advocate groups, such as the National Institute for Reproductive Health, have spoken out against the conviction. The groups’ concerns arrive amid Texas’ ban on abortions.
“For anyone wondering what the ‘endgame’ of abortion bans and restrictions could possibly be — it’s this,” said Arpita Appannagari, the policy and partnerships manager at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “The worst is already happening to Black and brown women across the country.”
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) also spoke out against Poolaw’s conviction. According to the NAPW, Poolaw was unfairly convicted as Oklahoma’s murder and manslaughter laws do not apply to miscarriages. The NAPW also claimed prosecutors disregarded an OBGYN’s testimony that while meth use can have an impact on a woman’s pregnancy, it may not have been the direct cause of Poolaw’s miscarriage.
“Ms. Poolaw’s case is a tragedy. She has suffered the trauma of pregnancy loss, has been jailed for a year and a half during a pandemic, and was charged and convicted of a crime without basis in law or science,” the NAPW announced. “We are supporting Ms. Poolaw as she explores her legal options, and we are working to ensure that this type of injustice does not happen again.”
Brittney Poolaw has been sentenced to four years in prison.