More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project, The Frontier and AL.com that was co-edited and published in partnership with The Washington Post.
The cases included 10 in Oklahoma.
In 20 additional cases, women in Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina were prosecuted after positive drug tests because their babies died shortly after birth.
Seven of the Oklahoma stillbirth and miscarriage cases were filed in the last two years. In many instances, the fetuses were not developed enough to be viable outside the womb.
The joint investigation followed the case of Ashley Traister, who was charged with child neglect and manslaughter in Comanche County after her stillborn son tested positive for methamphetamine.
Comanche County District Attorney Kyle Cabelka, who has a record of aggressively prosecuting women for drug use during pregnancy, had been seeking prison time in Traister’s case. Two weeks after the publication of the news outlets’ joint investigation, Cabelka allowed Traister to plead guilty to a second child neglect charge and receive probation.
Reporters will answer readers’ questions about their ongoing investigation during a Twitter Space at 10 a.m. CST on Thursday, Oct. 6.