California mother’s murder charge for fetal death is dropped

Prosecutors in central California on Monday dropped a murder charge against a woman in connection with the death of her unborn child through drug use.

The decision by the Kings County district attorney’s office to dismiss the charge against Adora Perez was a "victory for justice and the rule of law," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

Perez gave birth to a full-term, stillborn baby on Dec. 31, 2017, at a hospital in the San Joaquin Valley. Perez acknowledged that she had used methamphetamine during the pregnancy.

Perez was charged under California’s murder law, which was amended in 1970 to include the death of a fetus. In 2018, she pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and the murder charge was dismissed.

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However in January, Bonta issued a legal interpretation that said the fetal murder law was only intended to criminalize violence done to pregnant women that caused fetal death — not the women themselves.

Otherwise addicted women might avoid health care services for fear their substance abuse could lead to criminal prosecution, he said.

In March, a judge overturned Perez’s conviction and 11-year prison sentence, saying California’s voluntary manslaughter law doesn’t apply to the unborn. The original murder charge was reinstated so Perez, who had spent four years in prison, could argue the charge in court.

Bonta applauded the DA’s office for dropping the case.

"Suffering a miscarriage or a stillbirth can be deeply personal and traumatic. We owe it to all Californians to ensure the pain of loss is not compounded by violation of privacy and unjust prosecution," Bonta said in his statement. "California law is clear: We do not criminalize people for the loss of a pregnancy."

Last year a judge dismissed a murder charge against another Kings County woman, Chelsea Becker, who delivered a stillbirth after consuming methamphetamine.