By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

  EDWARDSVILLE, IL, February 25, 2008 ( – A coroner’s jury has determined that the death of an Illinois woman’s unborn child was a homicide because of the woman’s use of illegal drugs, reports the Belleville News-Democrat.

  An autopsy on 26-year-old Alicia Tucker’s stillborn baby revealed cocaine and amphetamines in the child’s system. Tucker was eight months pregnant at the time. The doctor who treated Tucker told the inquest that the “fetus died due to a placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus), which can be caused by cocaine use.”

  The inquest was told that Tucker had bought a “bag of pills for $11 from a man outside a currency exchange in Granite City shortly before the stillbirth,” which she said she thought were painkillers for which she had a prescription. She said she doesn’t know why she bought the pills. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know,” she said. “Sometimes people make stupid mistakes.”

  A detective also testified that Tucker told him she inhaled methamphetamine that she had purchased for someone else, a week before the stillbirth.

  The result of the police investigation will be forwarded to the county prosecutor for consideration as to whether criminal charges should be filed against the mother.

  Robert Weisberg, a law professor and director of the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center, commented on the incongruity of legal abortion and criminal fetal homicide.

“Pro-choice groups find this issue difficult,” he said. “They know that so long as Roe v. Wade is good law, fetal homicide statutes passed by states can’t threaten the right to an abortion. But I think they’re concerned that if it becomes well-known that fetal homicide outside abortion can be considered a crime, then the notion of a fetus as a human being might become more widespread in public opinion.”

  Although Illinois has a fetal homicide law under which only another person can be convicted of killing a child in utero, and not the mother herself, other US states have legislation that allow a mother to be convicted of involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide if her drug use leads to the death of her fetus.