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Scapegoated in South Carolina

by ELIZABETH SCHULTE | June 8, 2001 | Page 2

HORRY COUNTY, S.C.--"I didn't kill my baby," Regina McKnight repeated throughout her trial. But jurors took just 15 minutes to convict McKnight for "murdering" her stillborn child--because she smoked crack cocaine during her pregnancy.

Prosecutors argued that McKnight--who will serve 12 years in jail without the chance of parole--was a "reckless" addict, indifferent to what drugs might do to her fetus. It was a sick claim.

McKnight has an IQ of 72. The 24-year-old African American mother of three has been homeless for much of the last few years. She never smoked crack until her mother, who cared for her, was killed in a car accident in 1998.

When McKnight delivered a stillborn baby 35 weeks into her pregnancy, doctors found traces of cocaine in the systems of both mother and child.

At McKnight's trial, a Charleston pathologist testified that it's nearly impossible to determine the cause of stillbirths. But that didn't mean much in this South Carolina court.

Nor did it matter that McKnight desperately needs treatment for her addiction, not prison.

McKnight's conviction for homicide against an "unborn child" gives fuel to abortion opponents who argue for "fetal rights." State Attorney General Charles Condon--a fanatic Republican who has his eyes set on the governor's mansion--hailed the decision, declaring that South Carolina was "on the cutting edge of protecting the innocent life of the unborn as well as the born."

Condon and his buddies want to chip away at abortion rights--and use poor, drug-addicted women as scapegoats.

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