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Charges dropped; attorney proves a fetus isn't a person, according to state statute

TORRINGTON — Charges against a woman who gave birth to a baby under the influence of methamphetamine were dropped after her defense attorney successfully argued the charging statute doesn’t consider a fetus a person until birth.

Barbara Stewart, of Torrington, is a free woman after her attorney, Charles MacDonald, cited holes in Wyoming statutes that don’t define a fetus as an unborn or pre-born child, and that a person isn’t a mother until a live birth occurs.

Stewart gave birth to a child that was born under the influence of methamphetamine in August of 2019. She tested positive for the presence of meth, as did the child.

She was charged with felony child abuse and delivery of methamphetamine to a minor - but, according to MacDonald, Stewart was not a mother when she ingested the drug, and the child wasn’t a person.

In the motion to dismiss the charges, MacDonald wrote that the charging statute doesn’t define the unborn child as a person.

“In count 1, the state alleges child abuse by the mother by taking or ingesting methamphetamine while she was pregnant,” the motion said. “The seminal issue in count 1 is if an unborn child, or a fetus, is a child for the purposes of the child endangerment statute.

“The statutory language contains the word ‘child,’ or ‘fetus,’ or ‘pre-born’ but not the words ‘ unborn child,’ or ‘fetus’ or ‘pre-born’ or any other wording to denote anything other than a child who has been ‘delivered,’ ‘alive,’ and under the age of 18 years.”

And because the child had yet to be born, Stewart was not yet a mother.

“A person responsible for a child’s welfare which includes the child’s parent, noncustodial parent, guardian, custodian, stepparent, foster parent or other person, institution of agency having the physical custody or control of the child, until a female-type person has given live birth to a child. That is not the case here either,” he wrote.

MacDonald also successfully moved to dismiss the delivery charge.

The methamphetamine was delivered to the fetus through the umbilical cord, and Stewart didn’t have the knowledge or training to deliver the drug that way.

“Knowledge is an element of the offense of delivery, as the Wyoming Supreme Court has said: All that is required to constitute the completed crime is knowledge that one is dealing with a controlled substance, coupled with a complete delivery of that contraband,” he wrote. “It is inherent. Knowledge of delivery in the case at bar would essentially require medical education, training and diagnostics that the Defendant simply doesn’t possess.”

The charges were dismissed on March 26.