Judge Calls Inmate's Claims on Fetus 'Illogical'

On a technicality, Florida court rejects petition of prisoner who wanted freedom for her unborn child
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2023 10:05 AM CST

An appeals court has dismissed an emergency petition filed for a pregnant inmate to have her fetus—and therefore herself—released from prison. Per the Guardian, Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal on Friday turned away the petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the "unborn child" of 24-year-old Natalia Harrell, who's currently incarcerated in a Miami-Dade County jail. The ruling written by Judge Thomas Logue said the case should head back to a lower court—not on its merits, but due to a technicality on not having enough factual information, including allegations that Harrell hasn't been receiving proper prenatal care behind bars.

A partially dissenting judge, Monica Gordo, however, says her court should've been able to rule anyway on the merits of the case, calling the argument filed by attorney William Norris "illogical," per NBC Miami. "The mother comes to us as a badly disguised Trojan horse," Gordo wrote in her dissent. "The argument is nothing more than an attempt for the mother to leverage her unborn child as a basis to be released from lawful detention." She added: "No more could the government be accused of unlawfully detaining the unborn child in this case than could the mother be guilty of kidnapping over interstate lines if she chose to visit her grandmother in Georgia while eight months pregnant."

The case has brought into the spotlight the concept of "fetal personhood," which considers embryos and fetuses actual people with constitutional rights—a longtime talking point for those who oppose abortion, per the Guardian. Norris says he's not using this case to bolster that concept, but simply to "make an argument to have an outcome that we want for our client." He concedes, however, that broaching the concept "is indeed a Pandora's box." Harrell is just over eight months pregnant, per Fox News. (Read more Florida stories.)

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