Crawley v. South Carolina

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Public Benefits and Poverty
  • Rights of Pregnant Women
  • Child Abuse
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2001

Concerned a federal habeas petition filed by a woman serving a five-year prison sentence for using crack cocaine when she was pregnant.

Summary of the Case

Ms. Crawley filed a federal habeas petition while serving a five-year prison sentence for using crack cocaine when she was pregnant. The Supreme Court of South Carolina gave the green light to prosecutions like Ms. Crawley's when it ruled in 1997 in Whitner v. South Carolina that a viable fetus is a child for purposes of South Carolina's child abuse and child endangerment statute and that women could be held criminally liable for actions taken during pregnancy that might harm a viable fetus. In spring 2000, the district court denied the petition as time barred.  The parties appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief drafted and filed by the Lindesmith Center in both the district and appellate courts supporting Crawley’s petition. Our briefs argued that such prosecutions force health care providers to breach confidentiality and described the uncertain nature of the scientific research on prenatal cocaine exposure.