Home birth and dead baby, mother accused of negligent termination of pregnancy: here's what it means and what she risks now

On Tuesday 5 December a woman gave birth prematurely at home (in Cisternino) to a baby girl, who died.
The causes of death are not yet clear, but the mother (still hospitalized) is under investigation for negligent termination of pregnancy.
The woman declared that she did not know she was pregnant, but the investigations by the Brindisi prosecutor's office are still underway, as well as the health ones with the autopsy scheduled for December 13th.
The incident is dramatic in every respect and the woman's accusation of a crime only makes the matter even sadder, regardless of what outcome the competent bodies confirm.
However, light is shed on a crime foreseen by our law, that of negligent termination of pregnancy, which is still little known.
This is a separate criminal case, different from murder, from involuntary termination of pregnancy and also different from the limits on abortion with the related criminal disciplines.
What does negligent termination of pregnancy mean? Negligent termination of pregnancy is a crime defined by article 593 bis of the Penal Code, which also punishes provocation due to premature birth.
With “termination of pregnancy” we refer to an event that causes the death of the embryo or fetus due to exogenous causes, i.e.
those coming from outside the maternal organism.
In this case, the criminal law looks at the interruption caused by fault, i.e.
negligence, imprudence or failure to comply with the law.
We therefore also speak of "involuntary abortion".
The crime of negligence can be caused either by an actual action or by an omission, without however having the intention of committing it on the part of the perpetrator (so much so that even the injured parties can participate in the crime).
read also Abortion in Italy: what the law says, how much it costs and who to contact The crime of negligent termination of pregnancy The crime of negligent termination of pregnancy is one of the crimes against maternity, but unlike the others (such as the crime of voluntary) mainly concerns the protection of the fetus.
The protection of the mother is an absolutely important aspect, but secondary to the purposes of this provision.
The most well-known sentences and news cases concerning this crime often concern the responsibility of healthcare personnel, with reference to deaths occurring under their care.
Also in this case, however, there may be complicity in the crime on the part of the mother, for example in the case in which she asked for treatment late.
In these cases, however, the mother participating in the crime does not receive the same punishment as the other offenders, as she is already partially damaged.
In any case, it is important to underline that this is a common crime, therefore it can be committed by anyone, including the mother.
For this crime to materialise, there must not be a desire to interrupt one's own or someone else's pregnancy, but rather a fault, that is, a serious error but not aimed at the crime.
For example, an employer who forces a pregnant woman to work despite her right to maternity leave and causes the termination of her pregnancy as a result is criminally liable.
The crime, in fact, like many other criminal cases, is based on the concept of guilt, or the error that could have been avoided.
Returning to the case mentioned at the beginning, it will be verified whether the woman actually did not know she was pregnant and whether there were valid reasons not to suspect it, but also whether she could have acted differently on the tragic day.
read also Manslaughter: definition and regulation What is at risk The crime of negligent termination of pregnancy is punished with imprisonment from 3 months to 2 years, while if premature birth is caused (in which jurisprudence also includes clinically called preterm birth) the sentence is reduced by up to half.
This is a crime that can be prosecuted ex officio, which therefore does not require a complaint by the victim or a report from other people.

Author: Hermes A.I.

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