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Mother Denies Murder Charges

Woman who refused a C-section says she did not sacrifice one twin for her own vanity.

March 14, 2004|Alexandria Sage | Associated Press Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman accused of murder because she allegedly refused a Caesarean section that could have saved her unborn twin denied the charge Friday, rejecting claims she avoided the surgery because she feared a scar.

"It was all medical concern. None of it was vanity," Melissa Ann Rowland said a day after prosecutors charged her with exhibiting "depraved indifference to human life" in avoiding the C-section. One nurse told police Rowland said she would rather "lose one of the babies than be cut like that."

"I never imagined having a stillborn would get me national news coverage or a murder charge," Rowland told the Associated Press during a jail interview.

Her attorney, meanwhile, said she has a long history of mental illness.

Rowland, 28, who has been in jail since mid-January on a child-endangerment charge involving the surviving twin, said she learned of the murder charge from reporters Thursday evening.

Critics of the charges say the case could affect abortion rights and open the door to the prosecution of mothers who smoke, fail to follow their obstetrician's diet or take some other action that could endanger a fetus.

Rowland, from the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan, was warned numerous times between Christmas and Jan. 9 that her unborn twins were likely to die if she did not get immediate medical treatment, charging documents allege. When she delivered them on Jan. 13, a baby girl survived but her twin, a boy, was stillborn.

She was charged with criminal homicide. Rowland said the child-endangerment charge stems from allegations that the surviving baby girl had drugs and alcohol in her system, which Rowland denies.

The baby has been adopted by a family Rowland knows.

Her attorney, Michael Sikora, called a C-section major surgery and told the Salt Lake Tribune that "it would come as no surprise that a woman with major mental illness would fear it."

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