Chelsie Barker, now a 10-year-old girl, needs round-the-clock attention as a result of a lack of oxygen during birth in a Michigan jail.
Jail officers are being sued in federal court, for violating the girl’s constitutional rights by not getting her mother, an inmate, to a hospital for the delivery.
Their defense is Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision. Attorneys for the officers say they are not liable because the child had no 14th Amendment right before she was born.
The jail officers “had sufficient warning that the child was on the way and did not get her the medical care she needed immediately prior to, during, and after the birth,” according to the U.S. District Judge.
The injury, according to the judge, was a “continuous one” and “there is no principled reason to distinguish those injuries sustained before the birth from those sustained after the birth.”
The U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment says government shall not deprive any person of life or liberty without due process.
Because the girl’s mother was in jail, county officers “had a duty to protect and care for Chelsie.”
Chantrienes Barker, now in state prison, was an inmate at the jail on Dec. 2, 1998. The lawsuit says she went into labor and was taken to Hutzel Hospital, where she stayed for two hours before she was discharged shortly before midnight.
Back at the jail, Barker’s labor pains intensified but no one checked on her for more than two hours, according to the lawsuit. Other inmates screamed and banged on toilets and cell bars to alert the guards.
Officers eventually responded and summoned paramedics, who arrived to immediately find the baby’s head emerging around 2 a.m. on Dec. 3, the lawsuit says.
Chelsie was not breathing, but paramedics did not have equipment to resuscitate her, the lawsuit says. The baby was rushed to the hospital.
“She has brain damage,” Rebecca Walsh, lawyer for Chelsie’s guardian, said Thursday. “She walks with a walker. As a 10-year-old, she can write a few scribbles but can’t write her name. She will never be employable. She will need care 24 hours a day for her life.”
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court said a fetus is not a person under the 14th Amendment. Murphy told county lawyers that case is “not anywhere close” to the facts in Chelsie’s jail birth.
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