Police Brutality Against the Preborn
by Sarah Terzo
Police brutality, which disproportionately affects Black men and women, has been in the news with the horrible deaths of Breanna Taylor and George Floyd, among others. Protests have erupted throughout the country over the past few months. Preborn babies are not exempt from dying by police violence. In fact, there have been numerous cases where a preborn baby has been a victim of excessive force by police.
Emerald Black and Her Baby
Emerald Black, a pregnant Black woman, was riding with her fiancé when the couple’s car was pulled over by police for having “bad registration tags.” Her fiancé had been driving her home from the hospital. At the hospital, she and her fiancé were informed that she was at risk for miscarriage. On the ride home, she was still dressed in a hospital gown.
The police ordered her out of the car. Allegedly, she explained to them that she was at risk for miscarriage and asked if she could stay sitting. What happened next, according to the lawsuit, is that police “yanked Ms. Black from the car, taunted her, piled on top of her and stomped on her stomach leaving a shoe mark.” She suffered a miscarriage soon after the policeman allegedly stomped on her stomach.
Emerald Black had not committed any crime and was not accused of any. She was just a passenger in a car that was stopped for a minor traffic violation. No charges were filed against her.
Black’s lawyer, Patrick Buelna, said that:
[Police] had no probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to use any force whatsoever against Plaintiff. Therefore, the use of any force was unlawful and excessive . . . If officers were adamant about her exiting the car, they should have simply, and gently, assisted Ms. Black getting out of the car. Instead, they treated her like she had just committed a violent felony.
Black is suing for the loss of her baby, physical injuries, emotional distress, and lost wages from missing work due to injuries she sustained.
The incident occurred in 2019 in California and concerned the San Leandro Police Department.
Kenya Harris and Her Baby
Another case of police brutality against a pregnant woman and a preborn baby took place in Georgia. According to a $50,000 lawsuit, Kenya Harris suffered injuries and a miscarriage after she was brutally beaten by police officers Ryan Jenkins and Richard Brown Jr. Harris had not been detained for any crime. Rather, she had come to the Albany Police Department because her son was arrested. She waited five hours at the police station. Then she told officer Jenkins that she could not stay because she had other children she needed to take care of at home. According to the lawsuit, Jenkins did not like the “tone” of her voice.
He, along with the other officer, allegedly assaulted Harris and beat her so badly that she suffered a miscarriage.
An article in the Daily Mail describes the assault:
Jenkins reportedly grabbed the expectant mother by the neck, before ‘slamming her to the ground’, causing her to fall unconscious. When she woke up, Jenkins was sitting on her, the suit states.
‘Defendant Officer Jenkins, without provocation, grabbed the plaintiff, who weighs less than one hundred twenty (120) pounds, by her neck and slammed her to the ground,’ it reads.
‘Plaintiff momentarily blacked out and came to with defendant Officer Jenkins sitting on her back, and with his knee on her arm. Plaintiff was pregnant at the time.’
Jenkins handcuffed Harris, then allegedly threw her against a wall.
Injured and fearing for her baby, Harris begged to be allowed to go to a hospital. Police ignored her pleas and locked her in a jail cell. She was held overnight. The next day, out on bail, she went to a medical facility and discovered that her baby had died. She was also treated for what were described as “serious injuries.”
Martini Smith and Her Baby
Martini Smith, a 20-year-old Black woman from Ohio, was pregnant when she was arrested in a domestic disturbance and taken to jail. She had stabbed her boyfriend in self-defense and was being charged with a misdemeanor. The charge against her was later dropped. At the jail, she was tasered. There is a video of the incident.
Male police officers stripped her naked from the waist up, and she was ordered to remove her nose ring. According to a video of the incident, she tried to comply but was unable to remove the nose ring because her fingers were numb from being in tight handcuffs for six hours.
As she struggled to obey the officers, one officer, identified as Corporal Matthew Stice, tasered her and she fell against the wall and then to the ground. When she was able to speak, she said to him, “’Why did you Tase me? I wasn’t harming nobody. I can’t just take it out.’
She lost her baby due to the police action.
She reached a settlement with the city for $27,500, but this cannot compensate for the loss of her child.
Between 2000 and 2017, 104 people died in the same jail as a result of being tasered. All but two were unarmed at the time.
Two other incidents could have led to the death of preborn babies, but fortunately did not.
Miami police officer Jody Martel was arrested and charged with battery and official misconduct after he used excessive force during the arrest of Safiya Satchell, who was pregnant. Satchell went into premature labor as a result of Martel’s actions. According to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Martel “went into Satchell’s car without any evidence that she had committed a crime.” A video of the incident shows Martel reaching into Satchell’s car and Satchell saying, “Don’t reach into my car.” The video then shows Martel dragging Satchell from the car and tasering her, then choking her by putting his knee on her neck. This is the same police move that killed George Floyd.
Satchell then went into premature labor. Fortunately, she and her baby both survived.
There was another incident where off-duty police officer Ambar Pacheco kicked a pregnant woman, Evoni Murray, in the stomach and caused her to go into premature labor. Murray was visibly pregnant and was eight months along. Pachecho and her sister attacked Murray and her companion, Joseph Predelus, in a Miami neighborhood. The two sisters believed that Predelus and Murray were talking about them. The two victims denied the allegation.
According to Pacheco, she lost her temper and “beat the s** t” out of Murray. The officer who arrested Ambar Pacheco said Murray “appeared to be in severe pain.” She was also having contractions. Fortunately, she gave birth to a healthy, albeit premature, baby at a local hospital.
The new mother says that she hopes Pacheco “gets her life together and gets the help that she needs.” Pacheco faces up to 15 years in jail for the assault.
These incidents show that preborn children are not immune to death or injury at the hands of police who use excessive force. Most of these women had not committed a crime. Even people who do commit a crime don’t deserve to be beaten, kicked, or tasered if they’re not resisting, whether or not they’re carrying an innocent and helpless preborn child.
Pro-lifers should care about babies who die by police violence. A baby killed by a rogue police officer is just as dead as one killed by abortion. And pro-lifers should be concerned for the mothers too – as well as everyone else killed or injured by police brutality.
Addendum, September 1, 2020: Clarification
Since this blog post was published, a claim was made that Emerald Black’s story wasn’t true and that there was police body cam footage contradicting it. The original story came from Newsweek and The Daily Mail. After some digging, I found a blog that claimed body cam footage showed Emerald Black admitting she had miscarried at the hospital. It was difficult to find the footage, but I eventually did. While it did contradict Black on some minor points, the bulk of it confirmed her story. Here are some things from the video:
- When the car was pulled over, Emerald Black said to the police “I have something for you,” and then reached towards the floor of the car. Police immediately drew their guns and demanded she put her hands up, which she did.
- Police officers then decided to arrest her for reaching for a weapon. When they accused Black of this, she said she was reaching for her wallet.
- The police insisted that she had a weapon, saying that, “we didn’t ask you for ID.” This ignores the fact that it is common knowledge that police ask for identification and Black could’ve simply anticipated that request.
- No weapon was found in the car after the arrest and no charges were pressed against Black.
- However, Black in her deposition did not give a reason why the police dragged her from the car. The video shows that there was a reason, even though the reason turned out to be unfounded.
- In the introduction to the video, police said that the video showed Black admitting she had just had a miscarriage, thus meaning that the police could not have caused it. However, I watched the video twice and never heard Black make that statement. It’s true there were times the police and Black were yelling and/or talking over each other. But I never heard Black say that she had already miscarried, only that she had come from the hospital. She said repeatedly, “I just came back from the hospital.” At one point, she also said, “You don’t know what happened today.” In this, she could have been referring, as her deposition claimed, to the fact that doctors told her her baby was in danger of miscarriage. Neither of these are admissions that she had already had the miscarriage.
- The video shows police dragging Black from the car and throwing her to the ground. We hear her screaming and eventually cursing at the cops. But I did not see her struggling with the cops before she was thrown down.
- After she is thrown to the ground, the angle of the camera doesn’t allow us to see what the cops did next. The video, therefore, could not prove or disprove that she was kicked. However, we can hear Black shout at one point, “Don’t kick me in the stomach!” Multiple cops were involved in the arrest and were actively using physical force or restraining Black as she lay on the ground. But it was impossible to see what exactly was happening.
- Interestingly, if each cop was equipped with a body cam, it is notable that the police only released the footage from one – and the footage from the one they chose to release doesn’t show what happened while Black was on the ground.
- The video cannot determine to what extent Black was struggling with police on the ground or what they were doing in response.
The claim was also made by the police that the couple was not pulled over due to a broken taillight. Rather, police said that Black and her companion had just been to a convenience store where they purchased alcohol. Rather than checking out, Black’s companion left the money for the purchase on the counter. Therefore, no crime was committed – the alcohol was paid for; it wasn’t stolen. However, the owner of the store called the police anyway, and the police decided to apprehend the couple for reasons unknown. Whether these reasons had to do with race cannot be determined. However, it doesn’t seem to be common police practice to hunt down people who have not committed a crime.
For our posts on similar topics, see: