Prosecutors Drop ‘Illegal Abortion’ Charges Against Two Virginia Women

An anonymous caller told Norfolk CPS that Jessica Renee Carpenter and Rachael Anne Lowe had discussed inducing a miscarriage to end Carpenter's pregnancy.

The settlement will keep open the state's only abortion clinic but won't prevent future challenges to the law. Judge gavel via Shutterstock

Prosecutors have dropped “illegal abortion” charges against two Virginia women, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

According to reports, Jessica Renee Carpenter was 25-weeks pregnant when she arrived, in labor, at Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center. Her infant was delivered but subsequently died. Afterward, Norfolk Child Protective Services (CPS) received an anonymous call from someone claiming to be a friend of both Carpenter and another woman, Rachael Anne Lowe. The caller told CPS that the two women had discussed inducing a miscarriage to end Carpenter’s pregnancy.

WTKR.com reports that Lea Smith, who has since been identified in court documents as the caller, told detectives that she “heard direct statements from Carpenter and Lowe that they purchased items from GNC to ingest and cause the pregnancy to terminate.” Smith told the news outlet, “I didn’t feel comfortable with [them allegedly discussing a miscarriage attempt], but I didn’t say anything and when I found out the baby had passed away it kind of upset me so I brought it to the attention of the detectives.”

Prosecutors dismissed the charges on the grounds that they had “insufficient evidence to proceed,” according to a spokesperson for Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood. Insufficient evidence is one reason why charges of illegal or unlawful abortion often don’t make it to trial. In cases like Idaho’s Jennie McCormack or New York’s Yaribely Almonte, women may be charged initially but eventually see the case stall because it is often medically impossible to determine whether labor was brought on by anything the woman did, or whether it came on spontaneously.

Though most of these charges never result in convictions, since 2005 the number of preliminary charges against women who miscarry has been increasing, according to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.