Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - Toobin: Breast milk murder trial has broader implications - Jan. 21, 2003
"(CNN) In California a mother is accused of killing her 3-month-old son, and the alleged weapon in this case was her own breast milk. Prosecutors told the Los Angeles Times that Amy Prien took methamphetamines while nursing her son Jacob. The baby later died from an overdose of the drug, and Prien was charged with second-degree murder. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin discussed the case with CNN anchor Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER: Good morning to you.


HEMMER: You say significant because it's second-degree murder, not just manslaughter. Why? ..."

Tuesday, January 21, 2003 Posted: 2:04 PM EST (1904 GMT) [A brief legal analysis of the California case where a mother is charged with acting with malice to murder her child. The mother is accused of taking meth and breastfeeding. Details are in an LA Times article, below. (Registration required) - JC]

Breast Milk Cited in Meth Fatality
[Registration (free) required - JC]
LA Times,
By Scott Gold, Times Staff Writer,

"At first, the Riverside County coroner labeled it sudden infant death syndrome ? a diagnosis used when investigators can't explain why a healthy baby dies. According to agency documents, there was no sign of injury, abuse or trauma. Jacob's body was "unremarkable" ? well developed and well nourished.

Then a month later, on Feb. 19, 2002, the coroner received a toxicology report: Jacob had overdosed on methamphetamine, a cheap, addictive stimulant.

Investigators swarmed back to the case. Jacob had weighed 13 pounds and was too young to feed himself. The level of meth in his blood was too high to have been ingested through second-hand smoke. The only way a lethal dose could have entered Jacob's system, they reasoned, was through his mother's breast milk.

Prien, now a Perris resident, has been charged with second-degree murder in a case that prosecutors say could lead to the first conviction of its kind in California. Authorities hope to bring her to trial, possibly next month; no date has been set. The 30-year-old mother of three other children faces the possibility of a life prison term.

Though Prien denies having taken methamphetamine at the time of Jacob's death and insists she had already weaned him, Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Levine will go to trial armed with the results of two tests that found meth in Prien's blood around the time of Jacob's death...."

Life Support: Got milk?
"If you're a working mother, it will likely go to waste

Wednesday, January 22, 2003,

By Linda M. Blum ,

A new study showing soaring rates of breast-feeding in the United States is being widely celebrated. The survey of 400,000 new moms in the journal Pediatrics found that 70 percent nursed their newborns before leaving the hospital -- the highest percentage in modern history.
Few also realize that even in sunny, liberal California the sight of a breast-feeding mother is considered unseemly. Although almost half the states, including California, have laws protecting a woman's right to breast-feed in public, contemporary cultural attitudes enshrining breasts as sex objects are rigidly resistant to change. (With the demand for breast-implant surgery also soaring, I guess we think breasts are meant only to be sex objects.)....

Earlier this year, in an upscale mall near my mother's home in Santa Monica, Calif., a woman was asked to stop nursing or leave. But you can see more skin every day at the beach or the 10-plex movie theater nearby.

Those of us in such white communities rarely stop to think what this oversexualization is like for black mothers. Even with today's high breast-feeding rates, black mothers remain less likely to nurse than white women. Public health officials have explained this gap by seeing black women as either less aware of the health benefits or less motivated to follow health advice. In my research, I have found neither to be true.

Besides what I view as a healthy skepticism to often-exaggerated medical claims, black women are already stereotyped in the United States as oversexed and irresponsible. The vulnerability to public exposure and censure they face is a very real danger. Most know that they cannot risk such exposure in the mall, and certainly not at work.

Until we have offered all mothers better options, let's not believe that the United States is such a pro-breast-feeding nation. We are such a wealthy nation, with more super-rich citizens than any other, that I wonder why we can't do better. In Europe, where months of paid leave are common, it is true that taxes are higher. But these nations also tax the rich far more and -- what an idea! -- make the well-being of mothers a social contribution.


Linda M. Blum, author of "At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States," teaches sociology and women's studies at the University of New Hampshire. She wrote this piece for Newsday." [Blum has crafted an excellent column pointing out the long row the US has to hoe before women are able to nourish their children without hardship. - JC]