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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 10:46 GMT
Mother charged in Caesarean row
Melissa Ann Rowland
Rowland's case has triggered a heated debate in the US
A US woman who allegedly ignored medical warnings to have a Caesarean section has been charged with murder after one of her twins was stillborn.

Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, showed "depraved indifference to human life", prosecutors in Salt Lake City said.

They said Ms Rowland refused the Caesarean because she did not want "her cosmetic appearance to be disfigured".

Ms Rowland, who is being held in jail on $250,000 bail, denies the charge. If convicted, she could face life in jail.

Rowland's 'omissions'

An autopsy found the baby boy died two days before its 13 January delivery.

I've never refused a C-section. I've already had two prior C-sections. Why would I say something like that?
Melissa Ann Rowland
Medics said it would have survived had Ms Rowland had a Caesarean between Christmas and 9 January - as her doctors urged her to do.

The other twin was in stable condition.

A nurse at a city hospital said she heard Ms Rowland saying she left the hospital because doctors wanted to cut her open "from breast bone to pubic bone" and that this would "ruin her life", court documents say.

The documents also say Ms Rowland said she would rather "lose one of the babies than be cut like that".

"It was her (Ms Rowland's) omissions that caused the death of the child," Kent Morgan of the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office was quoted as saying by the Deseret Morning News newspaper.

"She was given three or four opportunities to get a C-section to save the baby. She continued to say no," Mr Morgan added.

In a jailhouse interview with KSL Newsradio 1160, Ms Rowland denied she had been advised to have a C-section with the twins.

"I've never refused a C-section. I've already had two prior C-sections. Why would I say something like that?" Ms Rowland said.

Unique case

In January, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that unborn children at all stages of development are covered under the state's criminal homicide statute. The law exempts the death of a foetus during an abortion.

The state law has been used to prosecute women who killed or harmed their unborn babies through their lifestyle, drinking or drugs.

But it has never been applied to prosecute a woman who failed to follow her doctor's advice, Marguerite Driessen, a law professor at Brigham Young University said.

"It's very troubling to have somebody come in and say we're going to charge this mother for murder because we don't like the choices she made," Prof Driessen said.

Ms Rowland's case has already triggered a heated debate across the country.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"The mother's lawyer has claimed that she has a history of mental instability"

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