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Judge Hears Voices, Imprisons Pregnant Woman

Monday, September 11, 2000

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An Attleboro, Mass., woman in the late stages of pregnancy was ordered jailed until she gives birth. State authorities believe Rebecca Corneau may have caused the death of a previous child through neglect. Her husband has told police the child was stillborn. The couple belongs to a Christian religious community that rejects conventional medical care and believes in the power of prayer.

Corneau was taken into custody two weeks ago when she refused to submit to a court-ordered medical exam, sought by a court-appointed attorney representing the fetus. At a hearing over whether Corneau should remain in jail, District Judge Kenneth P. Nasif said his role in protecting the fetus enabled him to hear that unborn child's voice.

"And it says, 'I want to live. I do not want to die. I do not want to die like my brother Jeremiah did,'" Judge Nasif said, according to the Boston Globe.

Corneau has been judged an unfit mother and, therefore, after she gives birth, the child will be taken into custody by the state's social services department. At that point, she should be free to leave jail. In the meantime, a medical "command post" is being created to stand by in case of an emergency during the birth.