Victory in Arkansas

December 21, 2018

The long and twisted prosecution of Anne Bynum has finally been resolved without a new trial and without a conviction for any crime.

In 2015, Arkansas law enforcement officials apparently believed that Anne Bynum had taken steps to have an abortion at home. Because of that, prosecutors believed she deserved to be arrested and sent to jail. As it turns out, Ms. Bynum experienced a stillbirth at home. That, however, did not stop prosecutors who are interested in controlling women’s lives and bodies from coming up with charges against her.

After the stillbirth, Ms. Bynum safeguarded the fetal remains and, several hours later, brought those remains to a hospital, asking to see a doctor. Ms. Bynum was arrested five days later on two felony charges: “concealing a birth” (carrying a potential six-year prison sentence and $10,000 fine) and “abuse of a corpse” (carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.)

At her first trial, the abuse charge was thrown out but Ms. Bynum was convicted of “concealing a birth.” In addition to telling the jury about Ms. Bynum’s pregnancy and past reproductive history, the prosecutor argued that the jury should convict Ms. Bynum – an adult in her 30’s - because she had not told her mother she was pregnant and because she had temporarily placed the stillborn fetus in her car before going to the hospital. He made this claim despite evidence that she told many people about her pregnancy, contacted several people after the stillbirth, and then went to the hospital with the fetal remains. The jury nevertheless convicted Ms. Bynum and sentenced her to six years in prison.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women then became Ms. Bynum’s direct counsel and appealed this conviction. The Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to reverse Anne Bynum’s conviction. The three-judge panel found that the trial court had abused its discretion by allowing the jury to consider evidence about Ms. Bynum’s past pregnancies and outcomes that “clearly prejudiced” the verdict in the case.

Although Ms. Bynum’s conviction was overturned, the Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial level, which allowed the prosecutor to retry Ms. Bynum on the same charge. And, indeed that was the prosecutor’s plan. We are thrilled to report, however, that as a result of NAPW's advocacy, Ms. Bynum’s case has finally been resolved with a plea to a non-criminal “violation.”

NAPW celebrates this victory with Ms. Bynum. NAPW will continue to fight to ensure that no person fears arrest as a result of pregnancy or any outcome of pregnancy - including abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth.