Reproductive Freedom issue image

Moira Akers v. State

Location: Maryland
Court Type: Maryland Supreme Court
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: June 22, 2024

What's at Stake

This case concerns whether prosecutors can admit evidence that a person exercised their right to decide whether to terminate their pregnancy as proof of intent for murder. Here, the prosecution’s use of this evidence at Moira Akers’ trial denied her due process, resulting in an unjust conviction and a 30-year prison term. The ACLU’s Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative, alongside the ACLU of Maryland, filed an amicus brief arguing that allowing admission of this evidence not only violated Ms. Akers’ rights but chills the right of all Marylanders to freely decide whether to continue or end their pregnancies. Ms. Akers’ case was granted certiorari and is now before the Maryland Supreme Court.

Moira Akers conducted internet research for information about terminating her pregnancy and consulted with her doctor about her termination options. Ultimately, she continued her pregnancy and later gave birth to a stillborn baby in her home. Despite Ms. Akers’ reporting that the infant was stillborn, she was prosecuted and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to a 30-year term of imprisonment. At trial, prosecutors introduced her search history and evidence that Ms. Akers was advised about termination options by her healthcare provider as proof that she intended to commit homicide.

But pursuant to Maryland Health Code, Health-General § 20-209, all Marylanders have the right to freely decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy. Exercising this right means pregnant people must be allowed to contemplate their pregnancy decisions without fear that those decisions could be used against them. Even though Ms. Akers was exercising this right when she conducted research on abortion options, the prosecution was permitted to use the exercise of this right as evidence against her.

Following her conviction, Ms. Akers appealed. The Appellate Court of Maryland affirmed her conviction, finding that her consideration of abortion was both relevant and not unduly prejudicial.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Maryland urged the Supreme Court of Maryland to grant review of this case because of its significant negative impact on Maryland’s firmly established abortion rights and protections. The brief in support of Ms. Akers’ petition for certiorari argues that if researching information on abortion can be used as proof of guilt for a pregnancy outcome, Marylanders’ reproductive rights will be severely threatened. The brief thus claims that Ms. Aker’s consideration of pregnancy termination is inadmissible evidence and warns that the appellate court’s decision will chill pregnant people’s ability to make informed pregnancy decisions. This case was granted certiorari in May of 2024. Oral argument will be held in September 2024.

Ms. Akers’ case epitomizes how prosecutors continue to criminalize pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes even in states where abortion is protected. The Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative will continue to fight back wherever the criminal legal system harms access to abortion care.

Support our on-going litigation and work in the courts Donate now

Learn More About the Issues in This Case