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Rowland Sentenced to Probation

Rowland Sentenced to Probation

Posted - Apr. 29, 2004 at 4:30 p.m.



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Sandra Yi ReportingMelissa Rowland Jail: “I think the district attorney is wrong, they shouldn't be able to charge somebody with criminal homicide for refusing doctors’ instructions."

There will be no prison time for the woman who was initially charged for murdering her stillborn baby after she refused a C-section. Today Melissa Ann Rowland is a free woman.

Rowland learned her fate this morning. A judge sentenced her to 18 months probation for a lesser charge. She must also undergo drug treatment.

Melissa Ann Rowland will get drug treatment in Indiana. Her supporters hope it's a new beginning for the woman whose case drew national attention and stirred fierce debate about women's health rights.

Lorna Vogt: "She wants nothing more than to settle down and get her life in order and live a healthy life. She's had a miserable experience. She doesn't want to go through this again."

Lorna Vogt visted Melissa Ann Rowland in jail. She spoke to Rowland before today's sentencing.

Loran Vogt: "She was excited and hopeful. She's had a long, long, hard time. Jail has not been pleasant or easy on her and she's very eager to put this behind her."

Michael Sikora, Rowland’s Attorney: "It got her what she most wanted, which of course was to get out of jail and to get on with her life."

A plea deal earlier this month spared Rowland prison time. She pleaded guilty to endangering her twins by using cocaine while she was pregnant. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the murder charge for the stillborn death of the boy. But they defended their initial decision.

Robert Stott, Salt Lake County Prosecutor: “It was a tragedy to the two little twins and also a tragedy for the defendant.”

This case has not been without controversy. It sparked debate about a woman's right to make her own health decisions. Today, Rowland's supporters showed up in court. They call this case a tragedy.

Susan Vogel, Salt Lake City Code Pink: "We do want women to have healthy pregnancies, but we need to provide them with information that will allow them to do so and not punish them when they make bad decisions in their lives because of the very sad history of their lives."

Rowland plans to get drug treatment in Indiana. Her attorney says she fell through the cracks. He says it can happen again.

Michael Sikora: "There are no guarantees. I hope she gets the help she needs. I hope she gets the help she needs and bounces back from this and lives a productive life."

The baby who survived was adopted. The judge denied the prosecution's request that Rowland be barred from contacting that baby.

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