Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 173–177 | Cite as

Infanticide and American criminal justice (1980–2018)

  • Margaret SpinelliEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Filicide


Maternal infanticide, or the murder of a child in the first year of life by its mother, is a subject both compelling and repulsive. The victim is innocent, but the perpetrator may be a victim too. In the USA, mentally ill women who commit infanticide may receive long prison sentences or even the death penalty. England, Canada, Australia, and more than 20 European countries have “infanticide laws,” which provide more humane treatment and psychiatric care for mentally ill mothers who kill. One of the reasons for the sentences in the USA lies in our archaic insanity defense. In addition, the psychiatric community does not recognize perinatal illness as a formal diagnosis. Furthermore, general forensic psychiatrists who testify in the courtroom have little knowledge of perinatal illness. I suggest that it is time to invite psychiatrists and psychologists as clinicians and scientists to partner with our legal representatives in the courtroom in order to determine laws based on psychiatric facts and not conjecture. The voices of perinatal mental health advocates must continue to be heard in all courtrooms of the USA.


Infanticide Neonaticide Postpartum psychosis Insanity defense 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The article does not contain studies with human participants or animals performed by any authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia University College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA

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