A Forced Miscarriage Is a Most Gruesome and Fascinating Crime

Three things make a good true crime story: sex, death and lacing things with poison. The crime of forcing a woman to have a miscarriage invariably has all three of these things—plus the added "zing" of abortion politics.

Exhibit A: Joshua Woodward.

This famous restaurateur—co-owner of L.A.'s 8 Oz. Burger bar—was arrested last month for allegedly killing his lover's fetus. (Death? check.) How did he do it? Here's where the "lacing things with poison" part comes in; only the "thing" in question is... well, just read what TMZ wrote about the story:

Woodward's baby mama says one night back in October — when she was pregnant — Woodward kept putting his hand in a plastic bag and then touching her sexually.

The woman says she lost the baby a few hours later ... and remembers seeing a white powdery substance on her underwear.

Ew. Cops think the powder in question was Misoprostol, a drug used by obstetricians to induce labor.

The obvious implication is that Woodward was trying to cover-up an affair gone awry. Sexy! Even sexier is the fact that his girlfriend at the time (not the pregnant one) is a freelancer for the New York Times who was just called out by NYTPicker for writing up her now ex-hubby's restaurant in the Times' T Magazine. Sexy scandalous!

Untangling these labyrinthine story lines of love and betrayal is one of the macabre attractions of these bizarre crimes. Consider this story from the Mirror of one Edward Erin, a doctor accused of trying to poison his secretary, Bella, to kill the fetus he put inside her:

Erin, who has a son of seven and a daughter of two, spent New Year's Eve in a hotel close to his West London home with Bella. But a month into the affair, Bella fell pregnant. After she told him, he texted her saying: "Oh my God, no."

He then began to emotionally blackmail Bella – bombarding her with texts pleading for an abortion.

He wrote: "I am in a very dark place, love. I want to die but that would be too selfish. I don't know what to do. I'm not stable. I need help." In another, he said: "I have been with you for four weeks. I'm beginning to love you. I think we can make it, but it's too much too soon."

Dr. Erin gets bonus points for the quaintness of his attempted poisoning: He laced her tea. (What is this, Clue?)

Bella first became suspicious after she saw yellow powder at the bottom of a cup of tea Erin had made for her after spending the night at her flat in Tulse Hill, south east London.

He told her it was limescale from the kettle and urged "don't forget to drink your tea".

(This Alaskan Air Force guy gets negative points, though, for googling "at-home abortion methods" before allegedly lacing his pregnant wife's food with ulcer meds. Ditto for you, doctor-who-stabs-his-mistress-with-a-syringe-while-yelling-I-AM-GOING-TO-GIVE-YOU-AN-ABORTION)

Then there is the never-ending debate of whether a forced miscarriage—or any abortion—counts as a "murder" or not. Woodward is being charged with murdering the 13-week-old-fetus, and Pro-Life blogs will frequently pick up stories like this as proof that a fetus is a human being. Which, sure, this certainly resembles murder. But the fact that it's "just a fetus" seems to make enthusiastically following these crimes more morally defensible than those of, say, a serial-killer.

For readers who like their crime stories sexy and laced with poison but feel bad about people dying, the forced miscarriage is the perfect, horrible crime.