Pregnant Drug Addicts: Crime or Calamity?
addicted to drugs and she
becomes pregnant. She abuses
these drugs while she is carrying
her baby and every time that she
takes a hit baby gets high too.
She has a disease, the disease
of addiction, so is she committing
a crime? But, why didn't she ask
for help? This is the calamity.
In the US alone, newborns that are born with neonatal
abstinence syndrome or more simply put, they are born
addicted, increased over 300% in the decade following
2000, states the American Medical Association. States
such as Kentucky and Florida fare the worst in the
nation. This only includes babies born addicted, not
those that are drug exposed and are able to go home.
Who is supposed to be protecting these innocent lives? It
doesn't do much good to do anything after the fact when
there is already a little life laying in the hospital NICU
fighting for its life. Charging the mother with a crime
seems a little late and useless. The only realistic thing to
do is make sure that she doesn't harm the baby that she
already gave birth to any further and try to make sure this
never ever happens again.
The best answer is to take away her parental rights to
the baby already born, permanently and to work on
efforts to intervene at the earliest possible point when a
woman becomes pregnant. This would require the help
of doctors across the nation to implement a plan to
detect addiction immediately in pregnant women and to
Here's the problem with that plan. Most doctors are
clueless about addiction. They never received any
training on that in med school and getting involved
requires time and money so that is not an attractive
option to most doctors that are not looking for any extra
liabilities or paperwork.
So here we have the fetus which is the only thing that is
more defenseless than a child. There is also no doubt
that abusing drugs while pregnant constitutes criminal
child neglect since that was confirmed by the Supreme
Court in Whitner v. South Carolina1997. But, what
purpose does this serve?
A more recent ruling by the Supreme Court out of New
Mexico opposes the decision by South Carolina.
Currently, there is no national consensus about this so
some women are prosecuted and others are not,
depending on where they live. There is so much red tape
that makes the laws unclear.
Prosecuting a drug addict, pregnant or not, violates the
8th Amendment and then there is the other argument
about if the fetus is considered to be a person or not.
Then there are the issues of public policy and equal
protection that have to be hashed through.
In the meantime, women are giving birth to their fourth
addicted baby in five years. Some women are getting
convicted while others get a slap on the wrist. And, there
the babies lie, fighting for their lives, detoxing from drugs
they never had any control over using.
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