Pregnant Drug Addicts: Crime or Calamity?

Somewhere, a woman is

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

get involved.

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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