Guest blogger du jour: Jill Morrison on laws that punish pregnant women


Jill Morrison is Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center and was a speaker at the NAPW conference on the panel “How might you be prosecuted? Let me count ways: Punishing pregnant women based on claims of fetal rights and the war on drugs.”
I am the kind of attorney that doesn’t actually have clients. I work for the National Women’s Law Center on policies that impact people, but it is rare for me to actually meet those people. Well, the Summit of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women brought me face to face with the amazing women who have had their basic constitutional rights snatched from them. Why? Because they were addicted to drugs.
In case you’re wondering, being addicted to drugs is not a crime, only the stuff you do is a crime, not who or what you are at a given point in time. So-
Being an addict: not a crime
Possessing drugs with the intent to take them, give them away or sell them: all crimes.
Being an alcoholic: not a crime
Driving while intoxicated: a crime
Despite this fact, all over the country, women are being prosecuted for “crimes� based only on their (1) being pregnant and (2) testing positive for drugs. No one else can be tested and prosecuted just for having drugs in his or her system. To get around what they obviously see as a shortcoming in the law, prosecutors charge pregnant women with “delivery of drugs to a minor� and “child endangerment� even though the laws clearly were not meant to be used in these cases.
This violates pregnant women’s constitutional rights, since (1) the laws are applied differently to them than anyone else, (2) they have no reason to know that these laws apply to what they are doing, (3) women have pled guilty to crimes that aren’t really crimes, and (4) the Supreme Court has held that punishing someone for being addicted to drugs or alcohol is both cruel and unusual punishment, since addiction is an illness. Not only is it unconstitutional, it doesn’t do a thing to help babies or their mothers. Threats of prosecution just scare women away from drug treatment and prenatal care.
I’ve filed legal briefs in a few cases to help women who were being prosecuted, but I’ve never heard their stories from them, face-to-face. And I have to admit: even after working on this issue for a few years, I never really thought about the women who’ve been prosecuted as being the best advocates for their own cause. My co-presenters at the conference, Mary Barr and Tayshea Aiwohi are awesome. They both created organizations to help women who are where they once were. Tayshea faces massive local resistance to her mission: opening homes for families in recovery from addiction so she could use your support.
This conference gave me a much needed reminder me of our common cause, and how much women can help themselves and direct their own lives when simply given the chance.

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76 Comments

  1. jeff
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Let me be specific: I mean that it SHOULD BE DIFFERENT for a pregnant woman than a non-pregnant woman. Because I don’t really know that drugs should be illegal at all for those of us who arn’t pregnant, so I’m not very interested in the laws that already exist.
    Acknowledging difficulty in drawing the line doesn’t justify deciding not to draw one altogether. We draw all sorts of lines. It’s why I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, despite the first amendment – because civilized people are forced to draw lines, no matter how unpleasant it is. If you’re trying to force me into it, I suppose I’d say I’d personally draw the line at binge drinking and “hard” (ie, not pot, caffine, prosciutto) drugs. But I guess I’d have to look at the research. In any case, defining the line has never been my point – the only argument I’ve set out to make is that there IS a line SOMEWHERE.
    EG: If you’re conceeding it’s cruel then I suggest you come up with another example of another action that results in the cruel treatment of a child that is legal (read: not fetus. I mean an action that results in the cruel treatment of a child in the future, like setting a time-bomb in their bedroom). And I think I’ve been the one saying repeatedly the answer isn’t clear-cut – those that are advocating the “clear-cut” answer are the ones saying they are perfectly free to mess up the life of a child.
    I know how close my words here SOUND to pro-lifers’ words, which I am vehemently not one. But don’t be fooled by that, consider the point being made.

  2. donna darko
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    C-Bird, you’re being ridiculous. I’m a self-described male feminist and I like to think I’m intellectually honest and a rational person, and the hysterics are unnecessary. –Jeff
    The fact that women who are physically addicted to drugs are being put in jail (!!!) where they will get LESS healthcare and treatment is a concern. –C-bird
    Treating women like incubators creates problems. Women who are struggling and in poverty are often drug addicts so the solution is alleviate poverty and treat people for the disease called drug addiction. Putting mothers in jail where pre-natal care is subpar is not the answer. You’re also separating babies from their mothers.

  3. Mina
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    “All that said, the analogy above clearly fails. Driving while intoxicated? A crime, because you can hurt someone. If you’re going to have the kid, crime, because you can hurt it. ”
    Not really.
    Drinking during pregnancy is more like drinking in a bar than drunk driving, since “If you’re going to have the kid, crime, because you can hurt it” is more like “If you’re going to drive home, crime, because you can hurt someone” would be.
    “jeff, one problem is that this law doesn’t make exceptions for women who intend to abort, but have not yet.”
    Exactly. Imagine an anti-drunk-driving law that lets police arrest people for drinking in pubs because it doesn’t make exceptions for pubgoers who intend to go home with sober drivers, but have not yet…
    “This isn’t like abortion. If, at the age of 12, I realize I’m missing an arm (to use a silly false example) because mom was wasted while she was pregnant with me, I’m real pissed off about it…”
    That’s actually a really good point – in the (silly false) example you post, the 12-year-old’s arm is missing from the 12-year-old’s body and that is the fault of someone else.
    “If the state can stop a person from abusing their children, surely it can have some interaction with a person who is in the process of creating a malformed child due to their actions.”
    What about deterrents via penalties for the actual crimes (“if you do commit X then you will get penalty Y”) instead of penalties for other stuff which can but doesn’t always lead to those crimes? If the state can pull over a drunk driver, should it surely have some interaction with a person who is in the process of getting drunk and might drive soon but might instead hail a taxi on purpose or pass out and spend the night by accident?

  4. donna darko
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    And pardon my French, Jeff, but Fuck You.

  5. Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for clarifying, jeff.
    And, I know you addressed the second half of your comment to EG, but with apologies to EG I think I’ll horn in by noting that I think the analogy to something like a time bomb is faulty. Using drugs or alcohol, as numerous others here have noted, does not guarantee or even virtually guarantee that harm will come to the future child. Some here have noted people they knew who were not harmed by these supposedly “harmful” activities. One of my best friends from law school is a genius — she graduated near the top of our class, with honors, having served on the law review, and after finishing her undergraduate studies at Yale in three years — and her mother smoked and drank while pregnant. Anecdotal evidence aside, even the statistical evidence here is conflicted, as others have explicated better than I. Planting a time bomb in the child’s room virtually guarantees that harm will come to the child. Drinking or doing drugs while pregnant seems to me much closer to declining optional immunizations for your child because, e.g., you don’t want her learning about sex too early, or allowing your child to eat crap processed food and become obese (although I’d say this is worse for the kid than drugs/alcohol). These things are legal.
    I am troubled by your admission that different legal rules should apply to pregnant versus non-pregnant women. This seems to me a concession that a pregnant woman *should* lose personal automony while she is pregnant. I’m truly having difficulty reconciling this with a pro-choice position. It seems to me that you have to think that a fetus has “rights” before it is born, in order to stake out this position. If it has a right to start out life healthy, how does it not have a right to start out life at all?

  6. Ismone
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Jeff, pay attention. They haven’t shown that at least two hard drugs (cocaine and meth) hurt babies. As I pointed out in my prior posts, they’ve shown that babies who were exposed to crack do no worse than babies from the same socioeconomic background who weren’t.
    So is it okay to go after pregnant women for legal activities like drinking and smoking? Because those do hurt babies, when done excessively.

  7. Pickleberry
    Posted January 29, 2007 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    What’s the deal here?
    I understand that this is a touchy subject, but are the personal attacks on Jeff really necessary? I mean, come on. He’s got a point.
    Here’s a ghoulish solution that will send everyone into conniptions: mandate abortions for women who are found out to have consumed large amounts of drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or mercury-containing tuna and/or deli meats. It’s just as ridiculous as saying that people shouldn’t face some sort of consequences if they knowingly harm their fetus that they intend to carry to term.
    Like Jeff, I’m not advocating screenings or invasive procedures, or criminal punishments for women who intend to abort, or considering all women of childbearing age to be “pre-pregnant,” but if it can be proven that a mother’s (or abusive partner’s) actions harmed the fetus in utero, there should be some consequences. Not all people are fit to be parents, even if they can carry a fetus to term.

  8. jeff
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I feel as though some things I’m saying arn’t being listened to. Several of the comments brought up in the last couple of posts I’ve addressed several times already, and being that it seems I’ve taken a minority position on this issue, it’s a bit of a handful to repeat myself (I think my homework is suffering but hey, a good discussion is always a priority). I already noted my digust at the fact the law didn’t include an exception for women who were going to abort – in fact, I noted my digust at the law in general, and yet the points are brought up again. This is a bad way to conduct a debate. I also conceeded that I didn’t know exactly what drugs did what, only that some were very harmful, and that got brought up again.
    There’s been several points made about “it’s not a sure thing, it’s like someone drinking in a bar”. A drunk driver isn’t sure to hit someone. There’s a risk. What’s the likihood? 5%? 10%? I bet it’s much less. So at what percentage of damage to the future child to we say, that’s too much? What if I strike my current child? If there’s only a 20% of leaving a bruise, is it ok? Only a 10% of the child suffering any mental trauma, does that make it ok?
    donna darko: Thanks for the civility.
    law fairy: Thanks for the civility, seriously.

  9. Posted January 30, 2007 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    It’s just as ridiculous as saying that people shouldn’t face some sort of consequences if they knowingly harm their fetus that they intend to carry to term.
    Huh?
    I don’t see the similarity. Indeed, forcing abortions sounds more like telling women what not to do with their bodies like you appear to favor, just because they are pregnant. In both scenarios you are saying that the fact that a pre-human thing is sucking the life out of its future mother, and she is gracious enough to allow this, means that we should EVEN FURTHER disadvantage the woman in question and discount her personal autonomy and bodily integrity.
    What is so confusing about the logical, clear, bright-line rule that you cannot tell women what to do with their bodies, SIMPLY because they happen to be pregnant? Put differently, a pregnant woman’s body is no more the property of the state than a non-pregnant man’s body is. If we tell men not to eat prosciutto, then I’ll complain a lot less about telling women not to (though, to be clear, I’ll still complain, because I fucking love prosciutto).

  10. jeff
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Prosciutto’s fucking fantastic. I made this pasta the other night…
    A pregnant woman’s body is a pretty singular case. There’s no other comparible situation. I think that the idea that the pregnant woman’s body is no more property of the state than a man’s is is wishful thinking – the case of an ideal world where one sex wasn’t stuck with the bum deal of having to give birth. I want equality right up to the very last point where biology won’t allow it – and whatever concessions can be made after that – and it’s seems that’s where we’ve arrived. The situation where a woman’s actions WILL, with a significant likiness, have severe consequences for another person in the near future. I’m sad to have to say it – it is unfair, and the situation is colored by all varieties of crap women have to deal with that truly isn’t fair. But I think this is the one case that isn’t the fault of our patriarchy – it’s just reality. It’s the admission that as a responsible society we want to make a collective effort to avoid giving birth to sick children when we can choose to give birth to healthy ones.
    I think what has kept me going on this is that it’s philosophically fascinating, because it deals with the connections of actions between two different time periods when the fetus-later-child in question changes status. It’s really wild stuff…
    Anyhow, I should also point out that I read feministing pretty religiously and I never comment on stuff I agree with because I’d rather use my time with the rare instances that I don’t agree. I just don’t want to be treated as some kind of mole is all.

  11. Posted January 30, 2007 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    well, jeff, as others here have said, this is a REALLY emotional issue. And, to borrow from you — it sucks that you’re being treated differently because you’re a man making these arguments, but the fact is that you have the luxury of knowing that you will never ever ever ever EVER be faced with the government bossing you around like a child, simply because you have a parasite living in your body. You have to admit, if there was any possibility that you might someday end up with an alien being inhabiting your body and draining your internal resources without apology, and were told that BECAUSE OF THIS you suddenly had less legal rights — well, I imagine you’d approach this issue a little differently.
    My feeling is it’s best to be polite to others until they give me a reason not to be. But I can’t quite fault others here for reacting emotionally. The only reason I don’t, is because I have extensive training that helps me to beat down the emotion, so to speak, and get to the logical heart of an argument (lol, I make myself sound like a Vulcan). Of course, this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that emotional reactions are less valid. Also, this means I’m probably badly in need of therapy ;)
    ANYWAY. I want to address this point:
    The situation where a woman’s actions WILL, with a significant likiness, have severe consequences for another person in the near future.
    I think I may have an arguable analogy where you would NEVER see the government dictating what MEN can do (though I’m still going to hold to the argument that pregnancy is far more burdensome, perhaps this will help you to see why this notion is so extremely extremely troubling to us “pre-pregnant” women (I know you didn’t use this term)). Let’s say that when a woman became pregnant, the government froze the soon-to-be father’s assets. Since once the baby is born, he will bear financial responsibility for the baby, that’s simply the only way we can ensure that he doesn’t harm the baby. By virtue of impregnating a woman, he “owes it” to the fetus-baby to ensure that it has a decent start out in life. Therefore, he no longer has control of his finances, and how he spends his money will be strictly regulated. Any deviation that could harm the future baby’s life prospects is impermissible. Thus, during the pregnancy, no gambling. No changing jobs, no matter how bad your job sucks. If you get fired and it’s not due to discrimination or some other unlawful basis, you’ve broken the law. No vacations. No major “fun” purchases. Nothing that could possibly cut into the fetus’ money supply. Since the fetus has rights (or the future child will have rights — whichever you’re more comfortable with semantically), you have an obligation to the fetus.
    Doesn’t this strike you as supremely unfair? How can the government possibly justify such an invasion into an individual’s autonomy? The government could base this on concern for the fetus’ well-being, just as plausibly as it can tell pregnant women not to drink/do drugs. Why doesn’t the government enact these regulations as well?

  12. donna darko
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    I apologize for my outburst, Jeff, but alcoholic and drug addicted mothers are often struggling. Many are probably also sex workers to make ends meet. There also hasn’t been enough research on men’s effect on defective sperm. I like to focus on prevention of poverty, marginalized women’s access to reproductive health and drug addiction (i.e. treatment).

  13. Ismone
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Jeff,
    My aim in bringing up prosciutto is not to suggest that you are in the pocket of some devious anti-prosciutto group, or engage in reductio ad absurdem. The point is, we have better research that eating raw meat during pregnancy endangers fetal health than we do that smoking illegal drugs does.
    The drugs that we know harm babies are legal. Monitoring someone’s use of a legal drug to ensure fetal health is really problematic. First, you are punishing legal conduct. Second, the only way to “catch” a woman who was drinking would be to constantly monitor her. Alcohol passes out of you pretty quick like. And how much is too much? What if she works in a smoky bar in one of those states that doesn’t have a smoking ban? Criminalizing otherwise legal conduct seems really problematic.
    This argument is not happening in a vacuum.
    Also, as donna darko points out, what about the things men do that harm the quality of their sperm? I don’t know what studies have been done, but I can tell you two activities that prevent men from fathering sons (Y sperm are more fragile than X)–working in certain kinds of chemistry labs and pulling g’s regularly, say, as a fighter pilot.
    Before we go about punishing people for gamete or zygote abuse, perhaps we should find out exactly what we’re dealing with.
    Also, most of the time when they throw these women in jail, that is really bad for fetal health. There are some disturbing exposes about prison healthcare, particularly in women’s prisons.

  14. Posted January 30, 2007 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    I maintain that I have not seen a solid argument against some kind of legal consequences – in the most progressive, helpful, not-jail manner – of a woman who is using (I’ll say “hard” drugs, for the sake of argument) drugs during pregnancy and intending to keep the child.
    Jeff – here’s one. Despite all we (modern humans, I mean) know about human biology, fetal development, etc., the amount we do not know still far outstrips what we do know. All of the advice pregnant women are given on how to maintain a healthy pregnancy? Guesswork and odds-making. It’s all, “there’s an increased risk of this” and “a lower chance of that”, but there are very very few places where an OB can tell a woman, “Okay, if you do XYZ, it will effect the fetus in ABC fashion, guaranteed.”
    The research we’ve done is, as others have mentioned, incomplete and occasionally misleading. The advice pregnant women are given is constantly changing (“fish is a great source of protein and ‘the good fats!” and then a couple years later, “be very careful what fish and how much of it you eat for fear of PCB/mercury contamination”), culturally based (women in the U.S. are advised against eating sushi – what do we think pregnant women in Japan eat?) and often contradictory (“avoid taking medications, even over-the-counter headache medications, during pregnancy, but once you’re in labor, we’re going to give you a powerful narcotic that’s going to leave your baby sleepy and wacked out for a few days.”).
    The thing is, even in the worst case – a stillborn baby with drugs in its system – there is often no way to /prove/ “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that it was the drugs in the baby’s system (i.e. the mother’s drug use) that caused it to be stillborn. There are hundreds of reasons that baby could have been stillborn, and while it seems we all agree that the mother’s drug use is /likely/ to effect the fetus’ development, we have no way of proving for sure. For all we know, the drugs didn’t harm the baby at all, but the mother living in an apartment above the bus terminal breathing exhaust fumes for nine months did.
    If proving that it is “likely” that someone robbed my house is not sufficient to convict them of burglary (at least, when our system of justice functions the way it is supposed to), then proving that it is “likely” that a pregnant woman’s drug addiction harmed her fetus should not be sufficient to put her in jail either.

  15. Mina
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    “There’s been several points made about “it’s not a sure thing, it’s like someone drinking in a bar”. A drunk driver isn’t sure to hit someone. There’s a risk. What’s the likihood? 5%? 10%? I bet it’s much less. So at what percentage of damage to the future child to we say, that’s too much?”
    I wasn’t thinking of the percent of damage but thinking of the way someone drinking at a bar isn’t sure to become a drunk driver in the first place, like the way a pregnant woman may get an abortion or miscarry instead of having a child in the first place.

  16. jeff
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I think by sticking with this I’ve seen a lot more convincing reasons why it may not be reasonable to have any law regarding this. Still, a couple of points.
    Most things have some element of guesswork. The science, on, say, global warming isn’t 100% totally agreed upon but it is for the most part and you’d better believe I ride the bus because of it. Likewise, we may not know for exact certain the outcomes of what drug use does what – and for sure this is relevent, and “we don’t have good enough information now” may be a strong enough argument, but I guess I’ll avoid that road.
    Law fairy: the analogy you made to men seems relevent. The difference I’d note is that monetary things can be corrected after the fact. If I have a child and I’m so incredibly broke I can’t afford it, it will end up in a foster home. This is bad for the child for sure. How bad? Worse than the results of certain drug use? I guess it’s hard to say. But then, I might not be completely opposed to a lesser extreme of what you suggest. Eg, that they make me set aside 10% of my paycheck or something.
    Donna: I had no idea I could make my sperm defective. That’s fascinating. I guess it’s time for some wikipedia.

  17. Charity
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Jeff, I do applaud you in continuing to engage in this discussion, although I’m a little confused by your “you should appreciate my efforts” comment in response to my post…as if that should not be a two-way street, or as if being a physics student precludes knowledge of what feminism is and under what sociohistorical circumstances it developed. My discipline is not women’s studies or some variant of that either, but if i, as you, want to use a label to describe myself as aligning with a political, cultural, or social movement or set of ideas, it’s only fair that i know the basics, or if I don’t do my homework, it’s only fair that I don’t cry foul when i’m corrected. We do appreciate your efforts, but “hysteria” is not really so much an obscure or buried “chapter” in the “story” of feminism that we automatically assume a self-proclaimed “feminist” wouldn’t know about it. If you really want to “learn,” you in turn should appreciate the identification of loaded terms from posters here. You didn’t encounter “animosity” in response to “hysterics,” you encountered comments like, “that was lousy” and “I don’t appreciate that,” and “you’re throwing around some loaded terms.”
    In case you weren’t aware, but maybe are if you do indeed frequent this site, there are often self-described “well-meaning” posters (whether male or female) whose tone is, “I don’t get why this is a feminist issue” or “I don’t get so-and-so, can someone please explain it to me,” under a guise of curiosity, but then summarily rejects any and all subsequent explanations and otherwise demonstrates they were not really open to considering other viewpoints at all, and often turns downright patronizing or abusive. So we may be wary of new threads that begin, and continue, in the same, “honestly curious” way.

  18. jeff
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Sorry, my “you should appreciate my efforts” comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I spend most of my days, and really always have, around people who have no clue what feminism even is. I think that for the most part I’ve done my research, and I appreciate being made aware of words that have more weight than they would in their usual contexts.
    And I’ve encountered the types of commenters you’re referring to before, the ones who start out “curious” and end up nothing but trouble, on blogs where I’m a bit more in my element, and I assure you I have no such attitude in mind.

  19. jill
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Here is what I see as the issue: Are pregnant women’s constitutional rights the same as everyone else’s? There are rights that we have that may cause harm to other people, or put limits on prosecutors’ ability to imprison someone simply because the proof isn’t there. Sometimes the guilty go free because of procedural flaws.
    But these rights are protected for a reason, and I am troubled that “we” are so willing to limit these rights for one class of people: Pregnant women. Women have been forced to have cesarean sections against their will. Doctors have gotten court orders to have the police seize pregnant women and cut them open because the doctor thought it was in the best interest of the fetus. One woman was prosecuted for murder for refusing to have a c-section.
    http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/issues/court_ordered_interventions/
    But no one can force you to donate an organ: even if it means another person will die and even if that other person is your own child. That is the degree to which our constitution protects the right to bodily autonomy. I am going to try to link to my presentation which lays out the constitutional violations that occur in these prosecutions in a bit. Thanks for everyone’s comments and interest.

  20. EG
    Posted January 30, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your cogent writing, Jill!
    Jeff, I acknowledge that there is a significant chance that the future child can be hurt by the pregnant woman’s actions–I assume that’s what you mean by “cruelty.” You seem to be positing a set-up in which a woman, out of sheer nastiness, does self-destructive things in a spiteful attempt to hurt her future child. In doing so, you’re revealing yourself to be quite ignorant of how and why people engage in self-destructive behaviors. This law posits a one-size-fits-all solution: jail. I am not in favor of criminalizing self-destructive behavior, because I don’t think that it’s helpful, and by the way, that impinges on women’s human rights. If you’re arguing in favor of an outreach program dedicated to helping women get off drugs and get the help they need to put their lives on a better path, I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the idea that such a program should or could be compulsory. If the program is compulsory, the woman’s basic agency is being denied–how much trust could she place in such a program?
    Now, as to this: “I suggest you come up with another example of another action that results in the cruel treatment of a child that is legal”
    There’s plenty of cruelty that’s legal–emotional abuse is legal, for instance. But I assume you want something physical. Fine. I know my child is diabetic, but my religious beliefs preclude insulin injections. I stand by and pray, and watch my child go into a diabetic coma and die. As far as I know, this is legal. It’s legal because this country takes the right to freedom of religion incredibly seriously (it’s also legal because children have very very few rights of their own, I might add).
    Why then does this country take women’s right to bodily autonomy so much less seriously? Why should I have to relinquish any basic human rights when I get pregnant? Pregnant women are human beings, not incubators.

  21. Pickleberry
    Posted January 31, 2007 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I think that Jill coherently put into words what I was trying to get at. However, if we see someone doing harm to themselves, pregnant or not, we should try to help them, not just say “it’s their right to do whatever they want to their bodies” and walk away, right?

  22. kpsisu
    Posted January 31, 2007 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Do they want help?
    Do you have a cure for addiction, i.e. can you provide viable help? Or will you be just one more person trying to control that woman?
    I took a great class on gender and biology and I read a segment about how the few studies that actually reserarched the effect of male drug and alcohol use on their sperm and babies did show correlations. Isn’t it funny how all the attention is on the pregnant women? Like, men send forth perfect sperm and if the baby has any birth defects, it must be because the mother had a drink, smoked a smoke, watched a scary movie, exercised too strenuously, ate lunch meat, drank a cappucino, etc. I know it sounds like I am trivializing, but these are all activities I have engaged in while pregnant and been reprimanded for. My kids are healthy, intelligent, and fabulous.
    Stress has a greater negative effect on a fetus than many other things. Think about that the next time you see a person, who is pregnant, engaging in an activity you find unsuitable. Odds are, she very well may have done some research and found the activity to be acceptably safe.
    If you criminalize drinking and drug use while pregnant, like the article says, women will avoid getting prenatal care. Prenatal care is immportant.
    I have known women who considered abortion in part because of drug use prior to knowing they were pregnant. Their doctors told them not to worry about it. From what I have read, being well nourished and otherwise healthy is one of the main things to growing a healthy baby. If women don’t get the prenatal care, they might not find access to proper nutrition, etc. and the baby could suffer worse consequences than from drug or alcohol effects themselves.
    I am not advocating to take up a drug habit while you are pregnant, I’m just saying, get some solid information on the issue. And please realize that women are not solely responsible for any fetal defects– although the media and mainstream society focuses exclusively on controlling women during pregnancy.

  23. carolina girl
    Posted January 31, 2007 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    This is one of those issues in which I just cannot seem to figure out which direction is the right direction to go on. I am very conflicted. I knew a girl who died recently, at 24, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Her case was probably a more extreme case, but she was never able to be a functioning member of society or anything. Her birth mother did put her up for adoption, no telling if she’d have lived to 24 otherwise, but I just don’t know. I do know that much of this is simply a way of getting in under the radar for the anti-abortion folks, and that is something I cannot agree with at all.

  24. Michael E. Sullivan
    Posted January 31, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Jeff wrote: “Let me be specific: I mean that it SHOULD BE DIFFERENT for a pregnant woman than a non-pregnant woman. Because I don’t really know that drugs should be illegal at all for those of us who arn’t pregnant, so I’m not very interested in the laws that already exist.”
    In the legal context that exists now, your position that the law should be different for pregnant women vs. other humans is equivalent to saying that pregnancy is a state-granted privilege, rather than a right (akin to driving, for instance).
    I don’t believe that law fairy is correct in saying that your position would criminalize the status of pregnancy anymore than laws against drunk driving criminalize the status of driving.
    But it absolutely *would* treat pregnancy as a privilege, and one over the which the state has regulatory control. I’m not sure that’s a precedent you want to set unless you’re not only anti-abortion, but also willing to put in play a bunch of very icky steps down the totalitarian slope like enforced abortions, sterilization or breeding.
    I think we’re on much safer political philosophy ground if we treat a woman’s body as *hers*, and consider her to have a natural and inalienable right to become pregnant or terminate her pregnancy or otherwise control her reproductive status at will with no interference whatsoever from the government, unless she is carrying a fetus that could conceivably live outside her womb.
    That’s my line anyway (at which I’m willing to even *consider* government regulation), and I’ve seen no good reason not to hold it absolutely.

  25. threemilechild
    Posted February 6, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    If the point of this legislation were to punish people who “abuse children” by risking having a baby who is unhealthy, then what about those who, due to testing during pregnancy, know for a fact that their fetus, if allowed to develop and be born, will have health problems? Abortion is legal and, theoretically, available; they are making a conscious choice to have unhealthy children. Why is this ok?
    The answer is that this legislation is not about any definition of child abuse, but (as everyone already knows, anyhow) an attempt to give fetuses (more than) the rights of born people.

  26. Posted May 17, 2008 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Not only the illegal drugs but legal drugs are also abusive in nature and could also result in drug addiction problem in humans. Legal drugs when take without prescription from doctors sometimes becomes the cause for addictive behavior.

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