UK wants to mandate smoking tests for all pregnant women

Midsection of pregnant woman smokingThe National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK wants all pregnant women to be given carbon monoxide tests. If it shows that the woman has been smoking, she’ll be offered help and counseling on how to stop.

Professor Mike Kelly, the director of the centre of public health excellence at NICE said, “During pregnancy, smoking puts the health of the women and her unborn baby at great risk both in the short and long-term, and small children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems.”

Midwives, however, are not so supportive of the recommendation, saying that it will make women feel “guilty.” I agree. This doesn’t just make women feel guilty, the assumption is that that she is guilty – and that pregnant women can’t be trusted to tell the truth about their health and habits to their doctors.

Kelly went on to say that this wouldn’t penalize women for smoking – but I’m skeptical. After all, look at what’s happened with pregnant women’s rights in the United States.  What do you think?

Via Babble.

For more information on the criminalization of pregnant women, check out the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Join the Conversation

  • jgar6

    “I thought this was a feminist blog”.
    I agree that this law would be overly paternalistic and would be a violation of women’s privacy. However I don’t understand how stating women have a responsibility ethically (Not necessarily a legal obligation: responsibilty should not always be legislated) to protect the health of their future child is unfeminist.

  • sparky17

    rather off-topic, but I wish all cars came with breathalyzers. I think a lot of lives could be saved. I don’t know how many drunk-driving offenses it takes to have one put in your car, but I know that you only need to drive drunk once to kill someone/yourself.

  • sparky17

    My grandmother smoked during all her pregnancies. My mother was born with cataracts and became permanently blind in one eye, my uncle was born sick and forever has respiratory issues, and my aunt died within days of her birth. So if we’re just throwing out personal anecdotes as to how harmful or not smoking is for a developing fetus, there you go.
    Also, I totally agree with RandomWhatnot. Women should be completely free to have abortions if they don’t want to be pregnant, no questions asked. But once you decide to carry to term, the fetus WILL eventually become a person, and I think that deciding to take on the responsibility of parenthood needs to begin before the baby is born. Having children shouldn’t be taken so lightly in that mothers are free to gamble with the lives of their children.

  • Z

    I thought being a feminist meant supporting equal rights for all, not supporting rights for women over the rights of others.
    I’m not saying that a fetus that is not going to be carried to term should have rights. But we do need to consider the rights of children, which are so often pushed aside for adults’ rights. And I think that children’s rights should include the right to start off life without unavoidable health problems.

  • Z

    May I ask why you put counseling in quotation marks?

  • Chris

    “The difference is that these are presumably intended (or at least accepted) pregnancies.”
    How is this different? Abortions sometimes occur in “intended and accepted” pregnancies.

  • Z

    (I meant to write avoidable)

  • TD

    The alternative is to make women a slave to a child that isn’t even born yet. That isn’t fair. It’s exactly why feminists are staunchly pro-choice.
    But the kid will be born. With abortion the kid is not born, with this, the kid is born, the kid becomes a legal person and the kid has suffered demonstrable harm from the mothers actions.
    The kid cannot represent him/herself in legal proceedings and so it falls to the government to ensure that the child is protected. This doesn’t make the woman a slave to the kid, it means the mother needs to accept that her actions when she is pregnant affect more than just herself.
    Parents are required by law to ensure their kids are properly fed, clothed, and cared for, does this make them slaves to their children? Or does it merely acknowledge that parents have both a legal and moral obligation to their children?
    If a parent forced their kid to smoke we would have no issue in identifying that as abuse. Why would it be any different if the woman is intending to carry to term. All those choices will be visited upon the kid when born and in every sense the kid will be a legal person at that point.

  • TD

    Because in an abortion the kid doesn’t get born, and never becomes a legal person.
    If a legal person suffers a harm, they are free to seek redress against the reponsible party. Since the person in this case is too young to represent themselves it falls to the parents, or to the government. Since the parent in this case would be the indicted party it would fall to the government to represent the kid.
    This is plainly within the jurisdiction of the government.

  • TD

    Are they going to force fathers to take the test too, since their second hand smoke can also harm the pregnant woman and the child? I don’t think so.
    A father has a case that he can establish that while he may have smoked he did not smoke in the presence of the mother. The mother cannot make such a claim.
    But yes, if a father smoked in the presence of the mother then he too should be viewed as a guilty party.
    Also, falling down stairs can hurt the baby too, so I suggest we chain women to the stove so they can further protect the unborn child.
    Do you know of many places which approve the mother pushing kids down the stairs? Because lets be clear about this, the mother chooses to smoke, she is choosing to expose her future kid to a variety of harms. It is incomparable to an accident.

  • TD

    A pregnant woman isn’t the same as a drunk person who can mow down lots of other people for being drunk. A drunk person can’t be trusted, a grown adult woman probably knows the hazards of smoking.
    Any adult driver knows the law as well as the hazards that come with drunk driving. If they choose to do so anyways, we still prosecute them.
    And why is everyone saying “if she chooses to keep it, she should treat it like its already its own person”? You don’t know that every single pregnant woman who carries to term is doing so because she really wants to. Maybe she was raped, maybe she didn’t have access to abortion, maybe she was guilted into carrying it. Women might not disclose such things to their doctors but this law discriminates against every one.
    Would any of those conditions excuse child abuse? Choosing to smoke inflicts harm on the child, when the child is born they will suffer that harm potentially for the rest of their lives. If a third party inflicted it both the child and the mother would be victims in the eyes of the court system, the child would be named as an injured party even if the injury occurred only during pregnancy. Why would it be any different in the case of the mother?
    That the mother does not want the kid is irrelevant to the discussion of her obligations to the kid when it is born. If she does not want to give birth she can have an abortion, if she does not want to have an abortion she can put the kid up for adoption. But until one or the other occurs the mother has a responsibility to the kid just as any parent has a responsibility to their kids.