Everyone is aware of the fact thatalcohol, tobacco, or drug use by the mother or father can potentially impairthe maturing fetus throughout pregnancy. Knowing how harmful its effects can bewe still witness people do it anyway, and it’s not just a mother that can causeharm to the baby it’s the father as well. The controversial argument stilllies, should expectant women be prosecuted for their actions involving drug,tobacco, or alcohol use during pregnancy. The issue of substance abuse by anexpecting mother is one that has constantly troubled society.Maternal alcohol and drugabuse during a pregnancy continues to be a serious social and public healthconcern. Prenatal alcohol and drug exposure adversely affects growth anddevelopment of the fetus and may put an exposed child at risk for a range ofphysical and neurodevelopmental problems that persist across the lifespan.
Postnatal, a birth mother with an untreated substance abuse disorder is likelyto provide a home environment compromised by myriad problems associated withaddiction. For over a decade, elected officials nationwidehave attempted to penalize women for their actions during a pregnancy, whichmay affect the fetus they’re carrying. Expecting mothers, despite substanceabuse problems, are targeted victims, finding themselves prosecuted for suchnon-existent crimes as “fetal” abuse and delivery of drugs through the umbilicalcord. Pregnant women are being civilly committed or jailed, and new mothers arelosing custody of their children even when they would be capable parents.Meanwhile, state legislators have frequently initiated substance abuse andchild welfare programs that would penalize only pregnant women with addictionproblems. Although no state has enacted a law that specifically criminalizesconduct during a pregnancy, prosecutors have used statutes prohibiting abuse orneglect of children to charge women for actions that potentially harm thefetus.
Thematter of drug use is submerged with strong viewpoints, however, no issuecauses such reactions as pregnant women who use drugs or have drug-exposednewborns. North Carolina joined a growing list of states that have introducedor passed bills criminalizing pregnant women that use drugs, as well aspunishing those who don’t seek treatment with jail time. While the intentionbehind these laws may be to deter pregnant women from using drugs, these lawsseem to cause the reverse outcome, steering a resource poor population awayfrom treatment and towards behaviors that can further harm mothers and babies. Thisviewpoint believes that when people censure others, it is more difficult tocreate productive change. Presently,official procedures for how to answer to an expecting mother that may be usingdrugs, or a baby born with evidence of dependency, vary widely from hospital tohospital. Select members of the staff might choose to call Child ProtectiveServices to detach the baby from its mother, even when the mother is on medication-assistedtreatment. Stress of discrimination steers expecting mothers that use drugs insecret, away from drug treatment or prenatal care.
Some women attempt detoxingoff drugs on their own, even though sudden termination of drug use can lead topregnancy complications. Other women choose home births to deter hospitalscompletely. Home births are dangerous for newborns with vulnerability to druguse, as specialized medical care may be necessary to relieve their symptoms. Justbecause a woman is an expecting mother it doesn’t mean she can miraculouslydefeat a chronic condition, you can’t overcome diabetes while pregnant, but youcan manage it (Castillo, 2015). The same holds true for addiction. There is achance to reach out to those women with drug abuse problems because they areexpecting mothers.
It’s our job to ensure that laws are not criminalizingexpectant mothers with drug problems and sending them farther away.