a bird and a bottle

Why Prosecuting Pregnant Women is a Bad Idea
January 29, 2007, 8:54 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, law, reproductive justice

Jill Morrison, an attorney at the National Women’s Law Center, has a great post up at Feministing explaining why prosecuting pregnant women because of their decision to carry a child to term despite a drug problem is not only bad public policy but is also outside the scope of state laws and unconstitutional. She’s an expert on this and spoke on the topic at the NAPW conference; her post is well worth reading.

Amanda at Pandagon also posts on the issue here.

This issue is NAPW’s bread and butter and it’s a biggie. It’s at the nexus of the War on Drugs and the war on reproductive rights. These prosecutions give personhood and all of the rights that status carries to the fetus while robbing the adult woman of her rights. In this equation, the woman becomes the incubator and her every need, desire, and yes, vice, is considered only through the lens of the fetus she carries.

There’s a lot about this issue that gets me mad, not least of which is the line of BS that throwing pregnant women in jail protects them and their fetuses. But maybe what gets under my skin the most is the idea that pregnant women who are unable to kick drug habits are – unlike everyone else – blameworthy because they “had a choice” and chose to keep using throughout their pregnancies. (The rhetoric of choice turned against us). Apparently, unlike Rush Limbaugh, Keith Urban, and other (white male) addicts who relapse time and again, pregnant women should, in the eyes of people who support these prosecutions, be legally bound to kick the habit the minute they find out they are pregnant. Of course, this line of reasoning ignores both science (which acknowledges that addiction is an illness and that people who are addicted to drugs, much like diabetics who want their sugar, may try and fail a few times before eventually getting sober), and common sense, which tells us that addiction is not in fact a choice (how many people do you know who have tried countless times to quit smoking, only to light up again when they are stressed or anxious).

No one is saying that it’s ideal for pregnant women, or anyone for that matter, to be using drugs with any frequency. But the solution for everyone – pregnant or otherwise – should be treatment not prosecution.

There are several other important issues that these prosecutions raise, including why the idea of a crack baby is a myth. But I’ve got Evidence reading to do. So now that I’ve (hopefully) piqued your interest, that rant will have to wait.


4 Comments so far
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the timeless truth of “if only men got pregnant…” meets the timely truth of “america hates poor people.” does anybody embody this bigotry and hypocrisy better than george bush? given his stance on drugs, i wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he had an abortion when he was “young and irresponsible.”
great post!

Comment by professorplum

[…] Comments professorplum on Why Prosecuting Pregnant Women is a Bad Idead on Lake of Fire Steps Into the Ring of Firebean on Ugh. Or, Why I Don’t Read the NY Post (except […]

Pingback by a bird and a bottle

[…] Case for Prosecuting Pregnant Women Feminists are in an uproar over legislation that would criminalise taking drugs during pregnancy. Basic thesis: such legislation […]

Pingback by The Case for Prosecuting Pregnant Women « Helvidius, a Pachyderm

ok…so no such thing as a crack baby? right? think again… well i only wanna let you know that Ive been a foster kid for 12 years and my mom is one of the biggest meth and crack users i know and in fact my lil brother is mentally and physically handicappedbecause of it… i live in a foster home with 4 little kids who all got taken away from drug users who have been in and out of TREATMENTS… so what? they didnt help… I dont give a damn about the parents this is about he thousands of children out there living in homes with parents who are drug addicts… they need the posecution and they need to be put away. point blank, or they never shouldve stared… there are plenty of healthy non drug users out there doing just fine

Comment by Kelsea

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