Exposing the Unborn Child to Drugs

Exposingthe Unborn Child to Drugs


Exposingthe Unborn Child to Drugs

Theidea of exposing the unborn child with harmful drugs has faced manycontroversies. The main one is trying to balance between treatmentvs. punishment. In this, the major issue is trying whether to viewthe pregnant mother who is abusing substances a criminal or a personwho is suffering from an illness and might need help. The debate overthis issue has been met with different approaches in the UnitedStates. From one that entirely takes the criminal perspective toanother emphasizes that a mother like that needs some medicalattention. Hence, there has been a failure to manage this phenomenonas seen by the diversity of the approaches and an inability to createa uniform ruling on the situation. In both sides, those who supportpunishment and those who support treatment lack harmony the wouldentirely manage the situation.

Drugabuse is an issue that society keeps struggling with to sometimes noavail. People who are drug addicts struggle to break their addictionover a long period of time. Hence, the issues pertaining drugs andaddiction cannot be easily overcome or by overnight abolished. Theissue on drugs is even more pronounced when a pregnant woman goesahead to abuse drugs and substances (Ahrens, 2015). In this, thedangers of the exposure of the drugs to the fetus are quite big.However, the courts have not come with a straight and clear way todeal with these problems. One of the reasons being that this is asocietal problem. As the society is the one to pay for children whoare born with disabilities and inabilities caused by the pregnantdrug users. Some of the expenses the society pays include the highcost of education and healthcare. These expenses are attributed tothe infected fetus that grows to become affected children and adults.

Hence,in the past years the law enforcement officers, prosecutors andjudges have sought to punish women for this behavior. In this, womenhave been punished for doing anything that may be of harm to thefetus. Women have been prosecuted of cases like fetus abuse and alsothe delivery of drugs through the umbilical cord. In addition, womenhave lost custody of the babies and even jailed or civicallycommitted.

Evenif there are no statutes that enact or enforce the law thatcriminates a pregnant woman for substance abuse during pregnancies,prosecutors use statutes that prohibit abuse or negligence to suewomen. In this, cases like assault with a lethal deterrent i.e.cocaine to mothers who used cocaine while pregnant. Sometimes themother can be charged with delivering drugs to a minor in the casethe fetus. Additionally in instances where the baby or infant testedpositive for drugs and died shortly after birth the mother can becharged with homicide or feticide or involuntary manslaughter. Inother instances, laws that were to be put infect for the pregnantwomen who use drugs (Henricks, 2014).

Oneof these cases is where a woman was prosecuted because of notfollowing the doctor’s prescriptions. As the instructions from thedoctor were for her not to engage in sexual intercourse, stay off herfeet in the cause of the pregnancy and also not to us street drugs.The case, however, was closed. This is because it stated that thechild support statute was not meant or designed to regulate apregnant woman’s conduct. Other cases have also been closed for thereason that administering drugs to minors did not cover fetuses. Thiswas after fifty cases tried to sue women who had use hard drugs likecocaine while pregnant. This reason has made prosecutors to sue womenon the ground that they administered drugs to the infant a short timewhen they delivered before the umbilical cord was cut.

However,these cases have been looking more at the statutes rather what’smore important according to the constitution. Since a court inCalifornia prohibited the prosecution of a woman since the statutesdo not refer to the unborn child. In instances where courts haveconsidered the constitutional side of things then, it found out thatit had violated the rights of women. These rights would include theright to privacy which contains right to procreate and autonomy inmaking reproductive decisions (Mariner &amp Glantz, 2010). It alsofound out that the prosecutors were punishing women for theirdualistic status. For example, being drug addicts and being pregnantwhich violated the eighth amendment that forbids against unusual andcruel punishments.

Additionallyopponents to the punishing women for drug abuse during pregnancy alsodetest the prosecutors’ moves. They argue that the criminalizationof conduct in the time she is pregnant violates the right of a womansuch as equal protection and privacy. Continually, they argue that itintrude the woman’s right to procreate. In this, it favors thewoman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy i.e. abort and punishesthe woman who continues the pregnancy. Hence, the law can encourageabortion. The opponents also continue to state that this movediscriminates against women further. As it does not put intoconsideration, the impacts of the father that may even have moreeffects on the child. Additionally it discriminates againstunfortunate women of color since they are the once being prosecutedbut it is conventionally renowned that all people regardless of theirrace abuse drugs in all classes.

Theopponents also add that if the door of maternal behavior regulationis opened it will almost impossible to close it. As this can be notedfrom, the previous cases that do not show a distinction between legaland illegal drugs (Murphy, 2014). Other cases too show that theprosecution was due to the woman consuming her legal substance.Hence, becoming one of the most important issue a rise from thisjudgment. The matter may involve if a woman will be prosecutedpracticing her legal conduct. The conducts may include smokingcigarettes, her inability to eat a balanced diet and also a failureto seek adequate perianal care.

Inconclusion, women who expose the unborn children to drugs should beprosecuted. Also, such women should be educated about the dangers andharmful effects involved when exposing their unborn children and thecost they may incur after the pregnancy. They should also beenlightened that their conduct may result to deaths of the unbornbabies. Hence, it would be very crucial for them not to use drugswhile pregnant. Lastly, treatment and rehabilitation should beoffered to women who are be addicted to drugs. As this will assistthem in getting to live a drug-free life and have a chance to haveprotected life with their babies. Thus, the setting of laws may helpto some point but it will also be interfering with the women rightsof privacy.


Ahrens,D. (2015). Incarcerated Childbirth and Broader &quotBirth Control&quot:Autonomy, Regulation, and the State. MissouriLaw Review,80(1),1-51.

Flavin,J., &amp Paltrow, L. M. (2010). Punishing Pregnant Drug-Using Women:Defying Law, Medicine, and Common Sense. JournalOf Addictive Diseases,29(2),231. doi:10.1080/10550881003684830

Henricks,J. (2014). What to Expect When You`re Expecting: Fetal ProtectionLaws that Strip Away the Constitutional Rights of Pregnant Women.BostonCollege Journal Of Law &amp Social Justice,35(1),117-152.

Mariner,W. K., &amp Glantz, L. H. (2010). Pregnancy, drugs, and the perilsof prosecution. CriminalJustice Ethics,9(1),30.

Murphy,A. S. (2014). A Survey of State Fetal Homicide Laws and TheirPotential Applicability to Pregnant Women Who Harm Their Own Fetuses.IndianaLaw Journal,89(2),847-883.