Prosecuting Pregnant Pill Poppers a Polarizing Policy

by The Discovering Alcoholic on March 20, 2008

”Rachel Barfoot, 31, who had been charged before with beating her niece, told her probation officer that she was pregnant. When she tested positive for cocaine, she was arrested.”

Yeah I know, the title is a little corny but at least it made you look. My little nook of the world has been featured by the news in less than a positive light lately with just last week the story of a drunken ninja and the handless keg party crasher and now this week a story published about pregnant drug abusers in south Alabama.

I am not sure which riles me up more, the fact that children are being subjected to drug use and affected by addiction before they are even born, or the polarized responses of those that have reacted to this story.

Click “Read more” to continue…

Two worlds are colliding in this piney woods backcountry in southern Alabama: casual drug use and a local district attorney unsettled that children or fetuses might be affected by it. The result is an unusual burst of prosecutions in which young women using drugs are shocked to find themselves in the cross hairs for harming their children, even before giving birth. ~ New York Times

I think most of you who read this paragraph will catch quickly the phrase that sets me off in the NYT’s report. If you can’t see it, then try to explain to me what is exactly “casual” about subjecting a baby to illicit drug use? How about “even before birth”, as if an unborn child should be fair game?

Reading commentaries on this story across the net you will find two opposing view points on this issue, with little middle ground. Some feel much as the Times seemingly does that punishing the mother for this behavior is some kind of cruel and unusual punishment and they should not be held accountable for risking the health and welfare of their child. Others feel that these mothers should be stripped of their children and locked away for life. A good cross section of these opinions can be seen in the comments section of this article at Jointogether.org.

Personally, I feel there needs to be a middle ground here. While I am all in favor of more treatment and less punishment in victimless crimes concerning addictions, there is surely a victim in these cases. Same goes for the crowd that wants to lock’em up and throw away the key; a lot of good this will do for the innocent children. No, I think these mothers should be giving something similar to drug court in which they are offered both treatment and a path to recovery and freedom… under the threat of incarceration if they don’t take advantage of these services.

Alcoholism and addiction often elicit very potent emotions, just look at the debate on the war on drugs, methadone maintenance, and needle exchange programs. Rarely do you see people with moderate views trying to take the best course of action with far left or right opinions usually prevailing. Stir a little pregnancy into the mix and you are sure to get some polarized opinions and some drastic policies. Both sides can be correct on the issue, but neither seems to be the best way to handle a very bad situation.

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