Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Addicted Mothers

Oregon is getting tough on these women:

The Deschutes County District Attorney's Office has filed charges against three women, alleging that they caused their babies to ingest methamphetamine — two through umbilical cords and one by breast-feeding.

This is the first time a woman has been charged in Deschutes County for this conduct. But similar cases in other states have raised legal questions about holding drug-addicted mothers accountable.

"No one is saying it's OK to use (drugs) or for pregnant women to use," said criminal defense attorney Karla Nash, who represents one of the women who has been charged. "But pregnant women should be able to communicate openly and honestly with health care providers without being concerned about prosecution."

All three women charged in Deschutes County face the possibility of decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The two cases where the drug was passed through the umbilical cord give another example of the problems that appear when people are viewed as containing other people in the manner of those Russian babushka dolls, and when the insert-people are regarded as independent for legal purposes.

I find this all very sad. Addiction is dreadful and addicted women are not taking drugs with the intent of giving them to the fetuses. Yet the prosecutor's view of them is very different:

"What we look at is whether the facts fit within the criminal law," said Deputy District Attorney Victoria Roe. "A baby can be a victim of abuse regardless of age. If we were talking about a 3-year-old, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

When asked about the intent of Oregon law, Roe references a discussion in the Legislature about a 13-year-old boy who was injected with drugs.

A house bill summary providing background on legislation prohibiting delivery of a controlled substance to minors states the 2001 assembly's intent was to increase the penalty for this offense.

"They wanted to make this a specific type of crime," Roe said.

So. Consider what would happen if medical science one day established that beer drinking causes all sorts of anomalies in sperm which then can be passed on to a baby that is conceived. Would all the beer-drinking fathers-to-be face prosecution?

Or more realistically, consider the case of any pregnant woman caught drinking a glass of wine or beer. Will she be immediately taken to court for child abuse? Even though the Italians and the French pregnant mothers have drunk wine in moderate amounts for centuries without any apparent ill-effects?

I feel very sorry for the children of these mothers, but I also feel very sorry for the mothers themselves. And for this punitive and radical culture of ours.
Link by Thersites on Eschaton threads.