Drug War

Pregnancy Crimes

Illegal birth defects

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Starting in July, new mothers in Tennessee may be held criminally responsible for a baby's birth defects if the problems arise from drug use during pregnancy. Specifically, the law says that a woman "may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug." Penalties include up to 15 years in prison.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) approved the law in April, calling it a "tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs." The law does allow mothers to avoid criminal charges by signing up for and sticking with a state-run drug treatment program. But opponents-among them the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-say the law will actually deter pregnant women from seeking addiction help, and perhaps prenatal medical care altogether, out of fear of prosecution.

"This deeply misguided law will force those women who need health care the most into the shadows," says ACLU Staff Attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas. "Pregnant women with addictions need better access to health care, not jail time."

Critics also complain that the measure encourages women to seek abortions, asks doctors and medical staff to act as law enforcement, and invites women who miscarry to be treated like criminal suspects. 

Editor's note: On July 8, Mallory Loyola was the first mother charged under the new law.

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90 responses to “Pregnancy Crimes

  1. You know who else was a crack baby?

    1. One of the garbage pale kids?

      1. Epi?

    2. Jimmy “Crack” Corn?

      1. You win.

        1. I don’t care.

          1. YOU win!

  2. “Critics also complain that the measure encourages women to seek abortions, ”

    One person’s bug is another’s feature.

    1. Just add destruction of evidence to the charges. Hell, indict the doctor for obstruction and conspiracy while we’re at it. Charge everyone!

  3. Gluten sensitivity may be bullshit.

    In one of the best examples of science working, a researcher who provided key evidence of (non-celiac disease) gluten sensitivity recently published follow-up papers that show the opposite.

    1. MSG Syndrome probably is, too.

      1. For the record, the Knicks would probably lose even if they played elsewhere.

        1. What?

          1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_Square_Garden

            Madison Square Garden (sometimes called MSG or simply The Garden)

            1. Well, pardon my ignorance. I stand informed.

      2. Actually I have MSG whatever. I had no idea what that was or what MSG was or that it was commonly in Chinese food. For a long time I did not connect it to food. After about the tenth time I had symptoms I was complaining about it to someone and they told me what it probably was. I experimented a couple of times and sure enough, if I eat MSG I get light headed and tingly all over.

  4. The law does allow mothers to avoid criminal charges by signing up for and sticking with a state-run drug treatment program.

    Seems easier to just suck it out.

  5. There is a dude that knows where he is going.

    http://www.AnonWays.tk

    1. ^^This.

      1. Oh God, it’s multiplying AND learning!

        1. ^^Not this.

          1. Hey. Not cool.

            1. That I agree with. Just don’t blow my cover. 😉

  6. How long before this applies to tobacco and cigarettes? OTC med abuse? Or does it already?

    Cue hordes of women lining up to protest this infringement on their right to control their bodies…. never. Totalitarianism is perfectly ok insofar as its done in a politically-correct manner.

    1. Or caffeine, or gluten, or fat, or inorganic foods, or eggs, or artificial sweeteners…

      Just one more step down the “rule me” road.

    2. How hard can it be for, even a public defender, to get one in twelve jurors to have a reasonable doubt about whether a birth defect may have been caused by something other than drug abuse?

      This is just meant to appeal to certain voters. It’s like what they call “slut-shaming” over at Salon. It isn’t going to have any practical benefits, but then the only practical benefit it was really intended to have was to make certain voters horny.

      1. It’s still one of those “can’t beat the ride” issues, though.

        A new mother who is using a narcotic drug is probably not the most likely person to be able to afford expensive legal services.

        So, drug rehab or prison for the poor, plea bargains and nothing else happened for the rest.

        1. It can be hard for women to avoid pregnancy tests when they’re getting medical care, too.

          Because of the liability, you can’t put a woman of child bearing years under anesthesia without a pregnancy test.

          I’m sure there will be some women who avoid medical care because they’ve already told their doctors about their drug abuse history.

      2. “How hard can it be for, even a public defender, to get one in twelve jurors to have a reasonable doubt about whether a birth defect may have been caused by something other than drug abuse?”

        We are talking about statistical possibilities so not very hard. However, given the jury pools and juries I have seen, impossible.

    3. Cue hordes of women lining up to protest this infringement on their right to control their bodies

      BREASTMILKSEZ!

    4. I would assume it already does – since narcotics are one of the few pain killers that are deemed as safe for the developing fetus in high doses.

      Most other drugs are far more dangerous for the fetus ( usually dangerous only in a relative sense when used appropriately).

      Nonetheless, the drug war is so penitiosly ingrained in the culture that most physician groups and government bodies see non-therapeutic narcotics use as a threat during pregnancy that requires an intervention. Severe drug addiction is associated with bad outcomes in pregnancy (low birth weight, placental abruption, etc.) – but these are probably due to other related lifestyle issues such as poor nutrition, high risk of diseases like STDs or bacterial sepsis, etc.

    5. I have long wondered when the left’s paternalism would combine with the right’s life-before-birth campaign and bear down on pregnant mothers. Not just like this, but weight gain, proper nutrition, exercise, etc, and including not just during pregnancy, but beforehand, leading to permission to even get pregnant being dependent on proper health beforehand.

      I mean, if it’s child abuse to spank a child, even lightly, or have a chubby kid, how hard is it to extend that to pregnancy?

      Apparently my dreams have come true. It takes a village police force to raise a child.

  7. So do you vote for Firefly, which is a superior show, but the actors are probably too old to play their old characters, or Deadwood, which actually has a chance of picking up where it left off?

    I’m torn.

    Have you ever wished that your favorite canceled TV show could be resurrected? HitFix can’t bring these cult classics back by ourselves, but our Uncanceled Showdown tournament lets your voice be heard. We’re starting with 32 initial programs who went before their time. Cast your votes and let Hollywood know which shows you think deserve another shot at TV immortality.

    1. I still won’t watch the SciFi channel until they bring Farscape back.

      Financing that miniseries piece of Spielberg garbage–instead of another season of Farscape–was a crime against humanity.

      I will never forgive.

      I will never forget.

    2. Pushing Daisies beat Dead Like Me? For shame.

      And where the fuck is Alphas?

    3. Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly Firefly!

      Nathan Fillion.

    4. I can’t wrap my head around thinking Firefly was in the same league as Deadwood, but I would not vote for Deadwood because it would likely have bad consequences for Oliphant’s Justified, which I currently enjoy.

      1. Justified is absurd. But the characters are too damn good to care.

    5. How can it not be Firefly. That show was so, so very good.

      You could say that the events of Serenity set off a second war, which raged for a decade. Now, the survivors of the crew reunite on board the old ship to continue their adventures.

      1. Can we just pretend Serenity didn’t happen and bring back Wash and the Shepherd?

        1. Clones. Or twin brothers. Or they were brought back to life in a secret parlimentary bid to insinuate them onboard the Serenity and report back there whereabouts and activities.

          Or God did it. I don’t really care. I just want the crew back.

    6. As was pointed out in the comments no Better off Ted? That show was superb.

    7. I only got around to watching Firefly last week. It was good. Not as good as it is made out to be, though. Some of the characters, especially Mal, were too inconsistent. Others weren’t developed enough, though with only about a dozen episodes that isn’t surprising. Still, the magic that was there is probably now gone.

      And they’d have to pretend that Serenity never happened. Damn, that was a disappointing movie.

      1. Have you gone after the doctors who removed your taste without your consent?

  8. Can we hold doctors and parents criminally liable for birth defects which result from fertility treatments? I submit a far more extensive problem…

  9. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) approved the law in April, calling it a “tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs.”

    Because the one thing this country needs is more Drug War. What a fucking idiot.

    1. I think it was really intended to throw a bone to the pro-life voters.

      How many times have you heard pro-choice people ask what the pro-life movement plans to do about all those unwanted crack babies.

      That this law is likely make more people seek an abortion is beside the point to a politician–who only cares about scoring points with pro-life voters.

      …many of whom are dumb as rocks, and I say that as someone who thinks elective abortion is often unethical.

    2. Where “treatment program” = “prison time for mom and foster care (but I repeat myself) for kid.”

  10. Nothing’s too good for those Innocent Human Cells ™.

    And why stop there? Only wholesome foods, no middle aisle stuff. And mandatory long walks. Proper hydration (but responsible for quality of tap water) is a must. No lifting over 20 lbs. Unnecessary exposure to pollutants shall be a misdemeanor (hey, we’re civilized after all). But if a “natural” abortion can, in any way, be linked to choices by Wombs of the State, harsh penalties will ensue. IHC’s must have full rights of protection from tortious/criminal conduct.

    Of course, the WOTS shall, if sexually active, test themselves for the existence of IHC’s even if a method contrived to keep sperm and eggs separate is in place; one may have slipped past the goalie. Ignorance of the existence of IHC’s shall be no excuse to shield one from the full Force of the law to protect IHC’s.

    I get it. Some women are not responsible. Some women are probably having kids for the welfare check, and aren’t too particular about how “the bun” come out of the oven. The world isn’t perfect. But, in the end, does anyone else really think that this isn’t going to be a set of laws that are likely to be socio-economically applied? If you jump through the proper, state defined hoops, you’ll have the benefit of the doubt if there’s a damaged infant. This is the straight road to the licensure of procreation. A modification of an old libertarian saw, but I’d rather have one crack baby than a thousand pregnant women harassed by bureaucrats.

    1. The application of this does open up some horrific/wonderful opportunities for the state pry its way into the family. But when you have a giant ponzi scheme going it sure helps if you can force people to join AND make them healthy. More funding for longer.

  11. Once you concede fetuses and embryos to be tiny persons with full human rights a lot of things would, to be logically consistent, have to change, and some pretty heavy set of regulations would be justified to be lain on pregnant women in order to protect the tiny persons whom are their wards. When you add to this that many women are not aware they even have tiny persons in them when they are really, really, tiny, it can go to some strange and horrible places.

    1. An infant born with a birth defect attributable to chemical did not have its rights violated…because? Show your work.

      A utilitarian argument against another human’s personhood is just soooo convincing.

      1. I am not trying to make a utilitarian argument against another human’s personhood as much as an appeal to history and the phenomology (for lack of a better word) of according such rights to embryos. Our society has never and currently does not now act like embryos are full human persons, for those who think there can be some lesson for the weight of human practice and practices that might say something important.

        1. from the weight of human practice and…

        2. An argument from tradition now. Of course, the fact that this law exists puts that in question. Society’s standards are changing.

          Again, has the infant suffering from birth defects attributable to chemical abuse rights been violated or not?

          The infant has been harmed by things done to it while an embryo/fetus. The distinction being made between infant and fetus is arbitrary.

          1. “The distinction being made between infant and fetus is arbitrary.”

            Hardly, especially at the early stages of pregnancy.

            “Again, has the infant suffering from birth defects attributable to chemical abuse rights been violated or not?”

            You might think a difference between this and an infant is that a woman can do drugs without a born infant being impacted, but with a fetus or embryo all things the woman takes, eat, drink, etc., go to the Tiny Person.

    2. Once you concede fetuses and embryos to be tiny persons with full human rights a lot of things would, to be logically consistent, have to change, and some pretty heavy set of regulations would be justified to be lain on pregnant women in order to protect the tiny persons whom are their wards

      Not if you have half a brain. One is not required to maintain optimal care over a ward; merely reasonable care and custody. Women will not have to keep their bodies immaculate. They just need to avoid intentionally murdering or crippling their child.

      1. Yes IT, all the laws and regulations about exposing born children (teh childrenz!) to this or that will not manifest itself a hundredfold if we were to think that the tiny persons inside wombs were equivalent.

        1. Maybe that’s a better argument for scaling back the number of things you can get in trouble for exposing a child to. Arsenic seems like a substance which is reasonably dangerous to expose a child or a fetus to; tobacco smoke not so much.

          In any case I don’t see why a person would be untroubled by laws against exposing a child to some substance and find laws against exposing a fetus to same an enormous imposition.

          1. I mean, we have laws that parents must put their children into certain carseats because of the chance of accident and injury, so why wouldn’t we, say, restrict women from engaging in heavy exercise when pregnant if the embryos and fetuses inside them are really Tiny Persons equivalent. And since embryos and fetuses are entirely parasitic upon their mothers, that means everything the mother does that could damage the child at any time while pregnant would be fair game. When you add that many women may or may not be aware of having an embryonic Tiny Person inside of them then you get even more potential restrictions (like the ‘pregnancy tests in bars’ mandate law proposed in Alaska on the grounds that women should be encouraged to see if Tiny Persons live in them before having a drink).

            1. we have laws that parents must put their children into certain carseats because of the chance of accident and injury, so why wouldn’t we, say, restrict women from engaging in heavy exercise when pregnant if the embryos and fetuses inside them are really Tiny Persons equivalent.

              I guess that would depend on who “we” are. I don’t support laws mandating carseats, and I’m guessing that’s true of most people reading this site. The existence of carseat laws is neither a compelling argument for inordinate restrictions on a pregnant woman on the child’s behalf, nor are they a compelling reason to support the butchery of TinyPeople!, as you so thoughtfully and non-condescendingly put it. I suppose that people who support the state’s current interferences as they relate to children would have to argue in favor of such, and as I’m not one of them I’m not particularly inclined to argue their case for them.

              As I said above, if you’re not an idiot you can think these things through fairly easily. The fact that you aren’t able to do so? Well, I’d say that even without the inaccurate “Esq.” in your username, most people would figure your particular brand of pedantic obliviousness as a tell of the lawyerly profession.

  12. So the War on Teh Wimminz CONTINUES!

  13. This is yet another reason why everyone should be responsible for their own healthcare. The best punishment for a woman who abuses substances to the point of harming her child is to be solely responsible for taking care of that child for the remainder of her life.

  14. Since we (or at least I was) speaking about the inability to register cognitive dissonance in liberals, I give you this. A woman who can’t avoid pregnancy because of male pressure to have sex resents having people tell her that abortion is a difficult decision and doesn’t require paternalistic intervention.

  15. The only solution to this, as I see it, will be for women to simply stop getting pregnant.

    Every woman, once they come of birthing age, shall have a full hysterectomy and have her eggs frozen until such a time as THE STATE decides that she shall be allowed to conceive.

    Of course, the eggs will have to be held in a STATE facility, in order to prevent evil capitalists from making evil profits on womens reproductive rights.

    I see another eugenics program coming up.

    1. Put birth control in food and water. Make it inescapable. Upon obtaining a parenting license, women can be given the antidote. This way enlightened progressives can prevent stupid conservatards from reproducing, by using politics as one of the metrics for issuing licenses.

      1. That’s actually more likely a scenario than you’d think, given the proclivity of local and state governments to dump whatever the fuck they feel like into the local water supplies in the name of “Public Health”.

        If it WERE to come to a eugenics system, this would be the most viable system of dispersal.

        1. What about people like myself who are on a well?

          In my youth I actually thought that would be a good way to improve society. Until I thought abut who would make the decisions and upon what criteria.

          1. You just pump massive amounts of estrogen into the aquifers. What could possibly go wrong?

          2. They’ll just shoot you.

            Officer safety. Went home safe. Procedures were followed.

        2. This seems like a good place to recommend Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome if anyone hasn’t read it yet. It takes the old fluoridation debate and adds a thick layer of ethics and philosophy re: the nature of the individual, as was Percy’s wont.

          Percy was not a libertarian, but like a lot of old Southerners (and, for reasons I continue to find bizarre, faithful Catholics), he’s a fellow traveler in many ways. Also one of our finest writers and probably the best Southern writer in our history (with apologies to Faulkner and O’Connor).

  16. The state landed its first victim last month, a meth addict who’d smoked a few days before giving birth.

    May come as a surprise to some that the legislation was sponsored by Reginald Tate, a state senator out of Shelby County, which is overwhelmingly black and Democrat. The population of Southern black Democrats tends to agree with socon Republicans about most things–they’re unified in their distaste for teh gays and are equally vicious in their support for the War on People Who Consume Drugs, for instance–so this is one of those cases where universal support for a law is a good indication of its horribleness.

    1. http://abcnews.go.com/US/woman…..d=24542754

      Bivens said he hoped the arrest would deter other pregnant women from drug use.

      Hope in one hand…

    2. Around these parts Meth used to be exclusively a white-trash drug. That is changing. The last Meth bust I saw in the news was a black couple.

  17. Seems like a reasonable punishment for poisoning an infant.

    1. The World Health Organization (I know, the UN. *spits*) officially considers abortion to be viable up to 22 weeks.

      That means that one of the largest and most influential health organizations in the world say, basically, that it isn’t really a child until 22 weeks.

      Just thought I’d put that out there. Discuss.

  18. Logically, then, they should just abort, since that is not a crime. What is wrong with this picture? It’s okay to murder your unborn child, but it’s criminal to carry it to term because it has a birth defect.

    1. My wife and I are still trying to conceive. Been trying for years. Not easy for us.

      Every single time we think it might happen, I shudder in fear that we might have a special needs or severely deformed child.

      If we discovered that our child had downs syndrome or a congenital heart disease that would kill then by age ten, I’d seriously consider abortion. It would be the best solution, in my mind, for us and for the child.

  19. Abortion? Peachy.

    Possibly damaging a fetus in the womb? 15 years hard time.

    Any questions?

    1. Not peachy. The author of the legislation and virtually all of the Ds and Rs in the state would happily ban abortion if they could. Since they can’t, they grandstand for the rights of the unborn and demonstrate their opposition to the Meth Plague? in one go.

      1. But as I noted below, this encourages abortion. How can you support the life of the unborn when you encourage their death?

        While I understand their intent, I think it is important to note without banning abortion this law is powerless except those that supposedly are pro-life in their actions. It hurts their very cause to essentially punish somebody for having a child when they could relatively easily just abort it before it is born.

        1. They’re unaware/doubtful of the incentives because they don’t think like economists (I’m 99% sure that’s so) and/or their primary goal is just to grandstand for the electorate, so these considerations are secondary (99% here too).

          Politicians are a different breed from concerned social activists.

  20. Regardless of one’s views on either this or abortion. It’s kind of ironic how only so many people, probably mostly libertarians, see how contradicting these two laws really are.

    Both Pro-Life people and Pro-choice people are tending to agree that this law is good, but I wonder, if the difference between somebody who does drugs and has a child and somebody who does drugs but gets an abortion is that one goes free, is it not really that child birth is essentially illegal for some people? Do Pro-life people not see the irony here? That the law they support increases a situation they do not support?

    I’d suppose I’d ask them if they prefer a dead child to a possibly addicted one.

    And Pro-choice people see that a child has been forcefully drugged and possibly damaged, and yet they are perfectly okay with that child being murdered, at least before it is born.

    I’d personally see it as a civil issue, if you doing drugs as a mother harms your child, then they at a later date (when they are old enough to understand) can sue you if it caused harm for a significant portion of their life. What I mean is that simple addiction that goes away shortly after birth probably wouldn’t count, but defects that were caused specifically by it COULD possibly count. And it should probably be decided more on a case by case basis.

  21. Freedom is very risky, and the supporters of this law want neither freedom or risk. This is a very bad law.

  22. Abortion and logical coherence do not mix.

  23. If drug using women are receiving public assistance in any way, they should be required to be sterilized or lose their benefits. Cuts abortion out of the equation altogether.

  24. force those women who need health care the most into the shadows

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