Jacob Sullum: Don't Put Meth Moms in Jail


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Given the link between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and birth defects, should expectant mothers who drink be arrested for assault? If not, it is hard to see why Mallory Loyola was.

Loyola, who was arrested in July after giving birth to a baby girl who tested positive for amphetamine, is the first person to be charged under a new Tennessee law that criminalizes drug consumption by pregnant women. The law, ostensibly aimed at protecting children, is really about punishing what a chief sponsor described as "the worst of the worst": women who not only consume arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants but do so at a time when they are supposed to be thinking only of their babies.

But as Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains, there is no clear link between the drug Loyola consumed and birth defects in humans. The nonsensical rhetoric about addicted babies is aimed at concealing the fact that the law, like drug prohibition generally, seeks to punish people for actions that violate no one's rights.