“Baby Bill” is bogus

Hi Everyone,
Disturbing news today–The Sand Mountain Reporter is reporting that the Marshall County Assistant DA and the local legislative delegation are dropping a bill to up the ante on prosecuting women who use substances while pregnant by expanding the definition of the word child to include a fetus.
Needless to say this is exactly why AWRN has been tackling these senseless prosecutions.  It is scary (SCARY) to think that D.A.s and judges now get to make medical decisions for all of us with no medical training whatsoever.  The debate over fetus and child is a red herring to divide us on the true issue which is what is best for women, pregnancies, and babies.  The answer is always going to be treatment over jail, prison, financial punishment, etc.  There is absolutely no way someone can make a legitimate (or logical) statement that expanding the possibility of prosecuting pregnant women and new mothers is good, nor that some expansion magically makes treatment available. 
Do not let this piece of legislation coopt terminology from the abortion debate and apply it to a situation many women find themselves in that does not inherently have an abortion element to it; rather, many women are struggling to overcome substance use and be mothers.  This is only done to divide us and politicize a public health and maternal issue that can be solved completely outside of entering yet another debate on the definition of a child.  Simply put, women need greater and expanded access to treatment and their pregnancies also deserve to be spared the destruction of incarceration.  AWRN has actually worked with women in this situation unlike those who villanize women from afar from not being able to overcome what is a disease by themselves.  All of the women charged under this law are very young.  These prosecutions are wrong and to think that someone is seeking an expansion of prosecutions is not just unconscionable it is an expression of complete carelessness and disregard for babies, for pregnancies, and for women.  Period.
Shame on Marshall County legislators and the DA office for thinking so very little of women, of pregnancies, and of babies.

6 Responses

  1. I’m re-posting this on my blog. What can people (esp those of us outside of Alabama) do to help defeat this bill?

    • Thank you!

      We are brainstorming, but here is what we have so far:

      1. It would help if this was reposted and shared, especially with other local chapters of national organizations (think NOW, ACLU, etc.). Encourage the local chapters to help us lift this local issue to the national level.

      2. If anyone has knowledge of local programs that are successful in their area in terms of treatment during pregnancy, please send the program descriptions and outcome data our way.

      3. We will have a petition up at Change.org soon!

      4. If any women who have been prosecuted in another state for a similar “offense” AWRN would like to speak with them or their attorneys to garner descriptions of how prosecution harmed the women and their families and also how, if offered treatment (or another service other than incarceration) it was beneficial.

      5. We are especially looking for individual success stories of Nurse/Family Partnership Programs.

  2. I came across you’re site while doing research for a paper I have to write for my Master’s Politics class for my Neonatal NP. I would like to ask you if you have EVER had to take care of a withdrawing neonate before? Have you EVER had to deal with a drug addict, new mother or not? I have done both, well all three. I am a Neonatal nurse. I deal with these “new mothers” everyday. They are addicts and they are not concerned for their infants either inside or outside of their bodies. I agree treatment would help them, but if you know anything about treating addiction, the addict has to want to be treated for the treatment to work. I know this on a personal level as well having a very close member of the family who is an addict and has gone through treatment after treatment only to go back to the drugs. WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH TO THESE GIRLS!!! After 11 years of caring for these babies, who some of are not just withdrawing, but do indeed die from their mother’s drug use, I have come to the conclusion the only way to get their attention is to start holding them accountable for their actions. Then maybe treatment would be more benificial when they have the realization of what they have done. You can not help those who do not want to be helped, so hold them accountable for the hurt and wrong doing of their actions. Please consider both sides. Thank you.

    • Dear Reader,

      Your comment is appreciated. AWRN works with a number of stakeholders on this issue and your sentiments are heard; however, the problem is that drug treatment is seen as a privilege and someone’s inability to overcome addiction is criminalized, thereby further undermining the treatment community’s ability to do its job. Your neonatal experience is not uncommon, but the misconception about drug use and its outcomes is very harmful. While no one is stating that drug use is healthy, the medical evidence shows that legal substances–including the all-too-legal situation of poverty and vitamin deficiencies–are proven to be harmful to pregnancies as well, while the outcomes of specific drug use are not proven through prospective medical research.

      In short, criminalizing this issue does nothing to solve it and sentences pregnancies to prison where conditions are sometimes even worse on the grand scale of negative impacts. Further, it ties public monies to incarceration not the advancement of drug treatment and family preservation.


    • Also, please visit awrn.org to read the full materials of our campaign and position, supported by numerous medical groups and institutions across the nation.

  3. As of now, are all newborns drug tested at birth? and if a newborn tests positive for marijuana will they be taken away from the home?

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