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posted by n1 on Tuesday May 06 2014, @04:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the Take-Me-to-Another-Land dept.

USA Today reports that Tennessee has become the first state with legislation that will criminally charge women who use drugs while pregnant with assault for harm done to their infants. Tennessee officials have wrestled with what to do about the growing numbers of infants born dependent on drugs (921 in Tennessee in 2013) and who often suffer from a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. The legislation would allow mothers to avoid criminal charges if they get into one of the state's few treatment programs. Governor Bill Haslam says he wants doctors to encourage women to get into treatment before delivering their babies so they can avoid charges. "The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs," says Haslam.

Seventeen states already consider drug use during pregnancy as child abuse and in three of them Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin it is grounds for civil commitment (e.g. forced enrollment in treatment programs). In 15 states, health-care providers are required to report suspected abuse and, in four of those states, they are then also required to test for drug exposure of the child. Eighteen states have treatment programs targeted at pregnant women. Opponents of the bill, including five national medical organizations and local doctors who treat pregnant women, worry that criminalization will scare women away from treatment. "This law separates mothers from their children and is not patient-centered," says Cherisse A. Scott. "Tennessee families who are already being hit the hardest by policies such as the failure to expand Medicaid, poverty and a lack of available drug treatment facilities will be most deeply impacted by this bill."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by sparrowhawk on Tuesday May 06 2014, @04:50AM

    by sparrowhawk (503) on Tuesday May 06 2014, @04:50AM (#40032)

    Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the policy, for consistency should all drug use that seriously harms the as yet unborn child be included ? Both smoking tobacco & marijuana and alcohol usage during pregnancy are all documented to cause a wide variety of medically adverse outcomes. If the drugs classified as harmful were all included, the electoral fallout would make this untenable. If you only include legally prohibited drugs, your policy is only going to be partly effective. Given that you are dealing with drug addicts, rationality and responsibility are not a given. Attempts to educate are likely to fail for similar reasons. Any other activity that requires expertise or great responsibility is normally only allowed after proof of expertise and registration, and carries sanctions for failure. Examples include drivers and firearm licences etc. Parenthood is one of the last preserves of the amateur. Some people should simply not have children. Even if the child survives the pregnancy, they face a childhood usually with one or more of the same parents, who may add in addition to exposure to drugs, poor nutrition, be taught to believe in ideas for which there is no credible evidence. The only way to deal with these issues are to raise the level of the whole society. Governments of course, could not rule and subjugate a self realised and possessed population, and so will not allow this to happen.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Angry Jesus on Tuesday May 06 2014, @11:17AM

    by Angry Jesus (182) on Tuesday May 06 2014, @11:17AM (#40104)

    > Both smoking tobacco & marijuana and alcohol usage during pregnancy
    > are all documented to cause a wide variety of medically adverse outcomes.

    Don't be so sure.

    "The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self-regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers. "

    Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study []

    Part of the problem with most research on marijuana use (and in fact most illegal drugs) is that you can't get legal access to drugs in order to conduct the study unless the study is designed to test for harmful results. Studies that test for beneficial results are, as a matter of policy, not permitted to get any drugs to test with. The result is subtle anti-drug propaganda. I'm not saying that neo-natal pot use isn't without risks, I am saying that the evidence we have about the effects is biased because the only questions researchers are permitted to ask are those that favor a specific political agenda.

    • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday May 06 2014, @04:00PM

      by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday May 06 2014, @04:00PM (#40202) Journal

      Interesting. Another issue with would be sorting out cultural and socioeconomic effects from drug effects. Is a kid born to a poor homeless heroin user affected the same way as one born to an affluent heroin user? Differing nutrition, exposure to lead paint, stressful environment -- these may also have an impact. Just the fact that the parent is the type of person willing to engage in illegal behavior that can lead to jail time, that may have an impact on the kids.