Pregnant Drug Users Essay, Research Paper
SHOULD PREGNANT DRUG USERS BE PROSECUTED?
Many of us are use to hearing about the War on Drugs or Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), but not every day we hear about groups trying to stop mothers from killing their unborn child. The method that these mothers are using to kill or permanently hurt their unborn child is by using drugs during their pregnancy. Should these women go to jail for murdering or should they get help and pretend that nothing happened? Like every situation in our life, we must do what is right, and we must fight for what we know is right.
Paul A. Logli, a prosecutor for the state of Illinois argues that it is the government s duty to enforce health of unborn fetuses, and that the mothers of these victims should be prosecuted. One of his views is that drugs are addictive and that legal and illegal drugs harm not only the unborn child but the mother as well. Some times these types of drugs won t kill the fetus but it will affect him/her for remainder of their life (Logli, 84).
A 1988 survey of hospitals showed that as many as 375,000 infants may be affected by maternal cocaine use during their pregnancy each year. More recently a study at a hospital in Detroit showed that 42.7 percent of its newborn babies were exposed to drugs while in their mothers wombs. Many of these kids show a mild autistic personality disorder at young ages. Another problem due to this selfish act is the cost of pain and suffering from all the consequences that this problem brings upon the victims. The typical intensive care costs from $7,500 to $31,000, and in some cases we have seen it up to $150,000 (Logli, 86)
Cocaine is one of the drugs most dangerous to unborn babies. Over the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of pregnant women who use cocaine and consequently, an alarming rise in the number of babies born affected by the drug. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 50,000, and perhaps as many as 375,000, cocaine-exposed babies are born each year in the United States. Cocaine can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby in many ways. During the early months of pregnancy, it can cause a miscarriage. When the drug is used late in pregnancy, it may trigger premature labor. It also may cause an unborn baby to die or to have a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage (Cocaine Use During Pregnancy).
Some babies exposed to cocaine before birth have brain damage. A number of studies have found that cocaine-exposed babies tend to score poorly on tests given at birth to assess the newborn’s physical condition and overall responsiveness. They do not do as well as unexposed babies on measures of motor ability and reflexes. They also experience lack of attention and mood swings, they appear less likely to respond to a human face or voice (Dr. Israel).
On February 4, 1989 Bianca Green and her mother Melanie, tested positive for cocaine. The tragedy of this story was that only one person survived. Bianca was pronounced dead two days after she was born. Pathologists concluded that the cause of Bianca s death was the result of prenatal injury to the fetus at an early stage of pregnancy. Prosecutors allowed a criminal complaint to be filled on May 9, 1989, charging Melanie with Involuntary Manslaughter and delivery of controlled substance. Unfortunately Melanie was not convicted of either crime (Logli, 87).
We are glad to see that Jennifer Johnson did not have the same outcome that Melanie Green had. Jennifer Johnson was convicted for Delivery of Controlled Substance to a Child and was sentenced to 15 years of probation including strict supervision. The judge made his determination after he heard the Assistant State s Attorney point out that Mrs. Johnson had previously given birth to three other cocaine affected babies, and was previously arrested at a crack-house (Logli, 88).
Why does one have to wait for the same crime to repeat itself three or four times? Personally I find this a little bit invalid. It is difficult to see this problem one time, but three and four times just doesn t do it. A professional should evaluate a person who uses drugs during their pregnancy, and if she is able to reduce her drug intake to a maximum level, then she should be evaluated at least once a month there after. If she is not capable of reducing her intake she should get medical assistance.
Sue Mahan argues that the majority of times, these women who abuse drugs during their pregnancy are typically poor women and minorities. Another view illustrates, it is better to have a mother who is at least trying, than not to have a mother, or a mother who is locked up. Today pregnant women can get charged for many different things. Laws designed to control women who use drugs during their pregnancy can be classified into three types: Narcotic Laws, Criminalization Laws, and Informant Laws. All three types of law focus on punishing a mother for drug use so that the fetus will be protected. (Mahan, 93).
Dr. Israel, a long time friend and the pediatrician of my daughters answered a few questions that I presented. He touched bases on the fact that drug users are not all the time under the abuse of drugs, and that babies will go through a withdrawal stage and it usually takes from one to two weeks. He said that many of these infants would behave better with their mothers than with another family member. A quote from a document from the internet reiterated: The studies, part of a long-range tracking of crack babies, found that those children aren’t more prone to birth defects, and they develop better with their natural mothers — who used drugs while pregnant — than they develop with other relatives or in foster homes. ( Pregnancy and Drug Use ).
The biggest issue about charging someone is the legal way to charge a person. Fetal Abuse vs. Child Abuse, the issue in charging someone with child abuse is that not everyone is sure about the assimilation of both phrases. The most complicated issue is the one regarding the fetus. Is the fetus considered a child or not? The problem with this is that every state has different clauses and even different laws. In one state it might be a crime but at another state it might just be a small penalty where the only punishment is the pointing of fingers from citizens of the community. There are also many types of child abuse. Even the danger of our environment can cause a potential peril to the fetus and even small children. Another way of viewing this point is by acknowledging the fact that many conditions on the part of the pregnant woman could harm a fetus. Not eating well, using prescription drugs, or nonprescription drugs, engaging in sexual intercourse, exercising, or even drinking to much coffee could have an effect to the fetus (Mahan, 95).
A woman can get up to a Manslaughter conviction if she is found guilty for killing her own baby. The problem with this is that the mother might not know that she is pregnant until it is too late. When a cocaine mother has been convicted of a manslaughter charge, it has been because of her guilty pleas without the deliberation of public trials.
Involuntary detention is another method of rehabilitating the drug abuser. Many studies have shown that doctors do not like to see pregnant cocaine patients. It took a 23-year-old pregnant woman who used cocaine until the day she found out she was pregnant one month and at least three physician rejections to find a doctor who would treat her, the Tampa Tribune reports. Janell Rinebold told her original OB/GYN that she had used cocaine, following which she got a letter saying the doctor wouldn’t treat her anymore. A second and third physician also rejected her. Rinebold said, “They treated me like I was a $2 whore ( Pregnancy and Drug Use ). The problem with drug users trying to get help is that many doctors are not willing to help out the individual who need the most help.
Medical discoveries are key for our existence. However, there has not been a cure for drug addiction, on contrary, there have been new discoveries on how much drugs affect the human body. Studies show that women who use cocaine during pregnancy are at least twice as likely as other women to have premature babies. And because cocaine cuts the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby, it may be much smaller than it would be otherwise. Cocaine-exposed babies also tend to have smaller heads, which may indicate a smaller brain (Cocaine Use During Pregnancy).
Not only is cocaine a threat to the fetus and the mother, but also alcohol plays a big role in substance abuse. A recent government survey indicated that, between 1991 and 1995, there was a substantial increase in alcohol use among pregnant women. Four times more pregnant women drank frequently (defined as seven or more drinks per week, or five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous month) in 1995 than in 1991 (Drinking During Pregnancy).
In conclusion we must remember that both sides seem to have supportive evidence. What people don’t understand is that the addiction doesn’t go away when a woman becomes pregnant,” says Karen Busha, director of the Lexington-Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council in South Carolina. And a woman cannot separate her body from her baby’s body. If you get a DWI, you have the ability to separate yourself from that car. But you can’t take your baby out and let somebody else take care of it. It’s there (Nifong). ”
The abuse or neglect of a child at any time during childhood can exact a profound toll on the child as well as on society as a whole, the state’s high court said in its ruling. However, the consequences of abuse or neglect which takes place after birth often pale in comparison to those resulting from abuse suffered by the viable fetus before birth. This policy of prevention supports a reading of the word ‘person’ to include viable fetuses (Lewin). According to all the gathered information we just saw that both sides have their grounds in which to argue, but we must not let ourselves think that a mother cannot stop an addiction for something or someone like a son or a daughter. To let our future generation live a meaningful life, we must do what is right and prosecute mothers who abuse drugs or alcohol while they are pregnant.