Further Reading

Should mothers of crack/cocaine babies be punished?


Should mothers of crack/cocaine babies be punished?


Dear Paul:

Liberals say punishing pregnant women who test positive is prejudicial against people who can't help themselves because they are addicted. I don't accept this argument. Conservatives say these women should be held accountable for harming their babies. But what about pregnant women who smoke cigarettes, which is bad for fetuses? Are these women going to be prosecuted for assault on their fetuses?

And which drug-using women do they discover? Seemingly, it is mainly women in public hospitals and cared for by other public agencies who are discovered using illicit substances — pregnant women who are private patients aren't usually found out. So it seems highly biased which mothers the authorities go after (crack mothers are often poor and black).

This bias extends to parents and children after birth. Consider that Cindy McCain, the wife of Republican Presidential contender John McCain, was discovered illegally diverting prescription narcotics for her own use — a federal crime. Her defense was that she was addicted, and she was not prosecuted. However, at this same time, she was the mother of four small children, one of whom she adopted while she was using drugs and one who was a small infant at the time she says she was addicted. No one even mentioned penalizing her for her drug use while mothering small children.

As a result of these obvious inequities, I am against separate penalties for drug-using pregnant women and mothers (there are already legal penalties for illicit drug use). A lot of mothers do not act properly — or at least optimally — for their babies, but the government just can't fairly police each and every one of those women. It is a futile, biased, and ultimately misguided attempt to make women be "good" parents.