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12 June 2012

The Criminalization of Bad Mothers

By Diana Hsieh

The NY Times recently published an lengthy article entitled The Criminalization of Bad Mothers. It examines the criminal prosecutions of women for endangering or harming their fetus due to drug use under "chemical endangerment" laws:

There have been approximately 60 chemical-endangerment prosecutions of new mothers in Alabama since 2006, the year the statute was enacted. Originally created to protect children from potentially explosive meth labs, Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law prohibits a “responsible person” from “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she . . . knowingly, recklessly or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance or drug paraphernalia.”
The law is being applied to pregnant women due to the efforts of "personhood" advocates, who seek to grant full legal rights to zygotes from the moment of fertilization.

The result is not that fetuses are magically protected from harm. Instead, pregnant women are concealing their addictions to avoid prosecution, driving across state lines to give birth, and forcibly separated from the born children who depend on them. The stories are heartbreaking -- and frustratingly complicated.

That's appalling, but it shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has read Ari Armstrong's and my policy paper, The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life.

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