March 15, 2008
Abusing Drugs while Pregnant
Another front opens in the abortion wars.
An Alabama prosecutor is taking advantage of a new law to arrest mothers found to be using drugs while pregnant. "In my jurisdiction, a baby being born dead because of drug abuse is a huge deal," district attorney, Greg L. Gambril told The New York Times.
Mr. Gambril makes little distinction between fetus and child. He said his duty was to protect both - though the Alabama law he uses makes no reference to unborn children, and was primarily intended to protect youngsters from exposure to methamphetamine laboratories.
In the last 18 months, Gambril has charged eight women in the 37,000-person county with endangering their unborn babies through drug use, "a tally," The Times says, "without any recent parallel that women's advocates have been able to find."
The article emphasizes the county's rural, Southern culture. It says Maryland threw out two similar cases, while New Mexico's Supreme Court ruled a woman couldn't be charged with child abuse for using drugs while pregnant because the fetus was not a child.
While one local attorney called the charges "an overreaching," The Times says, "others bring up the powerful, unspoken community sanction against the combination of drugs and pregnant women." Hopefully southern Alabama isn't the only place in America where people find drug abuse by pregnant women an especially troublesome problem.
But, The Times seems to say, what else is there to do in southern Alabama?
Covington County is an isolated rural terrain where drugs are a recreational outlet in the absence of others, where the police found nearly 200 methamphetamine laboratories in the first years of the decade, and where they made more arrests for abusing the drug than anywhere else in the state.
All of the women quoted by The Times had several other charges.
It's unfortunate that a public discussion over something as serious as drug abuse by pregnant women has to be laced with the abortion debate. On this issue, at least, isn't there enough common ground on which pro-life and pro-choice advocates can agree?