Prenatal Drug Abuse
Christina M. Barksdale
The debate of charging pregnant women is not a new concept in preventing babies being born to illegal drugs and alcohol. Some will argue that prosecuting these women is the right thing to do and others are strongly against the idea. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done to reduce the growing number of babies that are exposed to drugs and alcohol during pregnancy each year. The occurrence of babies born addicted to drugs has increased substantially 500 % in the last half decade or so. The Tennessee Department of Human Services reports that the first decade of the millennium saw the rate of children born with addiction to an opiate-based drug multiply by 10 times. (Why So Many Babies Are Born Addicted, 2014) Currently, Tennessee is the only state in which a woman can be prosecuted for using illegal drugs while pregnant. Many states have expanded their civil child-welfare requirements to include substance abuse during pregnancy as grounds for terminating parental rights in relation to child abuse and neglect.
Prenatal Drug Abuse
Regardless of whether or not you consider a growing fetus to be human or not, you cannot deny that when it is born with defects, under all definitions, it is a human. It is also a human who has been injured by the actions of another human. Prenatal drug exposure can cause a wide range of life long problems, yet according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 % of pregnant women between ages 18-44 had used alcohol during their first trimester, 4.8% in their second trimester, and 2.4 % in the last trimester of pregnancy. Similar numbers were seen with marijuana, cigarette, and binge alcohol use. (HRSA, 2016) A pregnant woman should be charged with child abuse if they continuously and purposely use illegal drugs or drink alcohol throughout their pregnancy, because they are...