State lawmakers are being asked to make drug-addicted or alcohol-abusing pregnant women….criminals
State Senator Jack Goodman of Mount Vernon says he waited a couple of years to introduce the bill because he worries about the unintended consequences of making drug and alcohol abuse by pregnant women a misdemeanor. His bill also would increase the penalty to a felony if the baby is born with obvious health problems caused by alcohol or drugs. Goodman says the bill is backed by juvenile court system officials. The bill authorize juvenile authorities to take the child if the mother is convicted. He says it’s an effort to avoid later abuse of the child.
Critics worry the proposal will discouraged women from seeking help. A spokesman for the Partnership for Children fears the law would deter women from seeking proper pre-natal care because they might be punished if their doctor finds they’re using drugs and alcohol.
The bill could put a woman in prison for seven years if her alcohol and drug abuse leads to a baby with problems. Goodman thinks he can ease the concerns of critics. He suggests that an addicted woman who seeks pre-natal care not be charged…and not lose her child…because she has sought help.
The chairman of the senate committee considering the bill says he’s not sure one more drug abuse law will do any good.