State Responses to Substance Abuse Among Pregnant Women

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State Responses to Substance Abuse Among Pregnant Women

Developmental Psychology

For decades, American citizens and lawmakers alike have been arguing over the controversial issue of women's prenatal substance abuse. Considering that the public opinion for this matter varies across the nation, each state has their own set of laws on how to deal with the issue. Some states have made drug treatment more readily available for pregnant women with a history of drug abuse, while others have attempted to criminalize prenatal drug-use or use it as grounds to end custodial rights. “For many lawmakers, the issue comes downs to the difficult task of balancing a woman’s right to bodily integrity with society’s interest in ensuring healthy pregnancies, and the question of whether punitive approaches will foster - or hinder - health outcomes for women and children.” This report covers both the negative and positive approaches of state intervention to alleviating prenatal substance abuse and the alarming statistics regarding the relationship between prenatal drug-use and race.

For advocates of women’s reproductive rights, they ask the question: “Can the state ever be justified in regulating a pregnant woman’s behavior in the interest of protecting her fetus and whether such policies potentially undermine the legality of abortion?” To date, no state has yet enacted a law that criminalizes drug-use during pregnancy. Nevertheless, hundreds of women have been arrested and charged with various crimes dealing with prenatal drug-use but in only one state has there been a supreme court ruling convicting a mother for “child abuse” for having used drugs while pregnant. “More time than not, courts have overturned these convictions on the grounds that a fetus could not be considered a child or person under criminal child abuse statues, or that the legislature did…...

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