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Punishing Pregnant Drug-Using Women: Defying Law, Medicine, and Common Sense

NCJ Number
Journal of Addictive Diseases Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: April-June 2010 Pages: 231-244
Jeanne Flavin, Ph.D.; Lynn M. Paltrow, J.D.
Date Published
April 2010
14 pages
In this article, the authors seek to expose some of the flawed premises on which the arrests, detentions, and prosecutions of drug-dependent pregnant women are based.
The authors highlight the inherent unfairness of a system that expects low-income and drug-dependent pregnant women to provide their fetuses with the health care and safety that these women themselves are not provided and have not been guaranteed. The arrests, detentions, prosecutions, and other legal actions taken against drug-dependent pregnant women distract attention from significant social problems, such as our lack of universal health care, the dearth of policies to support pregnant and parenting women, the absence of social supports for children, and the overall failure of the drug war. The attempts to "protect the fetus" undertaken through the criminal justice system (as well as in family and drug courts) actually undermine maternal and fetal health and discourage efforts to identify and implement effective strategies for addressing the needs of pregnant drug users and their families. 27 notes and 66 references (Published Abstract)