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Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2010
2 pages
This publication examines State policies on substance abuse during pregnancy.
Results indicate that: 15 States consider substance abuse during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes, and 3 consider it grounds for civil commitment; 14 States require health care professionals to report suspected prenatal drug abuse, and 4 States require them to test for prenatal drug exposure if they suspect abuse; 19 States have either created or funded drug treatment programs specifically targeted to pregnant women, and 9 provide pregnant women with priority access to State-funded drug treatment programs; and 4 States prohibit publicly funded drug treatment programs from discriminating against pregnant women. No State specifically criminalizes drug use during pregnancy. Meanwhile, several States have expanded their civil child-welfare requirements to include prenatal substance abuse, so that prenatal drug exposure can provide grounds for terminating parental rights because of child abuse or neglect. Some States authorize civil commitment (such as forced admission to an inpatient treatment program) of pregnant women who use drugs; these policies sometimes also apply to alcohol use or other behaviors. A number of States require health care professionals to report or test for prenatal drug exposure, which can be used as evidence in child-welfare proceedings. Finally, a number of States have placed a priority on making drug treatment more readily available to pregnant women. 1 Table